These are taken from the intro of various books. There aren't many here because many books either omit such things or they write them in a very dull style. The dull ones are usually either a resume of the author or spend most of the time discussing the book itself and then tack on what else the author has written or his academic achievements. Those that are more biographically oriented though I typically enjoy.
Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) was a gifted
linguist, daring explorer, prolific author, and one of the most
flamboyant celbrities of his day. Forced to leave Oxford for unruly
behavior, he joined the British Army in India, where he gained
a remarkable knowledge of Arabic, Hindustani, and Persian, eventually
acquiring 29 languages and many dialects. he led the famed expedition
to discover the soureof the Nile an, disguised as a Moslem, made
a pilgrimage to the then-forbidden city of Mecca and penetrated
the sacred city of Harar in unexplored East Africa. Burton translated
unexpurgated versions of many Oriental texts, including the Kama
Surtra (1883) and Arabian Nights (1885-88), which is
perhaps his most celebrated achievement.
Orson Wells was the pen name of an Englishman named Eric Blair. He was born in Bengal in 1903, educated at Eton, and after service with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, returned to Europe to earn his living writing novels and essays. He was essentially a political writer who wrote of his own times, a man of intense feeling and fiere hates. He hated totalitarianism, and served in the Loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. He was critical of Communism but was himself a Socialist. He distrusted intellectuals, although he was a literary critic. He hated cant and lying and cruelty in life and in literature. He died at forty-seven of a neglected lung ailment, leaving behind a substantial body of work, a growing reputation of greatness, and the conviction that modern man was inadequate to cope with the deamands of his history.
Jedaluddin Rumi lived most of his life in Konya, Turkey, which in the 13th century was a meeting-point for many cultures at the western end of the Silk Road, a connective node for Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and even Buddhist, world. Rumi weaves elements from these traditions into a whole, a single energy. Rumi's Rubaiyat is improvised music. Structural arrangement is not primary. Rumi's ideas on Friendship grow, circulate, and clarify as they take on, and explore, various images.
Born in Balkh, in what is now Afghanistan, Jedaluddin Rumi was exiled early in life by Mongol invasions, to Konya. Followinghis father, he became the center of a medrese, a learning community. Konya in the mid-13th century was, at the very least, a trilingual city. Turkish vernacular, Persian the literary language, and Arabic the language of the Koran and religious ceremony. Rumi wrote, or more often dictated, predominantly in Persian.
Rumi's way of teaching in the medrese seems to have evolved in definate stages: from pre-Shams discourses, to the estatic spontaneity of the middle of his life - the strong heart-center poetry - to the later, complex combination of stories and lyricism and teachings, the Mathnawi, which occupied the last twelve years of his life.
Rumi was thirty-seven when he met Shams in 1244, Shams about sixty. Up until then Rumi had been a fairly traditional mystic, one of a long line of scholars and theologians. Shams literally took Rumi's books, his intellectual brilliance, and threw them into a well to show him how he needed to live what he'd been reading.
The two of them went into week-long periods of sohbet, mystical conversation and mergining. certain people became jealous of this consuming absorption in the Friend. They drove Shams off for a time, to Damascus. But he returned, and finally, apparently, they murdered him. The legend varies. What is clear is that the deep friendship with Shams could not be tolerated. There was some danger perceived by the religious community in the continuous ecstacy of Lover and Beloved. They were seperated.
Before the contact with Shams, and the bewildering wrenching away, Rumi was not really a poet. The poetry sprang into being in celebration of the meeting with Shams and in grief for longing for the Friend's return. The poetry, also, can be seen as a unique recordof the union of the lover and the beloved, soul and spirit, if such intensity can be called a "record." Certainly it's not linear, or completed, or explainable. he hears camel bells inthe distance. When the approaching presence calls out, he says, the first word spoken will coincide exactly with the last words of his poem. For Rumi, poetry is what he does in the meantime, a song-and-dance until the greater reality he loves arrives: A melting tear-gift eye-piece to look through, while it and the scene and the eye disolve.