Skip to content

Two Mexican Rubaiyats – a Case of International Relations

June 2, 2022

It is not often that the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam has figured in international diplomacy. But, in his latest research project, Bob Forrest has identified two editions of the poem, published in Mexico in 1938/39, that were part of an attempt to improve international relations between Mexico and the UK at the time.

Illustration by Roberto Montenegro for Eduardo Hay’s translation 1938

The first of these Mexican editions was a translation of Edward FitzGerald’s fourth edition into Spanish by Eduardo Hay. It was published in Mexico in 1938 and contains four colour illustrations by the Mexican artist Roberto Montenegro. The second Mexican volume is, most unusually, a version in Welsh, with a translation of FitzGerald’s first edition by Thomas Ifor Rees, which, for reasons outlined below, was published in Mexico in 1939. It contained illustrations by R C Hesketh.

Bob has set out the results of his research into these two versions of the Rubaiyat in an article on his website, see http://www.bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/Two_Mexican_Rubaiyats/Two_Mexican_Rubaiyats.htm. He discusses the content of the volumes in detail with excellent images of the illustrations from both. He also sets out how these editions were connected through a diplomatic initiative which helps to explain why the Welsh version came to be published in Mexico. It appears that Eduardo Hay, the translator of the Spanish version, was also for a time the Mexican foreign minister and a general in the Mexican army. Thomas Ifor Rees was a diplomat who was based in Mexico between 1938 and 1943, and in charge of British affairs in the country at a time of a serious rift between that country and the UK. Knowing that the Mexican foreign minister shared his interest in the Rubaiyat, he seems to have used this as a way of trying to ease the diplomatic situation, though Bob doubts whether this cultural initiative had a major effect.

Our thanks to Bob for enlightening us on a really unusual side story in Rubaiyat history. Both the Mexican volumes are rare and not easily found even in libraries, so it is great to have information about their contents and images available for consultation.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: