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The Conference of the Birds (Penguin Classics) Paperback – July 3, 1984
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Top Customer Reviews
The Hoopoe (the legendary bird resident at the Court of King Solomon) is their guide and by turns admonishes, encourages and advises each bird on its quest to reach the Ultimate, the King of the Birds, known as the Simorgh. It is clear that each 'bird' in Attar's verse could be a (indeed, is, in allegory) a person, but what is the Simorgh? And how does one reach the Simorgh? Such is the question which the birds (and the reader) endeavour to find answers to as the poem progresses.
In beautiful allegorical verse, Attar leads the reader to the conclusion that eternal happiness and can only be achieved through Divine Love, but that the latter can only be attained through sacrifice of the Self (ie the ego) and steadfastness. The road is hard and long, the Hoopoe never ceases to remind his companions, but the reward represents the zenith of human experience.
The Hoopoe is obviously a Sufi Master (surprise, surprise so was Attar himself) and the birds are the members of the Sufi Order, but let not the taxonomy of Islamic mysticism be a barrier to reading this poem. Anyone at home with English verse register and the ability to appreciate the abstract, the intangible, the uncertain and the unseen must surely warm to this book.
In comparison, I find this text quite difficult to "get into", what with the problem of
rhyming Persian poetry in English. In Persian, the majority of words rhyme, either in
their dominant vowels or their endings, because of the way the language is
constructed. Since English does not have this, there are far fewer rhymes available,
and so trying to duplicate the Persian leads to either changes in the meaning, or
changes in the phraseology. For those who want to read the insights contained in
this book, I highly recommend a prose translation.
No doubt there was a time when I would have been in spiritual raptures over this book. At my age, however (I'll be 51 next month) I am less inclined to expect much direct spiritual benefit from a book, but I like to think that I can appreciate a good piece of literature when I read it. Attar is indeed good literature, and Mr. Davis' translation is simple and balanced, with a feeling of intimacy that mirrors Attar's style. It is never overworked or sentimental - if you're expecting Fitzgerald's Khayyam you'll be disappointed.
As for the Sufic interpretations of the content (how profound! how obscure!) I must admit that the more I read of such things the less I understand them. On first reading at least, I suggest to the reader to let the book stand on its own merits as literature, and only afterwards seek any hidden meaning.
This work is a beautiful allegory depicting the human condition and suggests the route to eternal happiness by eliminating the Self, focusing on Divine love and by understanding the notion of Unity with the Divine. It also provides a gentle introduction to the Sufi metaphysics or, at least, the branch followed by Attar. From Khayyam, who is also considered to be a Sufi, you will hear an interpretation that is polar opposite.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amazing work. This was my favorite spiritual book for many years.Published 2 months ago by Cheery Onez
Attar's Conference of the Birds is indeed a classic, and this translation is among the best available in English. Highly recommended for seekers of the heart.Published 7 months ago by Amazonite
Dick Davis' poetry has a way of slicing through the fabric making up everyday life,
and carrying you beyond the words written on the page. Read more
I had been looking for this book for years. Amazon smile does a good job.Published 11 months ago by Linda Murtadha