Shoghi Effendi:
An approach to his artistic contribution to style in English literature and to standards in translation

By Nabil Perdu and Ismael Velasco

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #54
Institute of Commonwealth Studies: London, England
July 2–4, 2004
(see list of papers from #54)

    As the 50th anniversary of Shoghi Effendi's passing approaches, it is timely to advance the assessment of his wide literary legacy, and particularly his contribution to the field of translation and to the development of high standards in careful use of the English language; besides being critical for the shaping of Bahá'í identity in the 20th century and thereafter, and crystallising a scriptural language that will shape the rendering of Bahá'í writings into English and into other languages for quite likely centuries to come, his contribution was also groundbreaking and pioneering in its own right,

    This field of study counts as yet with very limited treatment in the literature, and nevertheless is of a potential significance that at such proximity it is still hard to calculate. We will present some of the key elements we have been able to identify that shape Shoghi Effendi's work as a translator, and will try to identify a few of the linguistic devices and translation principles he adopted to achieve what he considered "as the unattainable goal -a befitting rendering of Bahá'u'lláh's matchless utterance." (The Kitáb-i-Iqán, p. i)

    The originality of the style of language he created in English for his Persian and English translations will be approached historically, stylistically and linguistically, to track how he harnessed the formidable resources of English sacred and historical literature to create a new vehicle for conveying not just the literal meaning but the spiritual con-tent of the Word of God. The role of authorized interpretation in his translations will likewise be explored and its significance for "indirect' translation of Bahá'í scripture from English to the various languages rather than directly from the Arabic or Persian will be touched upon.

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