“Millions of people have tried to write books so that they can express the inexpressible, but they have utterly failed. I know only one book, The Book of Mirdad, which has not failed; and if you cannot get to the very essence of it, it will be your failure, not his.”
I wanted to offer a copy of Mikhail Naimeh’s The Book of Mirdad to a student of mine. The librarian’s disappointing and expected answer was, “Of course we don’t have it on hand, but we can order it for you.”
A couple of weeks later, I got a call from a friend who was visiting Berlin, asking if I still wanted the book and, if so, in what language.
It is a little unsettling that a major piece of work by Mikhail Naimeh can be found in a library in Berlin, readily available in seven languages, but cannot be found two kilometers from where the Lebanese author lived and died.
The Book of Mirdad is a milestone in the category of spiritual books. It is a compilation of dialogues between Mirdad, the abbot of a monastery, and his disciples, essentially about the human condition and the journey through the great elements of existence: love, compassion, forgiveness, pain, fear, death — in short, life. A life of purpose, not through abstinence and austerity, but through … well, I’d rather you discover it for yourself, should you decide to read it. This masterpiece of paradoxical writing — translated into more than 30 languages worldwide — is far richer between the lines than one might expect. No matter how high your expectations are, you will soon find out that is a book not to be read, but to be lived.
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