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Chapters And Verse: Religious Literature, Part II

August 2004

This “new testament” of our two-part summer retreat featuring international literature on religious themes begins with Guido Monte’s multilingual account of Creation. Persian poet Abbas Saffari provides a witty, romantic retelling of the Quranic version of the story of Adam and Eve. Rafi Zabor and translator Angela Jaffray introduce us to Sufi master Ibn ‘Arabi and his mind-expanding “Epistle on Cosmic Unification.” MuXin explores the difference between religion and ritual, reverence and reward in “The Moment When Childhood Vanishes.” Adolfo Albertazzi lets loose a mischievous Italian spirit in “The Devil in the Decanter.” Poets from a variety of traditions and languages–Yiddish, Greek Orthodox, and Nahuatl (Aztec)–wrestle, plead, worship, doubt, and glory in the divine. And in an extra-canonical addition to material posted in part one, translator Christi Merrill contributes an essay on Vijay Dan Detha.

Seclusion (from the poem “Kotzk”)
By Arn Tseytlin
The Jew is loneliness.
Translated from Yiddish by Zackary Sholem Berger
What Is a Translator’s True Calling?
By Christi A. Merrill
My encounter with Vijay Dan Detha has made me realize that if we refuse to recognize the importance of these literary contributions because they are not deemed absolutely original, we risk losing much more.
The Oracles of the Virgin
By Stylianos S. Charkianakis
Buried inside us were the sounds / of the songs we heard in the cradle
Translated from Greek by Peter Constantine
“Will nothing of my earthly fame endure?”
By Miguel León-Portilla
Will nothing of my earthly fame endure?Not even flowers, not even songs!What can my heart do?In vain we have sprung forth,we have come to be on earth.Let us enjoy ourselves, my friends,let us embrace…
Translated from Spanish by Earl Shorris & Sylvia Sasson Shorris
A Song
By Yankev Glatshteyn
The learners split into equal parties / Forbidding, permitting, and deriving.
Translated from Yiddish by Zackary Sholem Berger
Our Story
By Abbas Saffari
We had just met. / I had not discovered the beauty / of the skies
Translated from Persian by Elham Rassi
Genesis (Creation)
By Guido Monte
and the land was left barren
Translated from Italian by the author
The Happiness of Also Refusing Happiness
By Avrom Lyesin
Cry of pain exalted sings / I am on fire, and in terror: frost
Translated from Yiddish by Zackary Sholem Berger
Epistle on Cosmic Unification
By Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi
Then I shouted: “Oh alas!” and “Alas, my burning heart. I fled from the universe and here I am in it. Where is what I seek?”
Translated from Arabic by Angela Jaffray
Of the Tree and its Four Birds
By Rafi Zabor
In Islamic esotericism per se, especially with regard to its metaphysical and exegetical component, everyone before him is an anticipation and everyone after a commentator or interpreter.
“O, giver of life”
By Miguel León-Portilla
Your shadow falls on those who must live on earth.
Translated from Spanish by Earl Shorris & Sylvia Sasson Shorris
The Devil in the Decanter
By Adolfo Albertazzi
So it was that no one had ever been able to send him back to Hell once and for all.
Translated from Italian by Traci Andrighetti
By Stylianos S. Charkianakis
However many times I now set out / on the road of return
Translated from Greek by Peter Constantine