Date of Award
The first time Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyiat were brought to the Western world, it was through a translation from their original Persian to English by Edward Fitzgerald in 1859. Over the next century, Khayyam’s verses saw extraordinary popular success among intellectuals both in England and beyond. This paper, however, explores what these verses meant to Persians in Omar Khayyam’s context, long before the quatrains reached the West. Although whether the meaning of his poetry is esoteric or hedonistic in nature is debated, his quatrains express an existential longing and grieving that can be compared to parallel feelings described by Albert Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus and The Rebel. In this project, I explore the similarities in the notion of the absurd as defined by Albert Camus with the expressions of absurd experience in The Ruba'iyat of Omar Khayyam. Through this exploration of the absurdist experience across cultures and centuries, I propose Omar Khayyam's Ruba'iyat as an example that the spirit of metaphysical rebellion can exist in a non-Western context, and that it existed nearly a millennium before Albert Camus developed it as an idea in the 20th century.
Alsatie, Lynn, "Absurdity and Metaphysical Rebellion in the Philosophies of Albert Camus and Omar Khayyam" (2019). Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection. 490.