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Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam [Hardcover]

Edward Fitzgerald , Omar , Christopher Decker
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 1997 Victorian Literature & Culture
Edward FitzGerald's translation of "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam", perhaps the most frequently read Victorian poem and certainly one of the most popular poems in the English language, poses formidable challenges to an editor. FitzGerald compulsively revised his work, alternately swayed by friends' advice, importuned by his publisher's commercial interests and encouraged by public acclaim. In consequence, the editor is faced with four published editions as well as manuscript and proof versions of the poem. Christopher Decker's critical edition of the "Rubaiyat" is the first to publish all extant states of the poem and to unearth a full record of its complicated textual evolution. Decker supplies an context for the "Rubaiyat" that reveals how its composition was so often a collaborative enterprise. His view of poetic creativity comprehends recent theories of the sociology of texts and challenges the common assumption that the desired product of a critical edition is a single unified text of a literary work. He illuminates the complex process of revision by providing a textual appendix in which a comparative printing lays down each stratum of FitzGerald's composition. Biographical and textual introductions, making use of FitzGerald's correspondence, trace the history of the poem and pay special attention to FitzGerald's motives for revising, for creating a variously beautiful work in verse. This edition of the "Rubaiyat" should be of special interest to scholars and students of Victorian poetry, publishing history, verse translation, literary imitation, and revision. And readers for whom the poem is an old acquaintance will here find fresh ways to appreciate its strength and finesse.

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"Christopher Decker has come forward with a splendid critical edition of the poem, containing FitzGerald's introductory essay and notes to each version. It prints all four printed versions along with manuscript variants and, most usefully indeed, appends a comparative version in which each quatrain appears in a column with its variants keyed to their order of placement in the four editions as well as revised copy- and proof-texts for that of 1872.--John Hollander "Yale Review "

About the Author

Christopher Decker is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He has also published articles on allusion, literary influence, the history of reading, and appropriations of Shakespeare in Victorian poetry and culture.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
By "s_d_i"
I want to begin by refuting the criticisms of an earlier review, which claims that this version of FitzGerald's Rubaiyat edited by Christopher Decker is "extremely rude" and "biased" in its view of Islam, and "unprofessional" in terms of editing. These statements are patently false, as anyone who took the time to read the book carefully would know. Of the "enraging opinions" that the reviewer referred to, none were written by Christopher Decker; on the contrary, one came strainght from FitzGerald himself, and was included in the original editions of the Rubaiyat:
Regarding the Muslim calendar, Fitzgerald wrote in an endnote for the forth tetrastich (included in all four original editions): "NEW YEAR--Beginning with the Vernal Equinox, it must be remembered; and (howsoever the old Solar Year is practically superseded by the clumsy Lunar Year that dates from the Mohammedan Hijra) still commemorated by a Festival that is said to have been appointed by the very Jamshyd whom Omar so often talks of, and whose yearly Calendar he helped to rectify." Again, these are FitzGerald's words, NOT Decker's, and we can only be thankful that there is finally a solid, scholastic edition of these works available--one that takes the trouble to include FitzGerald's original notes. In any case, these words are hardly "enraging"--they are about as unprepossessing as could be written by a Victorian pen; and, moreover, it would be well to keep in mind FitzGerald's known preference for "Persian" over "Arabic", for example, in transcription of words into Roman letters--a bias of the poet, not his editor.
Again, the reviewer complained of the reference to Mohammed as a "false prophet".
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5.0 out of 5 stars a perennial classic! March 25 2002
omar khayyam is a much romanticized poet; his work is essential to any collection of books. fitzgerald's translations bear as much relevance to the victorian era as much as khayyam's work bears as both a Muslim poet and a timeless wordcrafter for the ages to admire and appreciate.
this edition is extremely useful, with christopher decker's insightful notes always a helpful guide to the multiple editions of the poetry and an excellent source of knowledge on khayyam's work as well as the victorian age.
i would recommend this book to all readers, since it's the essential translation of the rubaiyat. christopher decker is to be highly commended for his excellent work.
to quote keats on another translation-
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific--and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise--
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
...BR>buy this book and enjoy it-- it's a good friend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Nov. 3 2000
By A Customer
Edward FitzGerald's translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is an enormous accomplishment although it is not true to the original Persian (the Avery/Heath-Stubbs version is more faithful). Another important fact to note is that FitzGerald worked on his translation over a period of several decades and eventually published four different editions. Modern editions are often a compilation of bits and pieces from each of FitzGerald's four editions, something that doesn't always make for the smoothest reading. This Critical Edition, edited by Christopher Decker, goes a long way towards overcoming these problems.
In this edition, an introduction written by Decker provides very good and much needed background for Khayyam's work. Most importantly, all four of the author's editions are included in their entirety, first individually and then, in an appendix, by quatrain, so one can compare the texts. A table providing the sequence of the quatrains is also provided, a pronunciation guide and a small glossary. An added bonus, to be found only in this edition, I believe, is the inclusion of FitzGerald's Latin translation of the poems.
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is beautiful and classic poetry encompassing simple quatrains where East seems to meet West in a mingling of Eastern mysticism and Western language and expression of the nineteenth century.
Anyone who is serious about these gorgeous poems will find this text most useful. Although this is not the most visually beautiful of the translations, it is certainly the most comprehensive and the one that will most enhance your knowledge. Definitely worthy of adding to your collection. In fact, a necessity.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Christopher Decker's Biased view Dec 24 1999
By Raina
True, the book is an good compilation of the various Fitzgerald translations of the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, yet the editor, Christopher Decker, gives an extremely rude, biased veiw of the Islamic belief. Decker unneccesarily gives his enraging opinions, for example, he calls Prophet Mohammed (SAW) a "false prophet" of the Muslims. He openly attacks Muslim customs and beliefs, calling the Muslim calendar "clumsy". The editing is very unprofessional. Also, he attacks the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan. Fitzgerald is to be given positive credit for this book.
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