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11. Another aspect of the investigation that makes little sense.

“It’s difficult for us to understand today (2009) just how important a part of Victorian and even Modernist literature this (Fitzgerald) translation was. It is a remarkable example of how the literary canon changes over time,” said Molly Schwartzburg, the Ransom Center’s curator of British and American literature and co-curator of the The Persian Sensation: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in the West exhibition.”

Detective Sergeant Leane could only have been of the opinion that nobody, nation-wide, would recognise the two words ‘Tamam Shud’ as belonging to the Rubiayat.

“By 1919, 447 editions of FitzGerald’s translation had been published. By 2007, a total of 1330 versions of the “Rubáiyát” had been published in the West, FitzGerald and other translators included. Into the 1950s, the poem was so widely quoted that more than half of the “Rubáiyát” appeared in “Bartlett’s Quotations” and “The Oxford Book of Quotations.”  Molly Schwartzburg.

Cleland gave Leane the slip in April.

Leane gave it to the press in June.

“During the first decades of the 20th century, the ‘Rubáiyát’ made its way into nearly every facet of people’s lives,” said Michelle Kaiserlian, co-curator of the exhibition and “Rubáiyát” scholar.

Adelaide in 1949 was home to about four hundred thousand including men and women from all nations, Persia included, yet Leane decided none of them would recognise where the words Tamam Shud originated.

The Harry Ransom Center’s exhibition “The Persian Sensation: The ‘Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’ in the West” explores how a translation of a Persian poem went from obscurity to celebrity in British and American culture.


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Totally agree, very strange given the popularity of the book at the time. Reminds me of my favorite part of the interview of avid reader and intellectual DS Leane: Stuart: “What did you think, when you saw the words?” Leane: “I didn’t know, although I’m a reader of Omar Kayyam, and I tried a lot of other intellectuals and they didn’t know either.”

    July 14, 2021
  2. MyName #

    We know that even in similar issues to SM’s copy, not all had “Tamam Shud” – some had nothing, some simply Tamam. Some probably other stuff.
    I can see the point that the Rubaiyat was broadly spread – and I think it bears thinking about how familiar would’ve been with Tamam Shud – but pointing out that not every edition of every translation necessarily had that words.
    Probably also worht thinking whether this is a reflection on Leane. Often when people think they have expertise in a particular area they assume that everyone else know nothings. So Leane thinks reading the Rubaiyat makes him more cultured than the average Joe – he doesn’t realise every man and his dog has read it.

    July 14, 2021
  3. It’s an interesting exercise to go into a 2nd hand bookshop looking for copies of the Rubaiyat, Nearly all the ones I’ve seen were inscribed and they all had a page showing the publisher’s and edition details … no photo exists of any of those with regard to the Freeman Rubaiyat despite that one may have helped the investigation along.

    July 14, 2021

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