The Bostan of Saadi (The Orchard), Books I and II Hardcover – July 1, 1984
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Of all his books, the Bostan (The Orchard) and the Gulistan (The Rose Garden) are his best known and most admired.
Saadi's Bostan (The Orchard) is one of the greatest of all Sufi Classics. Together with his Gulistan, these two books are regarded as supreme accomplishments of both literature and Sufi thought. They contain a richness of material and beauty of poetry which are almost unparalleled.
The Bostan is a mine of proverbs, quotations and practical wisdom. But like the Gulistan (The Rose Garden) it contains far more than moralistic aphorisms and teaching stories. The Bostan is recognised by eminent Sufis as concealing the whole range of the deepest Sufi knowledge which can be committed to writing.
- Item Weight : 1.02 pounds
- Hardcover : 267 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0863040349
- ISBN-13 : 978-0863040344
- Product Dimensions : 6 x 0.75 x 8.5 inches
- Publisher : Ishk Book Service (July 1, 1984)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,654,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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"The Orchard" is entirely in verse (epic metre) and consists of stories illustrating the standard virtues recommended to Muslims (justice, benevolence, spiritual love, humility, resignation, contentment, education, gratitude, repentance and prayer) as well as of reflections on the behavior of dervishes and their ecstatic practices.
Saadi of Shiraz organized the book in 10 chapters, one chapter for each virtue. It turns out that this edition of "The Orchard" contains only the first 4 chapters. Amazon is not to blame for saying that this edition contains "Books I and II" of "The Orchard." The dust cover makes the same claim.
Surprisingly for a work of world literature, there is no complete translation of "The Orchard" in print. The web boasts a complete translation, which turns out to cover all 10 Chapters but omits substantial parts of each chapter. Islamic mystics do not sell well in English speaking countries after 9/11, so there may not be a good comprehensive translation soon.
The Persian language of Saadi of Shiraz apparently is not easy to translate. His prose style, we are told on the highly recommended website "[...]", is simple but impossible to imitate, flowing quite naturally and effortlessly. Its simplicity, however, is grounded in a semantic web consisting of synonymy, homophony, and oxymoron buttressed by internal rhythm and external rhyme.
However, there is nothing that cannot be translated (with the unavoidable distortions for sure - all translators are traitors of the text). There have been excellent translations of Chinese Tang Dynasty poets, why should there be no good, enjoyable translations of a Persian poet of the stature of Saadi of Shiraz? At the moment though, there is virtually no translation I could recommend.
The translation by Mirza Aqil-Hussain for this edition of "The Orchard" is clumsy and often opaque. It appears to cling too closely to the original and lacks the creative freedom necessary to make an ancient text accessible and enjoyable for modern readers. Also, an introductory chapter on the background of Saadi of Shiraz and the tradition of Persian Sufi writing is sorely missing from this edition.
Here are some examples to illustrate my point:
When Mirza translates "The skin of the date is full of sweetness / But when you remove it, there is a stone within"(12) the choice of verb ("remove") is not only uninspired and dull, the translation also does not help the reader grasp the meaning of the image. In another translation on the web these lines read "His verses are like dates encrusted with sugar - when opened, a stone is revealed inside." And a short explanation tells the reader that "stone" is meant to allude to "truth," as in "a kernel of truth."
Another telling example is Mirza's translation of the beginning of a story: "I have heard that in the days of Hatim / There was a fleet-footed fumy horse in his stable"(119). This passage reads in another translation "Hatam Taei possessed a horse whose fleetness was as that of the morning breeze." From the glossary to this story I learn that the original Persian must have said that the horse was as fast as "smoke." Mirza's choice of "fumy" was probably inspired by "smoke," and the f-f-f alliteration most likely refers to the sound of blowing, or of a horse running very fast. These are very intelligent choices for a translation. However, in the end the image of a "fleet-footed fumy horse" is rather awkward in comparison to the more freely chosen "morning breeze."
Shiraz of Saadi used "smoke" because later in the story the fast and beautiful horse literally goes up in smoke. It is being sacrificed as a welcome meal to guests who came to admire the horse, because the host has no other meat to offer and values generosity to his guests higher than the possession a very precious horse (which is the morale of the story). Maybe the most appropriate translation would have been "Hatim possessed a horse as swift as vanishing smoke."
Bottom line: to enjoy the fruits from this orchard we need to take a different road.