Although these translations of the tenth-century, Egyptian-born Sufi mystic Al-Nifarri were published on Youssef Rakha’s site in May, I was late to find them.
There is a 1935 English translation of al-Nifarri’s Mawaqif and Mukhatabat, by A.J. Arberry, and a 1995 French translation by Sami-Ali.
Moger’s versions are about as different from Arberry’s as they could possibly be, except that both are bilingual. Instead of being representations for an academic audience, Moger’s are themselves mystical, incantatory, in need of unraveling: “and he said to me Who are you and who am I and I saw the sun and the moon and the stars and all the lights ashine.”
The translations, instead of giving the reader a fixed object to examine — “what was the tenth century Sufi poem” — sets the reader on a boat, on a journey toward meanings. It’s easy to imagine an al-Nifarri who would have greatly preferred this effect:
Take ignorance in your hand with it turn the knowledge of the heavens and the earth from me and when you turn them you shall see me come down and he said to me Ignorance is the shield before the screen the cover before the shield and there is no greater shield for ignorance is the vanguard of the Lord When he comes it is his shield and nothing is known save ignorance
Read the full poems at Youssef Rakha’s Cosmopolitan Hotel.