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Rumi, Past and Present, East and West [Hardcover]

Franklin D. Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Mar 2000
This is a definitive guide to the life and work of Jall al-Din Rumi. Franklin D. Lewis's text considers not just the man, but also his times, his legacy, and his role in a changing world.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (2 Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851682147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851682140
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.1 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,349,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

My publications include translations from Persian of a novel:
Things We Said Today by Zoya Pirzad (Oneworld, 2012) and modern stories and poems by various Iranian authors, including the book In a Voice of Their Own: A Collection of Stories by Iranian Women written since the Revolution of 1979, with Farzin Yazdanfar (Mazda Publishers, 1996), as well as translations in several other collections (such as Black Parrot, Green Crow - Golshiri; Stories from Iran: A Chicago Anthology). I re-edited, with Hassan Javadi, the two volumes of A.J. Arberry's Mystical Poems of Rumi for a corrected one-volume edition (University of Chicago Press, 2009). My own book of literary translations of Rumi's poetry appeared as Rumi: Swallowing the Sun (Oneworld, 2007).
My research about classical Persian literature, Sufi and Baha'i thought appear in various book chapters (ReOrientations/ Arabic and Persian Poetry, ed. Suzanne Stetkevych - Indiana University Press, 1996; Reason and Revelation: New Directions in Baha'i Thought, ed. Seena Fazel and Johnn Danesh, Kalimat Press, 2002; Search for Values: Ethics in Baha'i Thought, Kalimat 2004; Metaphor and Imagery in Persian Poetry, ed. Ali Asghar Seyed Gohrab - Brill 2012; Converging Zones: Perisan Literary Tradition and the Writing of History, ed. Wali Ahmadi - Mazda 2012) and in several encyclopedias (Encyclopaedia Iranica, Encyclopedia of the Modern Muslim World, Encyclopedia of the Qur'ān, the Encyclopedia of Religion, Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought).
Books: with Heshmat Moayyad, I translated and annotated a hagiographical account of a popular Sufi saint of 12th century Khorasan, The Colossal Elephant and His Spiritual Feats: Shaykh Ahmad-e Jām (Mazda, 2004). And with Sunil Sharma, I edited The Necklace of the Pleiades: Studies in Persian Literature and Culture (Rozenberg / Purdue University Press, 2007 and republished Amsterdam University Press, 2010).
My study, Rumi: Past and Present, East and West (Oxford: Oneworld) received the BRSMES (British-Kuwaiti Friendship award) for the best book published in the United Kingdom in the field of Middle Eastern Studies in 2000 (translations of this book have been published in Iran, Turkey and Denmark, and a revised updated edition was published in 2008 commemorating the 800th anniversary of Rumi's birth).

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Amazon Review

Lewis's claim is that "this book attempts to hold up a candle to the growing body of publications on Rumi, casting some light on the historical Rumi, the myths and traditions that developed around him, the history of his reception in the Islamic world and in the West, especially the phenomenon of his recent popularity." Lewis has excelled. His brilliant illumination surpasses that of a headlight by far! Franklin D Lewis dazzles and enthuses us with erudite information on every aspect of Rumi's life. A rewarding and enlightening read, Rumi: Past & Present, East & West is the most definitive work on this subject in the English language. It is without question a key work on Rumi in English.

We journey with the professor through some 600 pages which enrich us every millimetre of the way. Lewis draws us into the political and social atmosphere of 13th century Khorasan with consummate ease. He leads us to understand the circumstances and formative development of Rumi; the influence of his father, his teachers and the spiritual importance of his friend Shams al-Din Tabrizi.

The journey takes us via Rumi's reading and writings, the myths and misunderstanding surrounding him, to 50 of his poems. Lewis explains their transmission, metrics, rhyme, refrain, form, content and spiritual orientation. He illustrates the centrality of the Qur'an and the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and his progeny, to Rumi's life.

A valuable section is also included on Rumi in the Western consciousness and the contribution that various scholars in the West have made to our understanding of this remarkable spiritual teacher and poet. This book is excellent value for money and absolutely necessary for everyone who expresses any interest in Rumi at all. --Amar Hegedus


"Excellent. A comprehensive overview of the Sufi poet-philosopher and his influence. Highly recommended for all collections." (Library Journal)

"This book is a major contribution to the study of the great Sufi poet, and it should be on the bookshelf of anyone drawn to Rumi." (New York Review of Books) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Rumi has been a major literary force in America for nearly 20 years now. Carefully crafted translations, versions of his poems are more universally popular than most contemporary poet's work. His imagery and mystical fervor inspires and informs the hearts of lovers everywhere, yet there has been very little accessible scholarly work available about the Sufi and his life and times for many years. Most accounts of Rumi have stayed toward the legendary rather than the critical and historical account of his life. With Lewis work we are given a wonderfully fulsome account of the scholarly work about Rumi, not just in English but throughout the world. Lewis provides us with a critical account of his life and times as well as a brief history of the Sufi order that has thrived in his name. This work is now the best thorough introduction to the poet and mystic both for scholars and public. Highly recommended.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study of Rumi 26 April 2002
This is the best book one could ever buy in order to get a picture of Rumi, his life, upbringing, teachers, his influence within the west and the east, his poetry with farsi transliterations as well as websites addresses regarding the master Poet.
All in all a complete Rumi autobiography in one! The best part about the book to me was the transliteration of selected Farsi poetry which would enable anyone not knowing how to read Farsi to get a taste at how it would sound like if read out loud.
Get it if you want to know more about Rumi outside his poetry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous 16 Nov 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Franklin Lewis's book is the definitive summation of scholarly work on Rumi- it is essential if you are studying the man.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough Biography, New information on Rumi 15 April 2000
By "drplw" - Published on
A friend of mine loaned me this book last week to read. Being a great lover of Rumi's poetry, I was ecstatic to have a look at it. The author covers the early life of Rumi, his life in Konya, the great masters who taught him. I was stuck by the copious scholarly notes, the accumulated detail of Mr. Lewis' sources, all annotated.
There is a full chronology of the author's life, his family, his Sufi roots, his writings. There exists a number of pages of pure poetry in clear, modern, unrhymed translations. Examples from the Mithwani, Rumi's epic, and the lyric poetry. But make no mistake, this is not a book about only the poetry, it is, without a doubt, the finest scholarly approch to Rumi's life, filled with Persian accents on proper names, sometimes a little difficult to get through, but these were the names. I advise taking notes on the proper names because they appear often and are unusual to the English reader.
There is no finer book on this subject and must be read by anyone who loves Rumi. It is not easy reading, yet beautifully printed in the British style. Gorgeously done.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lewis Excels 5 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Franklin Lewis's scholarly approach to the life, teachings, and poetry of Rumi is quite refreshing in this New Age era. The summary above includes my general sentiments, although I found the accents helpful in learning to pronounce the proper names. My favorite part of the book was the analysis of the Rumi "translations." I also enjoyed the fresh translations included in this book and would like to see more. Overall, an A+ approach for those of you who want a serious Rumi work.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Psychology, Hermeneutics and Rumi 19 Sep 2000
By Rhett Diessner - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Rumi's works are valuable as social science in their reference to psychological development (the journey of soul). In order to understand Rumi, one must take a classical hermeneutical stance to uncover his intended meanings. This can only be done well if one understands Rumi himself. Franklin Lewis' text is now the greatest aid in so doing: there is no other extant text that gives such a thorough and accurate portrait of Rumi. It offers in-depth description and analysis of his antecedents, as well as the 13th century contemporary influences on his own psychological development. Other than Rumi's works themselves, no other book has been written that allows such insight into who he really was. Professor Lewis has written a work that is an invaluable aid in hermeneutically understanding Rumi, and in providing a richness of context through which one can better decode Rumi's own meaning-making.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative job! 24 Jan 2006
By Timothy Conway - Published on
If I could give this book TEN STARS, I would. Prof. Franklin Lewis has done a superlative job in bringing out different facets of Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi and his father Baha al-Din, his mentor Borhan al-Din, his charismatic awakener Shams al-Din, along the way clearing up various myths and baseless rumors about these men. Not only does Prof. Lewis paint a full picture of the context for Rumi's development, he gives us a long, in-depth analysis of various phases of Mawlana's life, then provides a shorter "recap" synopsis of his career; presents us with exciting, authentic translations of 50 Rumi poems; gives us a candid assessment of various translators old and new of Rumi's works; outlines the interesting history of the manuscripts of his works; traces the history of the Mevlevi Order; and much more (among other things, I was grateful for his mention of the excellent but relatively unknown Rumi translator Ibrahim Gamard, whose website on Rumi is a goldmine of excellent scholarly translations of many sections of the Masnavi, the Divan, etc. And while your at it, also see Iranian-American poet Zara Houshmand's excellent rhyming translations of Rumi's quatrains at [...])

Anyone at all interested in Mawlana in more than a passing fashion simply MUST have Prof. Lewis' Rumi book on their shelves. What a treasure trove!

Now, here's hoping that Prof. Lewis will turn his considerable talents to expand his doctoral dissertation on Hakim Sana'i (d.1131) into a lengthy book on that great Persian Sufi poet-sage (who was such an inspiration to Rumi). And, maybe further down the road, he'll bring us books on Farid al-Din Attar and the later Persian poet Hafiz?? Here's hoping...

Just this one fine book on Rumi is a lifetime achievement.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Persian Perspective 25 Aug 2000
By Sharukin Yelda - Published on
Of the many books witten in different western languages about Rumi and his teachings,this is, without doubt ,the best that I have read.As one who grew up reading Rumi in it's original version in Persian (Farsi,as it is called these days)I could not stop admiring the fluency and accuracy of ihe traslations and the scholarly review of the history and the principles of Sufi mysticism. The Author has given a good overview of Western research and writings about Rumi which was a treat. After reading this book,ther should be no doubt that Rumi was A Persian and not a Turk or Afghani.
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