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August 2004

Chapters And Verse: Religious Literature, Part II


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. If you were on vacation in July, click back to Speaking in Tongues.

Seclusion (from the poem “Kotzk”)

When the decadent genius of Chasidus Comprehended what the secret of the Jew is, He lived by himself for many years. The Jew is loneliness. His sole belovèd is The world's

What Is a Translator’s True Calling?

To begin answering one riddle, you first have to consider another. In this case, the riddling starts with me, a translator, and a story I have translated into English from a story Indian

The Oracles of the Virgin

Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory.--Oscar Wilde Buried inside us were the sounds of the words our parents managed to utter in the moment of intercourse

“Will nothing of my earthly fame endure?”

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

A Song

In the Jewish parliament The walls are burning. People are learning Talmud, arguing over commentaries. Suddenly--quiet, please! A gentile comes in And says in gentile-ese: Gentlemen,

Our Story

"Is this the region, this the soil, the clime," Said then the lost Archangel, this the seat That we must change for Heaven? this mournful gloom For the celestial light? Be it so, since

Genesis (Creation)

In principio diviserunt Elohim coelum et terram and the land was left barren et les ombres noires enveloppaient les profondeurs bade korgolœdei dar ruie oghionusoh parmisad

Arm Wrestling in Chebachinsk

Grandfather was very strong. When he was working in the kitchen garden or whittling spade handles (for relaxation, he would always whittle handles-there were enough of them piled in a corner

The Happiness of Also Refusing Happiness

The happiness of refusing happiness The joy of refusing joy Passionately keeping passion back Proudly breaking pride in ecstasy. Night in the forest on trouble's path All

Epistle on Cosmic Unification

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Blessings upon our master, Muhammad, and upon his family and companions. . . . From my insufficiency to my perfection, and from my

Of the Tree and its Four Birds

It is He who is revealed in every face, sought in every sign, gazed upon by every eye, worshipped in every object of worship, and pursued in the unseen and the visible. Not a single one of

“O, giver of life”

O, Giver of Life, you write with flowers, you give color with song, you make shade with song, for those who must live on earth. Later, you will destroy the eagles, the tigers for

The Devil in the Decanter

In the noble city of Burgfarrubach, a small, malicious spirit had been playing a curious prank for quite some time. Whenever a priest was called in to expel him from the house he was turning


However many times I now set out on the road of return the distance between us never lessens. My only hope of seeing you again is to also rise definitively to the glory of utter


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