Monday, September 12, 2016

Shihab Al-Din Al-Nuwayri's The Ultimate Ambition of the Arts of Erudition

This is a beautiful new book (newly published by Penguin) translated ably and accurately by Elias Muhanna of Brown University.  It captures those most interesting and encyclopedic aspects of Arabic heritage which remains unknown to Western readers.  I really love the translations but preferred the prose to the poetry as I wished the translations of poetry were more poetic.  Some terms needed annotations and explanations (like the dishes which appear on p. 230).  The other thing is that it was not easy for me to refer from the book to the original Arabic work: not sure how the divisions and sections correlate to the original despite the note on page xxii: and not sure I agree on the translations of funun, aqsam, and abwab (so what is ajza'?).  Maybe I am missing a key here.  Finally, I wish the book was less abridged and more expansive: the original is so beautiful in its scope.  But the efforts for this small volume--I know--was not small.  Highly recommended.

PS I so disagree with the translation of Adab as erudition.