The Legend of Barlaam and Josaphat: Selected Readings

Book Cover

New York University Press

Published: 2021
Library of Arabic Literature, New York University Press


What is the meaning of life? Why is it sometimes cruel and painful? What's true happiness? Where is the actual satisfaction? Where is perfection located? What is the way for a person to achieve himself? Such questions occupy us in different stages of life, but they are more urgent in youth. The legend of Bilawhar wa-Budasif/Barlaam and Josaphat is a discussion of a series of important and personal questions, and it is not surprising that this story appears as a young prince struggling to find the answers to these questions.

Bilawhar wa-Budasif book is one of the pioneering and early works of prose in Arabic literature, it is a composition that combines a few events from the legend of Buddha's life with other literary motifs. The importance of the Arabic narration of the myth goes beyond the borders of the first Abbasid era. At the beginning of the eleventh century AD, the book of Bilawhar wa-Budasif was transferred from Arabic into a Christian narration in the Georgian language, and then into Greek and Latin followed by more than sixty languages. 

The book is published as part of the Young Arab Library Series, an initiative of the Arabic Library of the New York University Abu Dhabi’s Institute in the context of its interest in appreciating Arabic literature for young people and the contemporary reader in general. This series adopts the Arab Library's approach to reviving heritage and restoring it with its diverse and different genres and themes.