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Speaking In Tongues: Religious Literature

July 2004

For the high travel season, WWB will take you on some inward as well as outward journeys. The divine is perhaps the oldest source of literary inspiration, and many-tongued. Yet our idea of religious literature has been cheapened by pious equivalents of pulp fiction. WWB offers renewal. Vijay Dan Detha’s True Calling makes us think twice about true and false holiness; Paola Capriolo’s Brothers retells the story of Cain and Abel with modern psychological insight; David Hinton’s translations of Wang Wei and the late Jerome W. Clinton’s translations of Sohrab Sepehri display the rich allusiveness and delicacy so abundant in the Buddhist and Sufi literary traditions, respectively. Peter Cole’s translations of three medieval poets, Moshe Ibn Ezra, Yehudah HaLevi and Avraham Ibn Ezra, speak from the mystical heart of Judaism. In V. Y. Mudimbe’s Shaba Deux, a young nun in Zaire struggles with faith in the midst of personal and social chaos. Not to ignore religious conflicts while we celebrate the harmonies, Richard Murphy translates and introduces a contemporary Pakistani sermon about the battle of Karbala, the decisive event in the rift between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims.