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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2003
I have been a reader of this text for years, typically the C.S. Nott translation (prose style).
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.
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on August 23, 2001
Mr. Davis' translation of Attar's masterpiece is indeed very good and as it has the cachet of appearing in the Penguin series I hope that it will lead more Westerners to take Middle Eastern, particularly Persian, language and culture more seriously. While Islamic spirituality has been in vogue in some circles over the last couple of decades (witness the popularity of Rumi), its audience unfortunately tends to consist of seekers of exotic spirituality rather than people who are willing to put in the spade work to understand the cultural context in which this spirituality came into existence.
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.
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on June 10, 1998
A truly exceptional book - so captivating in translation it must have been exceptional in the original Persian. Attar's verse focusses on a flock of birds who decide they are in need of a King - but who should it be? Thus begins their quest for a leader and it becomes clear each bird represents a human archetype, personifying vices but also acting as the dramatic vehicle for the inner struggles which each human being experiences in life.
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.
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on March 8, 2003
This book is about birds who set out on a voyage to find G'd (Simorgh). Using a number of parables and metaphors, the author uses the voyage as a process of self discovery. In the voyage, many birds fall by the wayside, while their leader questions them why they are giving up; these questions are the same questions, in theory, everyone should be asking themselves.
The translation is very good, though sometimes I questioned the fidelity of it, since it was rhymed in Persian and the author made it rhyme in English as well.
As a comparison, Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist has some similar lessons (such as seeking oneself), but Farid's work is much more subtle and interesting from the point of view of allegories and symbolism. Of course, in the end there is a surprise in both, but I will leave it to the reader to find out.
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on May 18, 2001
An enjoyable read. Having no knowledge of the language in which the original was written, it's impossible to tell how true to the original the translation is, but I found this English verse rendition flowed very well.
The story is essentially an exemplary tale of how to lead a good, ascetic life (the denial of "the Self") and how few can actually achieve that. It is replete with illustrative yarns, as the hoopoe (the leader of the birds), counters the other birds' foibles, and their excuses not to make the journey. Therefore the theme is a familiar one - how to strive for and achieve spiritual fulfilment by use of the allegory of a difficult journey. Yet it is written with such clarity, wit and insight, it's nonetheless a refreshing read.
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on January 12, 2003
Fariduddin Attat is a wonderful commentator of sufi thought. In this epic poem of self actualization and self realization he reachs and touches the essence of sufic thought. The beautiful thought classically woven in the form of poetry by Attar in such a manner that one enjoys the form and contents equally.
In a very subtle way another book"Journey to the East" by great German novelist Hermann Hesse is a reflection on this poem, specially when thirty birds reaching destination find that Simrogh was nobody but themselves.
This is what its all about reaching to onself but not just like that, but through quest. This is a book very highly recomended for reading.
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on September 16, 2000
I can't remember how many years it has been since I read the sufi tale. I was a young man in college trying to enhance my search for the "truth". Shortly after I finished it, my apartment was consumed in flames along with everything in it including my copy of this tale. Sometimes I think a life of ignorance might be simpler but like a moth to the flame I continue to be drawn to these tales. I am especially glad to see that I can still get a copy of "The Conference Of The Birds". I am sure reading again it will enhance the depth of my insight and spirituality.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 1999
Even though I am a decendant of Farid Ud Din Attar, I can say without bias that this book is excellent. A must read, filled with many lessons and hidden analects.
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on November 5, 1999
Conference of the Birds as a poem is spectacular; as an allegory for any seeker of the Divine, it is sublime. Although Sufi in form, I think it transcends religions and provides, as it were, a spiritual blueprint or goal for the seeker. This is going to be my Eid-al-Fitr gift to friends this year.
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on November 8, 2001
This book is concentrated psychological sufi insight beyond our simple western conceptions about poetry. If you want a solid and practical spirtual book which will give you something permanent read this. A book to be read by everyone Muslim and non muslim who values practical spirtuality.
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