Gingko marks 200th anniversary of Goethe's West-Eastern Divan with two books

Gingko marks 200th anniversary of Goethe's West-Eastern Divan with two books

Gingko is publishing two books marking the 200th anniversary of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s great poem sequence the West-Eastern Divan, including the work’s first complete bilingual edition.

Published in 1819, the poems were inspired by the poems of the 14th-century Persian writer Hafiz. Coinciding with Goethe meeting lover Marianne von Willemer, the sequence takes in themes of love, tyranny, faith and paradise.

Now the work, including unpublished poems, will appear in an edition featuring a translation of Goethe's own explanatory notes and essays, to be published in May. German and Islamic scholar Eric Ormsby, who described the original as "nothing less than a decisive reconfiguration of German, and indeed European, poetry", will provide an annotated translation.

Also in May, Gingko will publish A New Divan: A Lyrical Dialogue between East & West, edited by Barbara Schwepcke and Bill Swainson.

With forewords by Daniel Barenboim and Mariam Said, widow of Edward Said, the book brings together 24 leading contemporary world poets - 12 from the east and 12 from the west - including Adonis, Mourid Barghouti, Jan Wagner and Don Paterson to write on the themes of Goethe's original Divan. The poems in the 11 original languages face versions in English by leading poets including Jo Shapcott, George Szirtes, Lavinia Greenlaw and Robin Robertson. The book is completed by six essays about Goethe, cultural differences between east and west, and the challenges of translation.

Swainson said: "Every one of the poets involved has risen to the challenge of a demanding commission and together they have given us a set of stunning poems. Made possible by the commitment and enterprise of Gingko and its publisher Barabra Schwepcke, and supported by a grant from Arts Council England's lottery fund, A New Divan is a major international poetry initiative at a time when it has never been more important for east and west to talk to each other.”

The publications will be backed by a series of readings, musical performances and discussions, including at the British Library on 23rd May, the Hay Festival on 25th May and Bradford Literary Festival on 29th June.