An introductory note to this new impression This new impression of my life of Omar Khayyām is not merely a leaner version of that work. I have revised it and made it, hopefully, a better book, for the simple reason that its author is a decade older. He may have gained a few more insights into what philosophers call ‘the human condition’, and, though somewhat shorter, it contains new material that did not find its way into the earlier book. I have left out many paragraphs that might interest only the scholars of science and literature and have excluded in its entirety the chapter on Khayyām’s mathematics and other writings. The critics who commented on the work nine years ago forked into predictable camps. Those of a Western identity were kind. In London, The Spectator included it among its books for Christmas and the BBC’s august Today Programme  interviewed me at length on the day of its publication. But some devout Muslims and Arab nationalists were not moved. Khayyām’s outspoken preference for Greek thought and is sentimental attachment to pre-Islamic Iran, the main causes of his persecution and downfall, perturbed them. But in truth, rebellion against orthodox doctrine and a celebration of the joys of life are the only explanations why a poet of such slim output has been a universal favourite over vast regions of the world for so long. The 2007 edition sold out quickly and was translated into Russian and Spanish, but it has not been available in English since. Its publisher, the much-respected firm of Sutton, was declared bankrupt the following year and the rights reverted to me. A couple of other publishers proposed to give it a new circulation. But my agent Sonia Land and I judged them not quite suited to the task. I hope that this new version will remedy the misadventure. I thank Joe Rogers of Peach Publishing for the painstaking care he has taken of the text. The graphic artist Karen Crane’s choice of Lake Alexander in Tajikistan for the book’s cover is inspired. Tajikistan is a Persian-speaking nation and regards Khayyām as one of its own, and the natural magnificence of the lake would have awed both the astronomer and the poet in Khayyām. The photograph was taken by Michael Runnel.
Acknowledgements     (first edition, 2007) A friend who encouraged the venture from the start and spent time reading and criticizing the new translation was John Kilbracken. John’s mastery of English was legendary, to the extent that the editors of the Oxford Concise Dictionary  once thanked him for his corrections of their work. As a reminder of his help, and in memory of his lifelong friendship, I treasure his pocket edition of FitzGerald which he had bought on 23 July 1943, around the time of my third birthday, when he was on shore leave from an aircraft carrier escorting supply convoys to Russia. He had jotted down some of his own earliest poems inside its covers and subsequently kept it as a token of his youth as the youngest squadron commander in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. Yet he gave it to me during one of my visits to Killegar, his home in County Leitrim, Ireland, where we buried him in August 2006. Over the years, particularly after 1989 when we shared a house in Wapping after our marriages had ended, he became the elder brother I would not otherwise have had in England, my beloved country of adoption. Through him, Ireland also won my heart. When John moved to Ireland permanently, following the expulsion of most hereditary peers from the House of Lords in 1999, his place in my life was somewhat filled by a younger brother, Christopher Lee, the historian and playwright. To him, too, I am grateful for his love, wisdom and uplifting optimism. I have incorporated in the new translation his catch phrase of ‘We're still here’, because it happened also to be Khayyām’s, in a slightly different version. He subsequently became firm friends both with my superb literary agent, Sonia Land of Sheil Land Associates, and Jaqueline Mitchell, my wonderful editor at Sutton. On the latter subject, my thanks are due also to Jane Entrican, Assistant Publisher of Biography at Sutton, who took over responsibility for the book after Jaqueline had left the company. Another friend, Suzanne Hodgart, a former pictures editor of The Sunday Times Magazine, who found and chose the photographs, cannot possibly know how grateful I am to her, as I am also to friends Jon Swan in Massachusetts and Jim McCue and David Morphet in London for their critiques of the new translation. As with ‘JK’, they all said politely that they would have pursued a different route! They are brought up in English poetics and rightly protective of FitzGerald. But their suggestions were nevertheless of great value to me. Dr Fuad Megally helped me over some of the more ambiguous passages in three poems in Arabic that remain of Khayyām, and Elliot Levine shared with me his thoughts on Khayyām’s mathematics. But the greatest gratitude is owed to my wife Christabel King who has been a helper, as well as a partner. Since we got together in 1992, her love and enthusiasm have been the key to a new serenity in my life and she has been an inspiration to Shlair and Russell, the delights of my eyes from my previous marriage to Georgina Walker (of the New Zealand Ballet Company). Christabel did not even once become jittery around the dinner table in Limehouse as I stood up yet again to tell friends stories from the book she had heard many times previously. May Khayyām continue to inspire them all. Apart from the original medieval sources, I have benefited most from the works of Rahīm Rezāzādeh Malek, who is, without doubt, the world’s most prolific researcher on Khayyām. He has collected together, and annotated in one volume in Iran, all the known writings of the great man. He has also written a short volume on the life and poetry of Khayyām, enumerating exactly where and when and by whom each stanza first came to light. Even though I found myself in disagreement with some of his interpretations, without his devotion to wiping the ancient dust off Khayyām’s much-abused face, this work would have been much harder to contemplate. Also instructive were a number of books published in recent times by other Iranians at home and abroad. They do not qualify as ‘biography’ in the modern sense of the word. They are brief and often polemical. But in all of them I found important points, or at least stimulation. Among them, my thanks are due to Ali-Rezā Zekāvati Gharagozlou in Tehran, a philosopher whose hard work in tracing the history of every quatrain attributed to Khayyām before the middle of the fifteenth century was of enormous help to me. As I could not travel to Iran myself, friends searched the libraries there for any new scholarship on Khayyām on my part. Ali Tavakkoli deserves a special mention. I benefited also from a volume on Avicenna, Khayyām’s great hero, by Sādiq Gowharin of Nishāpūr, beside a history of that city by Freydoon Gerāyeli, the man who, in 1962, actually lifted Khayyām’s remains from his old grave to move them to his new mausoleum. Professor D.S. Richards of Oxford deserves my deep gratitude for his extensive annotations and corrections of Ibn Athīr’s Annals of the Saljuq Turks, as do historians Joseph H. Lynch on the history of the Western church in medieval times, Michael Angold on Byzantium, and W.B. Bartlett on the Assassins. I am indebted also to Professor G.S.P. Freeman-Granville, formerly of the State University of New York. His invaluable book on the Islamic and Christian calendars enabled me to convert Islamic lunar dates into modern solar ones without pain. Otherwise, this work would almost certainly be riddled with dozens of inaccuracies. As for libraries, special thanks are due to the librarians of my club, the Athenaeum, in Pall Mall, as well as the staff of the London Library in nearby St James’s Square, the largest subscription lending library in the world. The former, Sarah Dodgson and Kay Walter, made available to me all their treasures on FitzGerald, and the latter gave me the key to their Edward Heron- Allen collection on Khayyām and FitzGerald. I also used the magnificent British Library, the home of many manuscripts of Persian literature and a FitzGerald print that boasts the most expensive binding of any book in history. I have striven to the best of my ability over a decade to make this report the most accurate account ever told of Khayyām’s life. It is certainly the most thorough. A number of previously unnoticed facts of significance came to light in the course of my research. No doubt, however, there are shortcomings. In places I have had to speculate more than I would have liked. I hope they are minor, but they may not be. I hope that readers will write in with suggestions to improve both the story and the new translation of the poems for possible future editions.