The Poet and Suleika: A West-Eastern Dialogue in Poetry and Music

23 May '19 at 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm

In 1814 Goethe read the poems of the great fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafiz in a newly published translation by Joseph von Hammer. He called Hafiz his twin and was immediately inspired to create a Divan of his own. Not long afterwards he met Marianne von Willemer, with whom he rapidly fell in love. She became Suleika to his Hatem and, the conversation begun with Hafiz blossomed also into a duet for two lovers, which became the ‘Book of Suleika’, the most beautiful part of Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan, published in 1819. At the centre of the Book of Suleika are at least five poems that Goethe published as his own but were in fact composed by his young lover Marianne von Willemer; it is these poems that were set to music by Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn. In this anniversary year we want to redress this appropriation and move the historical and the poetic Suleika firmly into the centre of our celebration of our West-Eastern dialogue in poetry and music. At this launch event, poets Nujoom al-Ghanem, Paul Farley and Don Paterson will read poetry from the West-Eastern Divan and A New Divan.


The British Library (Knowledge Centre)

Knowledge Centre, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB



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