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About the Author

About the Author

Louis Massignon

Herbert Mason lived for long periods in France and Ireland, and traveled extensively in  Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Japan.  His books have been translated into numerous foreign languages, including French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Japanese. He received his AB, AM and PhD from Harvard University, the latter degree in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures. He is Emeritus University Professor and William Goodwin Aurelio Professor of History and Religion at Boston University. He now lives in Newbury, Massachusetts. Contact email:

Herbert Mason was previous President of the Association des Amis de Louis Massignon, Paris. Over the course of his career, Herbert Mason has translated many of Massignon's works from French to English.

Herbert Mason is also the author of numerous articles. A sample of those articles can be found here:

Seeking the Real in Mysticism
Reflections on Louis Massignon and His Legacy of Dialogue


Excerpt from "A Guest of Islam," an essay by Herbert Mason:
The subject of Islam first entered my consciousness in the fall of 1957. I was living in France and reading numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, including Albert Camus’ THE STRANGER. The heat of the sun over Algeria had sufficient power over my imagination to lead me to others’ writings of the so-called “Algiers Group”.

Such ‘pied-noir’ authors as Albert Memmi, Jean Amrouche, Jean Pelegri and Camus, along with Muslim authors Kateb Yacine and Mohammed Dib, evoked and enlarged the physical landscape and deepened the psychological and political perspectives that formed my first impressions of a civilization whose literary and historic origins would become my scholarly preoccupation for the next fifty years. Two of those authors, Jean Pelegri and Mohammed Dib, both exiles living in France, became close personal friends.

In 1959, when I met in Paris the noted French Islamologue of the College de France, Louis Massignon, I participated at his urging in a pilgrimage held in Brittany at the site of an ancient Celtic dolmen shrine and attended by both North African and French men and women as one of many ‘actions’ for an end to the war in Algeria,  I became acquainted further with Muslims, their cultures, and their aspirations. [Read more of "A Guest of Islam."]

Abstract from An Unexpected Friendship:

Behind the friendship of the elder noted French Islamicist Louis Massignon, author of the magisterial Passion d'al-Hallaj and the young aspiring American author of Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative, is a most unusual story that transcends boundaries of age, language, religion, and time. Mary and Paul Mellon's celebrated Bollingen Series, which published the entire works of Carl Jung and of numerous other seminal European thinkers of the early twentieth century, held the rights to the English translation of Massignon's magnum opus published in 1922. The scholarly and spiritual impact of Massignon himself on the young Mason between the years 1959-1962 and beyond is revealed most fully in this dramatic account. [Read An Unexpected Friendship in full...]


The friendship between Italian painter Dino Cavallari and Herbert Mason dates from their meeting in Paris in 1958. Their shared interest in the ancient Near Eastern story of Gilgamesh developed into a passion which led to Cavallari's creation of over seventy illustrations and Mason's publication of his poetic retelling in 1970, with Giligamesh's journey on the river of death as the cover art. The illustrations were painted in oil on paper covered with a varnish that enabled them to dry faster and when it dried to preserve their color permanently. Together with these illustrations numerous pen and ink drawings were made. Mason's book was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1971 and continues to be a best seller in America. In a recent meeting in Cavallari's home in Burgundy, France, the artist said "The ancient world survives in friendship."

Mason and Cavallari recently published a 40 page volume of illustrations from Gilgamesh. The volume is available in both French and English from Blurb publishing.

Mason and Cavallari