West-East Divan

The Poems, with "Notes and Essays": Goethe's Intercultural Dialogues

By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Translated by Martin Bidney & Peter Anton von Arnim
Introduction by Martin Bidney
Commentaries by Martin Bidney

Subjects: Literature
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Paperback : 9781586842840, 527 pages, December 2010

Translations of Goethe’s poems about Arabia and Persia and his essays on Islamic culture.


In West-East Divan (1819), Germany's greatest poet J. W. von Goethe offered a work of lasting appeal. Stimulated by the Divan ("Collection") by medieval pub poet Hafiz, Goethe blends his own identity with that of the Persian Sufi master who sang the delights of wine and tavern romance in a context of Qur'anic allusion. Martin Bidney accompanies his rendering with commentary poems; and Peter Anton von Arnim joins him to offer, as well, the first translation into English of Goethe's "Notes and Essays," a pioneering guide to the cultural history of the Middle East. Bidney's "Introduction" clarifies the transformation brought about in Goethe's thought by his Muslim mentor.

Martin Bidney is Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at Binghamton University. His books include Blake and Goethe, Patterns of Epiphany, A Poetic Dialogue with Adam Mickiewicz, and East-West Poetry.


"Bidney's translations of the … Divan poems … render, for the first time, both form and content in a way that is faithful to the original. The poetical commentaries authored by … Bidney are of a stunning originality and … are composed entirely in the spirit of Goethe's own conception of world literature as a deeply felt interchange among peoples and cultures. I recommend this book most emphatically and with highest praise, in the hope that after nearly two hundred years it will help Goethe's West-East Divan to make the breakthrough it deserves in the English-speaking world. " — Katharina Mommsen

"Bidney's Introduction … correctly indicates that Goethe [offers] 'one of the most notable and far-reaching visions of East-West understanding achieved in modern times …' [This] 'englishing' of the Divan [is] a pleasure to read. " — Khalil Semaan