Ladinsky’s several books of poetry published by Penguin falsely claim to be either translations, versions or renderings of the poet Hafez; in fact, they are not based on the Persian text nor are they based on existing English translations or versions.
This literary misrepresentation was first perpetrated by Penguin fifteen years ago with the publication of The Gift. Three other volumes have since followed. This relentless misrepresentation of the greatest poet in the thousand year tradition of Persian poetry is breathtaking.
Poetry for Persian speakers is not a pastime. It’s not like watching TV or having a barbecue. There is perhaps no poetic tradition in the world that holds the same intellectual, aesthetic and spiritual importance for its speakers than is the case with Persian poetry.
There are many, many great Persian poets. To appropriate the name of the greatest among them and make his work sound downright silly and trite- but promote it to the world as genius, is truly remarkable and, in the eyes of Persians, unforgivable. It is much worse than an instance of cultural theft; it’s more like an extraordinary rendition in which torture effects a lobotomy, and with the abductee then propped up before the cameras for the nightly news.
Persians have come to realize that America simply does not have a learning curve about the Middle East in general and Iran in particular. The 1953 CIA coup against the first democratically elected leader of Iran and his replacement with the despotic Shah has set the tone for an antagonistic relationship with this country. The ongoing sanctions against Iran have succeeded marvelously in punishing Persians for their legitimate national aspiration of producing nuclear reactor fuel. And now, Penguin’s best selling Hafez in English translation is spouting New Age inanities as medieval Persian spiritual truths.
Ladinsky is a pile of contradictions: he has variously claimed that his work is either translation, version or rendering on the one hand, and that his work channels the Spirit of Hafez on the other hand. But there is no textual relationship to the Divan-e-Hafez in Persian or to English translation in either case. He has not been able to account for why his work deserves to be considered anything other than his very own pretentious verse. He has wrapped his tragic literary success in his relationship with his spiritual master, Avatar Meher Baba, for whom honesty was paramount and whose favorite poet was Hafez because of the beauty and veracity of his verse; yet, at the same time, he can not properly identify his literary efforts as nothing but products of his own imagination. How sad.
But what about Penguin? They have no end of editors whose job it is to check the integrity of manuscripts submitted for publication. This is not only sad, this is fraud!