cover image Rumi’s Little Book of Wisdom

Rumi’s Little Book of Wisdom

Rumi, trans. from the Persian by Maryam Mafi. Hampton Roads, $15.95 trade paper

Mafi (The Book of Rumi) aims to introduce 13th-century Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi, better known as Rumi, to Western readers, in this handy yet cursory compilation, excerpting around 200 quotes and parables from his teachings and lectures. The quotes center on human nature controlling thoughts and ego, and the search for the divine: “When our minds decide to go to a new place, our/ hearts travel there first to check out the terrain/ later rerunning to convey our bodies there.” Mafi opts for crisp yet colloquial language, making for easy reading: “You searched the whole world, but it wasn’t to find/ Truth! So now you have to start all over again and/ rediscover the world.” The book also features simple, evocative ink illustrations that enhance the beauty of the text’s language. Most of the entries are taken from Rumi’s The Discourses, a work containing long philosophical inquiries, conversations, and lectures. But by keeping the excerpts short, Mafi strips Rumi’s thoughts of context, leaving just simple aphorisms behind. While a few of the included parables are worth pondering, overall this works better as a curiosity for Rumi completists rather than an introduction to the thinker. (Apr.)