Know yourself and in that instant
Know the Other and see therefore
Orient and Occident
Cannot be parted for evermore

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, West-Eastern Divan


4 years
24 poems
12 Western poets
12 Middle Eastern poets
Multiple languages

‘A highly auspicious and commendable initiative … I hope that this initiative will, albeit slowly, facilitate and promote the process of peace and mutual understanding among peoples around the globe.’
– Mahmoud Dowlatabadi


What is the New Divan?

As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe considered his own West-Eastern Divan incomplete, the Gingko Library will publish a New Divan in 2019. New Divan will be an anthology of 24 poems – twelve by poets of the MENA region and twelve from the West – inspired by the culture of ‘the Other’. Building on the rich tradition of poets who have sought inspiration from, and responded to, other cultures, and specifically to their poetry, New Divan will demonstrate how the Other can be a source of inspiration rather than fear. Each poem will appear in New Divan in English and, where the poem was not written in English, both in the language of composition and with a poetic translation in English alongside it.



A board of advisors – headed by Joachim Sartorius and including the Syrian poet Adonis, the Iranian author Mahmoud Dowlatabadi and the English poet Michael Schmidt – will invite 24 poets to submit their work before September 2016. The advisory board will then nominate translators, poets themselves, who, with the aid of a literal, scholarly translation, will use the original poem as the basis for a new, poetic interpretation.

Mahmoud Dowlatabadi at the launch of the New Divan project

Project Timeline
December 2015 The advisory board identify and approach 24 poets.
September 2016 Poets submit their work to the Advisory Board who nominate translators, both scholarly as well as poetical.

December 2017 Translators submit their work to the Advisory Board. Translation workshops are held.

September 2019 A New Divan, hosted by the Barenboim-Said Akademie in Berlin, brings together the poets, their translators and scholars who contributed to the New Divan and the volume is published.


New Divan background

New Divan takes its inspiration from Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan, a work that Goethe began writing in 1814 and that was first published five years later, in 1819. It was inspired by his correspondence with Marianna von Willemer and the translation of the Persian poet Hafiz’s Divan by the Austrian Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall. The work has for many years stood as a symbol of cultural exchange between the Orient and Occident.

Divan inspiration volume English-German
Divan Inspiration Arabic-Persian

The English-German, and the Arabic-Persian covers of the New Divan inspiration volume,
published by the Gingko Library.

Hafiz, Goethe and the Gingko: Inspirations for the New Divan is meant to be only a foretaste of what is to come, namely an assembly of Dichter und Denker, of poets and scholars writing in Persian, Arabic, Hebrew and the Turkish languages. Hafiz, Goethe and the Gingko: Inspirations for a New Divan acts as a prologue, a multilingual anthology of poetry (all presented with an English poetic translation) as well as a discussion of the background to the poetry and the challenges of translation. It is a book in four languages – English, German, Persian and Arabic – and, like the Gingko leaf, it has two beginnings and no end, or as Goethe would have said, it is ‘one yet two’.
Contributors include: Adonis, Daniel Barenboim, Wolfgang Behnken, Stephen Brown, Aran Byrne, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Narguess Farzad, Rahim Gholami, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Hafiz, Sabeer Haka, Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, Christopher Middleton, Hubert Moore, Nermeen Al Nafra, Kenneth J. Northcott, Eric L. Ormsby, Nasrin Parvaz, Joachim Sartorius, Barbara Haus Schwepcke, Abdullah al-Udhari, Siegfried Unseld, Martin E.Weir, Darrell Wilkins.

Full video of the launch of the New Divan project
featuring Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Joachim Sartorius, Narguess Farzad and Barbara Haus Schwepcke

Joachim Sartorius at the launch of the New Divan project

Narguess Farzad at the launch of the New Divan project

Barbara Haus Schwepcke at the launch of the New Divan project