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SHAHNAMEH: THE EPIC OF KINGS (Annotated Epic poem history): The national epic poem of Persia (Iran) written of mythical and historical past of the Persian Empire in the 7th century

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The Shahnameh or Shahnama or The Book of Kings", is written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 CE and is a long epic poem which named to be the national epic of Greater Iran. It has 60,000 verses and it is the longest epic poetry of the world that written from a single poet. The story tells mainly the historical and mythical of Persian Empire from the cr The Shahnameh or Shahnama or The Book of Kings", is written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 CE and is a long epic poem which named to be the national epic of Greater Iran. It has 60,000 verses and it is the longest epic poetry of the world that written from a single poet. The story tells mainly the historical and mythical of Persian Empire from the creation of the world until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century, details in Persian culture traces from the death of the last Sassanid ruler of Persia during the Muslim conquest and end of the Zoroastrian influence in Iran. THE SHAHS OF OLD FERIDOUN ZAL ZAL AND RUDABEH RUSTEM THE MARCH INTO MAZINDERAN KAI KAOUS COMMITTETH MORE FOLLIES RUSTEM AND SOHRAB SAIAWUSH THE RETURN OF KAI KHOSRAU FIROUD THE VENGEANCE OF KAI KHOSRAU BYZUN AND MANIJEH THE DEFEAT OF AFRASIYAB THE PASSING OF KAI KHOSRAU ISFENDIYAR RUSTEM AND ISFENDIYAR THE DEATH OF RUSTEM NOTE TO THE READER: EPIC POEM HISTORY


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The Shahnameh or Shahnama or The Book of Kings", is written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 CE and is a long epic poem which named to be the national epic of Greater Iran. It has 60,000 verses and it is the longest epic poetry of the world that written from a single poet. The story tells mainly the historical and mythical of Persian Empire from the cr The Shahnameh or Shahnama or The Book of Kings", is written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 CE and is a long epic poem which named to be the national epic of Greater Iran. It has 60,000 verses and it is the longest epic poetry of the world that written from a single poet. The story tells mainly the historical and mythical of Persian Empire from the creation of the world until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century, details in Persian culture traces from the death of the last Sassanid ruler of Persia during the Muslim conquest and end of the Zoroastrian influence in Iran. THE SHAHS OF OLD FERIDOUN ZAL ZAL AND RUDABEH RUSTEM THE MARCH INTO MAZINDERAN KAI KAOUS COMMITTETH MORE FOLLIES RUSTEM AND SOHRAB SAIAWUSH THE RETURN OF KAI KHOSRAU FIROUD THE VENGEANCE OF KAI KHOSRAU BYZUN AND MANIJEH THE DEFEAT OF AFRASIYAB THE PASSING OF KAI KHOSRAU ISFENDIYAR RUSTEM AND ISFENDIYAR THE DEATH OF RUSTEM NOTE TO THE READER: EPIC POEM HISTORY

30 review for SHAHNAMEH: THE EPIC OF KINGS (Annotated Epic poem history): The national epic poem of Persia (Iran) written of mythical and historical past of the Persian Empire in the 7th century

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings Vol. 9, Abolqasem Ferdowsi The first modern critical edition of the Shahnameh was prepared by a Russian team led by E. E. Bertels, using the oldest known manuscripts at the time, dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, with heavy reliance on the 1276 manuscript from the British Museum and the 1333 Leningrad manuscript, the latter of which has now been considered a secondary manuscript. In addition, two other manuscripts used in this edition have been so Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings Vol. 9, Abolqasem Ferdowsi The first modern critical edition of the Shahnameh was prepared by a Russian team led by E. E. Bertels, using the oldest known manuscripts at the time, dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, with heavy reliance on the 1276 manuscript from the British Museum and the 1333 Leningrad manuscript, the latter of which has now been considered a secondary manuscript. In addition, two other manuscripts used in this edition have been so demoted. It was published in Moscow by the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in nine volumes between 1960 and 1971. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1970 میلادی شاهنامه فردوسی در نه جلد؛ مسکو، انستیتو ملل آسیا، 1966 میلادی ا. شربیانی

  2. 5 out of 5

    J.G. Keely

    The history of the world is a history of jerks. Starting with Gilgamesh, our earliest epic hero, who makes everyone wrestle him until they are exhausted then goes off to sleep with their wives while they pray to the gods to deliver them, to Achilles sulking in his tent, the Athenians sentencing Socrates to die because he talks too much, or Tacitus writing of how Caligula, Claudius, and Nero ruled through assassination and manipulation. Sure, there are always a few level-headed, intell The history of the world is a history of jerks. Starting with Gilgamesh, our earliest epic hero, who makes everyone wrestle him until they are exhausted then goes off to sleep with their wives while they pray to the gods to deliver them, to Achilles sulking in his tent, the Athenians sentencing Socrates to die because he talks too much, or Tacitus writing of how Caligula, Claudius, and Nero ruled through assassination and manipulation. Sure, there are always a few level-headed, intelligent fellows, like Caesar, Odysseus, the Sire de Coucy--and in the Shahnameh, Rostam--but even they can't escape the machinations of the headstrong, foolish jerks that surround them. As far as Epics go, the Shahnameh is one of the darkest I've read, with a jerk quotient that's off the charts. The whole thing progresses as a series of blood feuds, deadly (and tragic) misunderstandings, endless duels over minor points of honor, fathers against sons, sons against mothers, uncles against everyone, mistrust and malicious rumor, and greed-driven betrayals. Sure, there are a few genuinely reasonable guys throughout, but you can always bet that, in the end, some unstable noble with a chip on his shoulder is going to mess everything up. However, that isn't to say that the jerks are nonsensical or comically evil--pretty much every one has a good side, a sense of honor, a family--it's just that most of them seem to have the emotional self-control of a toddler. It reminded me of the nobles in A Distant Mirror who would spend all of their crusading gold on matching green silk doublets and then show up to the battle without armor or supplies. Certainly, I never found the characters' actions unlikely, though I would have appreciated a bit more explanation from Ferdowsi on precisely why certain individuals kept making the same stupid errors. Much of the depth and sympathy in the Iliad stems from the fact that Homer uses the power of rhetoric to make it easy to understand the motivations behind all the pointless conflicts. Ferdowsi is a masterful writer, however, and his prose is full of a vital energy, a poetry of odd and evocative metaphors that made the scenes something more than simply real--made them mythical. The image of an elephant's legs being so stained with man's blood that they seem to be 'pillars of coral', or Rustam's statement that, though he serves the Shah, he is still king of the world, his horse a throne, his sword a seal, his helm a crown, or this description of the coming of a Great Prophet (though I am unsure which one) to Persia: He reared throughout the realm a tree of godly foliage, and men rested beneath its branches. And whosoever ate of the leaves thereof was learned in all that regardeth the life to come, but whosoever who ate of the branches was perfect in wisdom and faith. Unfortunately, this translation is incomplete, ending before the coming of Eskandar (Alexander the Great), the full poem being longer than the Iliad and Odyssey combined, so it seems the rest shall have to wait. Also delightful, particularly for the devoted fantasist, is the depiction of remarkable and wondrous magics of many sorts, from guardian spirits and races of magical beings, both fair and wicked, to great wizard-kings who transform into poison-spitting serpents and watch the world through crystal globes. It is always inspiring to witness depictions of magic that truly surprise and mystify the reader, capable of suggesting a marvelous world somewhere beyond our own. Of course, to any student of the tradition of the cultural epic, the great work which captures the spirit of a people and an age, and sets the precedent for all works to follow, few works are equal in scope, artistry, and influence--perhaps only that of Homer and Virgil, the Ramayana and Mahabharata of India, the Four Great Novels of China, and the Bible.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings, Abolqasem Ferdowsi Abu ʾl-Qasim Firdowsi Tusi (c. 940–1020), or Ferdowsi was a Persian poet and the author of Shahnameh ("Book of Kings"), which is the world's longest epic poem created by a single poet, and the national epic of Greater Iran. Ferdowsi is celebrated as the most influential figure in Persian literature and one of the greatest in the history of literature. Among the great works of world literature, perhaps one of the least familiar to Engl Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings, Abolqasem Ferdowsi Abu ʾl-Qasim Firdowsi Tusi (c. 940–1020), or Ferdowsi was a Persian poet and the author of Shahnameh ("Book of Kings"), which is the world's longest epic poem created by a single poet, and the national epic of Greater Iran. Ferdowsi is celebrated as the most influential figure in Persian literature and one of the greatest in the history of literature. Among the great works of world literature, perhaps one of the least familiar to English readers is the Shahnameh: ThePersian Book of Kings, the national epic of Persia. This prodigious narrative, composed by the poet Ferdowsi between the years 980 and 1010, tells the story of pre- Islamic Iran, beginning in the mythic time of Creation and continuing forward to the Arab invasion in the seventh century. As a window on the world, Shahnameh belongs in the company of such literary masterpieces as Dante's Divine Comedy, the plays of Shakespeare, the epics of Homer— classics whose reach and range bring whole cultures into view. In its pages are unforgettable moments of national triumph and failure, human courage and cruelty, blissful love and bitter grief. In tracing the roots of Iran, Shahnameh initially draws on the depths of legend and then carries its story into historical times, when ancient Persia was swept into an expanding Islamic empire. Now Dick Davis, the greatest modern translator of Persian poetry, has revisited that poem, turning the finest stories of Ferdowsi's original into an elegant combination of prose and verse. For the first time in English, in the most complete form possible, readers can experience Shahnameh in the same way that Iranian storytellers have lovingly conveyed it in Persian for the past thousand years. تاریخ خوانش ای نسخه: روز دهم ماه ژوئن سال 2009 میلادی عنوان: شاهنامه فردوسی؛ شاعر: ابوالقاسم فردوسی؛ ویرایش: فریدون جنیدی؛ تهران، بنیاد نیشابور، نشر بلخ؛ 1387؛ در شش جلد؛ شابک دوره: 9789646337442؛ موضوع: شعر شاعران ایرانی - سده چهارم هجری - سده 11 میلادی ا. شربیانی

  4. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Asaro

    This is perhaps the greatest collection of stories I have ever read! It is a true "dream book"; if you love wonder stories, myths and heroic epics this is the kind of saga you dream about. Every story is better than the one preceding it and it keeps mounting until it reaches heights of imagination and storytelling that are all but untouchable. As in Persian poetry the language is rich, layered and achingly beautiful. It is basically a long family saga but it never gets too complicated to follow. This is perhaps the greatest collection of stories I have ever read! It is a true "dream book"; if you love wonder stories, myths and heroic epics this is the kind of saga you dream about. Every story is better than the one preceding it and it keeps mounting until it reaches heights of imagination and storytelling that are all but untouchable. As in Persian poetry the language is rich, layered and achingly beautiful. It is basically a long family saga but it never gets too complicated to follow. A perfect book: humanizing, imagination-expanding and a towering work of literature.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings, Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Dick Davis (Translator), Azar Nafisi (Foreword) Among the great works of world literature, perhaps one of the least familiar to English readers is the "Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings," the national epic of Persia. This prodigious narrative, composed by the poet Ferdowsi between the years 980 and 1010, tells the story of pre- Islamic Iran, beginning in the mythic time of Creation and continuing forward to the Arab invasion in th Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings, Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Dick Davis (Translator), Azar Nafisi (Foreword) Among the great works of world literature, perhaps one of the least familiar to English readers is the "Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings," the national epic of Persia. This prodigious narrative, composed by the poet Ferdowsi between the years 980 and 1010, tells the story of pre- Islamic Iran, beginning in the mythic time of Creation and continuing forward to the Arab invasion in the seventh century. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه دسامبر سال 2007 میلادی ا. شربیانی

  6. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    The olden kings gave us the gift of a peaceful holiday. Calling for wine and musicians at the onset of spring They forgave, they forgot, and drank their worries away. This is a review of the edition of Shanameh published by the Quantuck Lane Press. It is an adaptation, as labeled on the first page; it is certainly shorter than the full text as listed for the Penguin etc. editions. But it is accompanied by beautifully ornate, full illustrations on every page, original to the edition, The olden kings gave us the gift of a peaceful holiday. Calling for wine and musicians at the onset of spring They forgave, they forgot, and drank their worries away. This is a review of the edition of Shanameh published by the Quantuck Lane Press. It is an adaptation, as labeled on the first page; it is certainly shorter than the full text as listed for the Penguin etc. editions. But it is accompanied by beautifully ornate, full illustrations on every page, original to the edition, and the text certainly seems adequate to get a good sense of the full work. This is a large scale (about 14 inches tall and 10 wide) deluxe production. The one I have from the library is covered in bright green cloth with a gold and maroon emblem on the front. The illustrations are stunning, and repay close attention. You can see several two-page spreads using the ‘more’ button below the large picture of the cover at: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shahn... There is a long tradition of illustrations for the Shanameh, both for Iranian patrons and for export to the Ottoman Empire and India. The introduction doesn’t discuss how this fits into Islamic prohibitions of figurative art. There was a major exhibition of Shanameh art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art several years ago, and it would be interesting to compare these contemporary, but traditional, illustrations with the ones in the catalog: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... Wikipedia says Ferdowsi wrote this between 977 and 1010. It portrays Iran from earliest time until the Islamic conquest in the seventh century. The only religion mentioned in it is Zoroastrianism. The translation/adaptation is a mix of prose and poetry, although my extracts here only quote the infrequent poetic pieces. Ferdowsi’s original consists of 50,000 couplets. As in the Bible, some people live for hundreds of years, while others age and die around them. There are fairies and demons, although in this adaptation humans are by far the main characters. I’m not going to try to summarize the Wikipedia commentary of the Shanameh’s importance in Persian history, language and literature here; but learning about the role of the poem would be well worth while. The lack of any useful forward or notes in this book is a drawback but it is clearly not meant as a scholarly or complete version--this edition is about the story and the art. At first the names and genealogy go by at dizzying speed, but the story settles in to a tale of three of four generations of two main familes in Persia and a handful in Turan, to the northeast of modern Iran (Turkmenestan). A surface reaction is that nothing changes from Herodotus to today’s New York Times: the lead story is endless rounds of vengeance and beheadings. Massive armies and endless battles. For generations and generations. This is the national epic of Iran, the stories all children presumably hear from infancy. They also hear beautiful prose and poetry, and they hear about heros who try to cauterize the last emotional wounds and stop the cycle of revenge. False confidence leads a foolish man to slaughter. He stomps on solid ground but it turns out to be A layer of straw floating on a puddle of water. At a deeper level, there is an epic story of dynasties and political negotiations about what kind of government will prevail. Ferdowsi is also an incredible psychologist. His kings and warriors are always in flux between their impetuous impulses and reflective wisdom. The world is full of mysteries as it makes and breaks. Love and wisdom forsook them both, nor did One of them pause to correct his mistakes. Fish, onager, and beasts of burden in their mangers Know their own, but greed so blinded father and son That they faced each other as strangers. He portrays many of the early kings of Persia and weak or disastrous rulers, who embroiled their countries in unnecessary wars and were vindictive or unappreciative of the brave defenders. Other rulers, however, were upright and wise, and fostered art, science and justice. There is a touching story of one king at only sixty years old, worn down by his duties, climbing a mountain in winter to die, disappearing, and the heroes who accompanied him against his counsel dying in the blizzard as well. One gets a sense of the different cultural background of simultaneous political and military leaders and dynasties that I read as a very old tradition that may be a source of the later approach to the very different scopes of political and religious rule, when compared to the modern West. Just a guess. Women are not omitted. There is a story that is very close to the Greek Phaedre, with disastrous results. Other women are mothers with wise advice, beautiful daughters and brides, and brave widows committing mass suicide to avoid capture as war booty. Horses are just about as important as lovers. As the supreme hero Rostam is finally returned in state to his city after a gruesome death by treachery at the end of the work, his faithful horse is treated to the same honored trip via a bejeweled platform on an elephant. Magnificent buildings decay by the dint of time And exposure to the elements wrecks even a house of flint But the poetic edifice I have erected in rhyme Shall endure the contagion of the rain and the sun. For three decades have I thus suffered to restore This Persian tongue and now my work is done.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Curious

    Time is beneficial when reading this one. I originally started this July 2017 and am now finished December 2018. That would be a year and a half spent with this book. And it's so incredibly appropriate because this book is a chronicle of Persia's history told through the lineage of its kings. This book begins with the Persian creation story with all of its absolute wild, unpredictable magical elements. The early stories contain magic & mythological creatures. I'm sure i Time is beneficial when reading this one. I originally started this July 2017 and am now finished December 2018. That would be a year and a half spent with this book. And it's so incredibly appropriate because this book is a chronicle of Persia's history told through the lineage of its kings. This book begins with the Persian creation story with all of its absolute wild, unpredictable magical elements. The early stories contain magic & mythological creatures. I'm sure if you grew up with classic Western Fairy tales, there's one that will shock you: 'Western writers stole that idea from here!' Trust me, once you read it, it's unmistakable which one I'm referring to. The bulk of this amazing book are travelling, letters, battles, marital allegiances, powerful women & the men who fail to take the solid advice of their ladies. Some of the battles are pretty exciting to read when the dust rises up & we lose sight of who's winning. Other battles & shifts of kingly power are difficult to follow because anytime you condense 1000's of years of history into 900 pages, there's going to be A LOT of names mentioned with how they all relate to each other. Don't fret though, just read on. Dick Davis' language sings all through Persia's history. His approach to task is fantastic. He condenses each of the original books. The original length is a collection of encyclopedias of course. So he's vey systematic about what he includes and how he showcases some of the more poetic scenes. In his introduction, he admits to leaving out some offending passages that newcomers to Persian literature could be turned off by. Instead, he evens out the coverage of many kings which is a slight change from the original author, Ferdowsi's approach. He does this to give a more comprehensive coverage of the original book within a limited number of pages. Some kings still receive a whole lot more attention & this reflects the original. What I appreciate most of all with Davis' translation is he renders this epic poem into a highly readable edition for those completely unfamiliar with Persian Literature or even the culture of this entire world & its history. It doesn't read like a beginner's book, there's still plenty of complexity to keep the most avid reader busy looking up references for a few years at least. For those poetic scenes, often they are key moments in the story that I'm sure Persian folks know well & love. Davis kept them in poetic language with meter & rhyme. These are some of the most beautiful parts of the book & makes me want to read a poetic translation of The Shahnameh. Not only because they are emotionally driven scenes but also because Davis writes like a poet. Here's an example from near the beginning. This brief poem describes the birth of Rostam, the greatest hero in this book. And one of the coolest characters I've read during my epics project so far. "He'll master all the beasts of earth and air, He'll terrify the dragon in its lair; When such a voice rings out, the leopard gnaws In anguished terror its unyielding claws; Wild on the battlefield that voice will make The hardened hearts of iron warriors quake; Of cypress stature and of mammoth might, Two miles will barley show his javelin's flight." (Rostam, The Son of Zal-Dastan, The Birth of Rostam, Page 104-105) The one shortcoming is I wish this edition contains a map for the various locations everyone traveled to. There are quite a few and a map would improve my understanding of the text immensely. I'm sure many of these place names have been renamed over time so google maps is no help whatsoever. I've tried searching for maps of The Shahnameh online, but with no English success so far. If you're interested in getting into Persian Literature, of course the well known poems of Rumi and other mystics are a great starting point. As an introduction, I highly recommend The Conference of the Birds, also translated by Dick Davis. This could be a great book if you enjoy epic long tomes filled with adventure, complex who's who, some mythological elements, history & some references to writing as it's developing throughout history with plenty of battle scenes & some romance mixed in. Keep in mind, it's 900 pages with almost constant warfares, so it's certainly not for everyone. The shifts in power & keeping track of who's who & why they have a grievence was the most grinding aspect of this read. The battles certainly were not grinding to read for some reason. A brief video review: https://youtu.be/5gzhH0DRNP8

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Miska

    My literary travels around Iran continued this month with Shahnameh, and boy was it a long trip. Clocking in at 854 pages (not including glossaries and indices), it took me nearly a month to read, and not for lack of interest; the stories are, for the most part, fascinating. Originally, my plan was to sample stories from Shahnameh to get an idea of Persian mythology. Shahnameh is roughly the Persian equivalent of The Odyssey or Beowulf, covering stories of Persian heroes and historical events. Unlike Western epics, however, it My literary travels around Iran continued this month with Shahnameh, and boy was it a long trip. Clocking in at 854 pages (not including glossaries and indices), it took me nearly a month to read, and not for lack of interest; the stories are, for the most part, fascinating. Originally, my plan was to sample stories from Shahnameh to get an idea of Persian mythology. Shahnameh is roughly the Persian equivalent of The Odyssey or Beowulf, covering stories of Persian heroes and historical events. Unlike Western epics, however, it does not focus on one hero, but chronologically explores the reigns of Persia's kings from roughly 600 BC to the Arab invasions of the 7th Century AD. 1300 years is quite a lot to cover, even in 854 pages, and the translator, Dick Davis, still chose to leave out what I'm guessing are the really boring parts. The translation is well-written and intriguing, but not entirely in verse (unlike the original). Davis chooses select portions to commit to poetry, using prose for the majority of the text, and this was fine with me. It made for a quicker read while dealing with the essence of the story. I loved the early stories the best, those about Sam, Zal, and Rostam, the epic heroes on par with Achilles. Rostam in particular is a legendary warrior (not a Persian king) whose trials and travails keep the Persian nation safe and secure from the various invading forces. And boy, was Persia invaded a LOT. The later stories take on more of a historical account that can be likened to Herodotus or Thucydides, and frankly, it's a bit repetitious: New king is crowned! New king rules justly. King marries daughter of Chinese/Byzantine emperor to form alliance. Someone gets invaded anyway. Hero goes off to fight and save Persia. King slights hero and he gets cranky. King recognizes fault/King gets angry, begins to rule unjustly/drinks too much. King repents of flaws on deathbed. New king is crowned! (repeat) Actually, the middle bit about the hero sounds a lot like Achilles, but this plot sequence begins with Rostam and recycles all the way through the reigns of various kings. With Rostam it is new and interesting, but by the time I got to Bahram Chubineh 700 pages later, it was old hat. In his forward, Davis makes it clear that the deliberately cut the repetitious bits, but when the stories of kings and heroes mirror each other due to flaws in human nature, there's not much to be done. Overall, I'd recommend the first 300 pages or so. The rest is interesting, but if you're tight for time you can still get the general idea.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Iman

    An extraordinary book, I believe that this book has saved my mother tongue respectful language, Persian, it has saved our history. All true iranians owe Ferdousi. This is the book we need to remember ourselves.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Manon

    I am not so presumptuous as to review the Shahnameh. Does one review Shakespeare or Augustine? But I will comment on Dick Davis' excellent translation. Some people complain that it's written in prose; others complain that it's written in poetry. Yet the magic of this translation is the incorporation of the two. As he says in the introduction, Davis' goal is not to faithfully reproduce the tens of thousands of lines of poetry that took Ferdowsi 30 years to write. Rather, he opts for a combination I am not so presumptuous as to review the Shahnameh. Does one review Shakespeare or Augustine? But I will comment on Dick Davis' excellent translation. Some people complain that it's written in prose; others complain that it's written in poetry. Yet the magic of this translation is the incorporation of the two. As he says in the introduction, Davis' goal is not to faithfully reproduce the tens of thousands of lines of poetry that took Ferdowsi 30 years to write. Rather, he opts for a combination of prose and poetry that emulates the way that the Shahnameh is most often performed in a style called "Naqqali". Basically, Davis is presenting the poem to us in the way that uncounted Iranians have received it for hundreds of years -- don't complain!!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Robert Sheppard

    PERSIAN MASTERPIECES OF WORLD LITERATURE--RUMI'S "BOOK OF LOVE & SUFI POEMS," OMAR KHAYYAM'S "RUBAIYAT," ATTAR'S "PARLIAMENT OF THE BIRDS," NIZAMI'S "LAYLA & MAJNUN," FIRDUSI'S "SHAHNAMA," POEMS AND GHAZALS OF HAFIZ & GHALIB ---FROM THE WORLD LITERATURE FORUM RECOMMENDED CLASSICS AND MASTERPIECES SERIES VIA GOODREADS—-ROBERT SHEPPARD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Goethe honored Persian Literature as one of the four great literary traditions of World Literature, or "Weltliteratur" PERSIAN MASTERPIECES OF WORLD LITERATURE--RUMI'S "BOOK OF LOVE & SUFI POEMS," OMAR KHAYYAM'S "RUBAIYAT," ATTAR'S "PARLIAMENT OF THE BIRDS," NIZAMI'S "LAYLA & MAJNUN," FIRDUSI'S "SHAHNAMA," POEMS AND GHAZALS OF HAFIZ & GHALIB ---FROM THE WORLD LITERATURE FORUM RECOMMENDED CLASSICS AND MASTERPIECES SERIES VIA GOODREADS—-ROBERT SHEPPARD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Goethe honored Persian Literature as one of the four great literary traditions of World Literature, or "Weltliteratur" as he named it. In his "West-Oestlicher Divan" or (West-East Divan) he celebrated a German translation of the poems of the immortal Persian poet Hafiz (1326-90)as a major revelation of the genius of Persian poetry and its place in World Literature. He called on all writers in Germany and the West to rise to their cosmopolitan duty to widen their cultural horizons globally beyond their own familiar tradition of the West in order to strengthen their own creative powers and participate in the globalization of literature and human consciousness: "I am more and more convinced, that poetry is the universal possession of mankind, revealing itself everywhere and at all times in hundreds and hundreds of men . . . I therefore like to look about me in foreign nations, and advise everyone to do the same. National literature is now a rather unmeaning term; the epoch of world literature is at hand, and everyone must strive to hasten its approach." Matthew Arnold, another keen admirer of Persian Literature who included the classic tale of "Sohrab and Rustum" in his own poetry, seconded Goethe's view on the crucial necessity for all educated and civilized people in the West and elsewhere---writers, critics and readers, to look for "the best that has been known and thought in the world" without respect to borders, languages, political or religious differences, stating in his seminal essay "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time:" "But criticism, real criticism, obeys an instinct prompting it to try to know the best that is known and thought in the world, irrespectively of practice, politics, and everything of the kind; and to value knowledge and thought as they approach this best, without the intrusion of any other considerations whatever......one may say, that to get anywhere near this standard, every critic should try and possess one great literature, at least, besides his own; and the more unlike his own, the better." It is in this spirit that World Literature Forum has embarked on this series of "Recommended Classics and Masterpieces of World Literature," on LinkedIn, Facebook, Goodreads and Wordpress, including this entry on Persian Literature, to introduce to the literary community and global Republic of Letters in the age of Globalization and the Internet, new authors, works and international perspectives. INTRODUCTION TO PERSIAN LITERATURE'S CONTRIBUTIONS TO WORLD LITERATURE The immense contribution of Persian literature and culture to World Literature and the history of global civilization is highly underappreciated, especially in recent times of political and religious conflict. Most of us in the West get our first impressions of Persian civilization from our reading of 5th century Greek history,foremost Herodtodus, in which the Ancient Greeks in the infancy of their own national history, and when "The West" was a mere notional concept, successfully resisted the invasions of a much greater "superpower" Persian Empire under Darius and Xerxes, followed centuries later by the an Greek triumph over it under Alexander the Great. At this time Persia was already the heir and transmitter of a Mesopotamian culture of 3000 years, including contributions from Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian and later Egyptian cultures that became part of the Achemaenid Persian Empire. From the time of Alexander our cultural myopia often loses sight of the immense further contributions of Persian culture, both inside and outside the confines of Iran proper, down to the present. Nietzsche's landmark book "Also Sprach Zarathrustra," (Thus Spake Zarathrustra) reminds us of the continuing philosophical and spiritual contributions of Persian culture, across various centuries and dynasties. In the field of Renaissance Studies, or "Early Modern Studies" the contribution of the Arabic Golden Age (750-1250) to the rise of the Western Renaissance through preservation and transmission of the Greek and Roman classics such as Aristotle and Plato through Arabic translations is beginning to be known and appreciated. Less well recognized, however, is the crucial role of Persian culture in enabling that transmission, and thereby the Renaissance itself. THE PERSIANS AS KEY ENABLERS OF THE WESTERN RENAISSANCE Even before the rise of Islam Persia was instrumental in preserving the works and culture of classical antiquity from the intolerant Christian suppression under the Byzantine Empire. The thousand year old Great Library of Alexandria was first burnt and destroyed in the Christian represssion of "pagan" culture under the fundamentalist Theodosius, with the job probably being finalized in the Muslim conquest of Egypt. Many classical scholars fled the Byzantine Christian repression in both Alexandria and Constantinople, along with many Nestorian Christians who were branded "heretics," and settled in Persia, finding work and asylum at the renown Academy of Gondishapur of the Sassanian Persian dynasty. There they were employed in a systematic project to translate all outside works into Persian and preserve their texts and scholarly tradition. With the coming of Islam and its conquests the Persian scholarly, administrative and technocratic community once again played a highly critical role in enabling the rise of the Arabic Golden Age that then passed on the knowledge and texts of the classical world to enable the Western Renaissance. A critical turning point was the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad, which occured largely because of Persian support, especially that of the elite and scholarly Persian Barmacids, who then became the Vizirs under the Abbasid Caliphs, most memorably in the case of the Barmacid Jafar, who served as the Vizir of the Caliph Haroun al-Rashid in Baghdad, immortalized in the tales of the "One Thousand and One Nights." By necessity the non-urban Arab conquerors turned to professional administrators, scholars and technocrats bred in the older empires such as the Persians. Though armed with the authority and force of the newly founded religion the aid of such scholarly, administrative and technocratic elites such as the Barmacids (Barmakids) of Persia was crucial in preventing the breakdown of the new domain. A crucial turning point in history was when after internecine conflict in the succession to the leadership after Mohammad, the Abbasid Caliphate took power and moved the headquarters from the Ummayad capital in Damascus to the newly founded capital in Baghdad. Moving the power center from the Arabian tribal lands allowed the Persians to assume a dominant role in its administration, though hereditary succession still derived from the lineage of Mohammad. The Persian language came into common use within the royal court and in administration on a widespread basis. Crucially for literature, culture and the flourishing of the Arab Golden Age civilization, the Persian scholars and admiistrators succeeded in changing the culture of the Caliphate from a narrow Arab ethnocentricity to an inclusive cosmopolitan outlook open to outside influences and progressive internal development, albeit within the framework of the consensus of the Islamic religion and guiding Arabic traditions. The Barmacid Vizirs under Haroun Al-Rashid and Mamun established a key institution, the "House of Wisdom" or "Bayt-al-Hikma" which in and of itself, along with replicated instituions elsewhere in the Caliphate, may be credited with preservation of the bulk of the heritage of classical antiquity and perhaps enabling the rise of the Renaissance in the West. Especially under the Caliph Manun the House of Wisdom grew to become a national library, a center of translation from all languages and cultures into Arabic and Persian and a national Academy of Arts and Sciences supporting scholarly research, writing and projects. The House of Wisdom was based on and inherited much of the resource base of the prior Sassanid Academy of Gondishapur. Scholars were employed and recruited as civil servants with tenure and high pay and engaged in independent research and scientific experimentation. The faculty was cosmopolitan and drawn from all cultures and religions. The head of the translation department was a Christian, Husayn ibn Ishaq (809-873). Scholars associated with the House of Wisdom included Al-Khwarizmi, the inventor of algebra, algorithims and the mathematician who introduced the Indian decimal system and zero into Arabic science and mathematics as later copied in the West, Alhazen (al-Haythem) the pioneer of Optics, Al-Kindi, master of cryptography, and the Banu Musa Brothers whose "Book of Ingenious Machines" founded the study of Arabic mechanics and engineering. The House of Wisdom's goal was to translate all the world's knowledge into Arabic and Persian, including that of the Greek and Roman heritage, Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Indian. Interestingly, the Barmacids who became the Abbasid Caliph's Vizirs, or prime ministers, though new Muslims,were descended from Buddhist administrators of the monestery Nava Vihāra (Nawbahar) west of Balkh in the Sassanid Persian empire. The monestery was a renown center of learning referred to by the Chinese master translator Xuanzong, who was translating Indian scriptures into Chinese during the Tang Dynasty around the same period. This Barmacid Buddhist origin also facilitated the transfer of Indian mathematics and philosophy to the Arab world at an early time. The Barmacids also after the Arab defeat of the Chinese at the Battle of Talas brought Chinese paper-making technology to the Arab world, setting up the two first paper mills in Baghdad and in Cordoba in Spain, both of which became enduring centers of scholarship and publishing. It is no exaggeration to believe that without the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, emulated in many other Muslim cities, Aristotle and much of the heritage of antiquity might have been lost to the West, and their "re-birth" in the Renaissance made impossible. KEY MASTERPIECES OF WORLD LITERATURE FROM PERSIA THE IMMORTAL SUFI MYSTIC POET RUMI Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273) is one of the great poets of the Persian language, a Sufi mystic who was the founder of the Mevlevi Sufi and Dervish mystic order and a spiritual explorer of the realms of desire, passion and the quest for union of the soul with God, Allah. Rumi was a scholar and professor when he encountered a famous wandering Dervish, Shams al-Din Tabrizi, who persuaded him to abandon his academic studies and devote himself to the mystic path. From that time he received illumination and the love of God became the basis of his life. Contrary to Muslim practice Rumi gave music and dance a central place in his religious expression, developing the order of dervish dancers as a spiritual approach to unity with God. His diwan (collected poems) and ghazals (love poems) display a wide range of emotions and themes, from sexual love and passion, drunkenness, mystical longing to the holiest intimacy with the mystic presence of God, Allah. His broad tolerance and openness of spirit and keen sense of individuality is expressed in his lyrical voice: What can I do, Submitters to God? I do not know myself. I am neither Christian nor Jew, neither Zoroastrian nor Muslim, I am not from east or west, not from land or sea, not from the shafts of nature nor from the spheres of the firmament, not of the earth, not of water, not of air, not of fire. I am not from the highest heaven, not from this world, not from existence, not from being. I am not from India, not from China, not from Bulgar, not from Saqsin, not from the realm of the two Iraqs, not from the land of Khurasan I am not from the world, not from beyond, not from heaven and not from hell. I am not from Adam, not from Eve, not from paradise and not from Ridwan. My place is placeless, my trace is traceless, no body, no soul, I am from the soul of souls. I have chased out duality, lived the two worlds as one. One I seek, one I know, one I see, one I call. He is the first, he is the last, he is the outer, he is the inner. Beyond "He" and "He is" I know no other. I am drunk from the cup of love, the two worlds have escaped me. I have no concern but carouse and rapture. If one day in my life I spend a moment without you from that hour and that time I would repent my life. If one day I am given a moment in solitude with you I will trample the two worlds underfoot and dance forever. O Sun of Tabriz (Shams Tabrizi), I am so tipsy here in this world, I have no tale to tell but tipsiness and rapture. OMAR KHAYYAM'S "RUBAIYAT" Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) was a renown mathematician, poet, astronomer, scientist and founders of the field of algebra. In the Islamic world he is more remembered for his mathematical contributions than his poetry, whereas in the West he has been immortalized by the loose adaptaion of his verse in "The Rubaiyat" by Edward FitzGerald. The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,  Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit, Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,  Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it. But helpless pieces in the game He plays,  Upon this chequer-board of Nights and Days, He hither and thither moves, and checks… and slays,  Then one by one, back in the Closet lays. A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,  A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou, Beside me singing in the Wilderness,  And oh, Wilderness is Paradise enow. Myself when young did eagerly frequent  Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument About it and about: but evermore  Came out of the same Door as in I went. Into this Universe, and why not knowing,  Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing: And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,  I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing. And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,  Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die, Lift not thy hands to It for help—for It  Rolls impotently on as Thou or I. ATTAR'S "PARLIAMENT OF THE BIRDS" Farid al-Din al-'Attar (1119-1190) was another great mystic poet influenced by the Sufi tradition. His most famous work is the symbolic and allegorical "Parliament of the Birds" in which a flock of diverse birds led by the Hoopoe set off on a questing journey to find the ultimate bird, the Simurgh, and make him their King. Over many trials and hardships of a world-spanning flight all but thirty of the birds perish before reaching the land of their intention. But there is nothing there. Then the thirty survivors realize that they themselves are the yearned for Simurgh. They then transcendentally merge into one, and by so doing they also perish in the divine, in the ultimate act of Sufi fulfillment and realization. NIZAMI'S "LAYLA AND MAJNUM Nizami Ganjavi (1141-1209) is considered the greatest romantic epic poet in Persian Literature. One of his best known tales is that of "Layla and Majnun" which is often considered "The Persian Romeo and Juliet," a tale of "star-crossed lovers." In it Majnun falls hopelessly and insanely in love with Layla. Her father forbids her to marry him, citing his poverty and his eccentric madness into which his love has spilled over. Majnun abandons himself to wandering in the desert and peering after her from afar, while Layla submits to her father's will and marries another, but refuses to consummate the union. In the end Layla dies of a broken heart and Majnun. Later Majnun is found dead beside her grave, leaving behind a poem carved in a nearby rock: I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla And I kiss this wall and that wall It’s not Love of the houses that has taken my heart But of the One who dwells in those houses FIRDUSI'S "SHAHNAMAH" Firdusi (Firdawsi) is considered the greatest epic poet of Persian Literature, celebrated for his "Shahnamah" or "The Book of Kings." The Shahnamah is a national epic which recounts the kings and dynasties of Iran's past. Being written in a Muslim context it begins with the creation and gives accounts of Persia's Zoroastrian heritage limited by the Muslim worldview. It contains such epic tales as that of "Sohrab and Rustum" in which a king kills his own son, not recognizing him, which was also rendered by Matthew Arnold in English. HAFIZ Shams al-Din Muhammad Shirzai (1317-1389) is known by his pen-name Hafiz and is considered the father of the "ghazal" or love poem. He led a rich and full life, like many other Persian young men, though Muslim, enjoying excesses of women and wine. Hafiz is celebrated for interweaving the erotic and the mystic, the melancholy of mortality and fate, as well as philosophical paradoxes into his intensely emotional love songs. GHALIB Ghalib (1797-1869) was born in Agra in Muslim northern India and wrote ghazals and poems in both Persian and Urdu. This reminds us that Persian was a literary, court and governmental language used alongside Arabic from the Ottoman Empire to Iran and throughout India, such that Persian Literature is not by any means confined to Iran. Urdu in India and Pakistan is heavily influenced by Persian as a legacy of the Mughul Empire, which used Persian as its official language. Ghalib like Hafiz and Rumi wrote ghazals of sensuous love, wine, women, song and the decay of the Mughul empire as it lost control to the British. Like Byron he was an aristocratic rebel with a touch of self-destructiveness about him. More modern in his consciousness, he exhibits a scepticism towards both political loyalty and religious orthodoxy and faith. SPIRITUS MUNDI AND PERSIAN LITERATURE The tradition of Persian Literature is reflected in my own contemporary epic novel, Spiritus Mundi. The protagonists in Spiritus Mundi embark on a quest to create a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, a globalized version of the EU Parliament as a new organ of the UN. En route, taking a theme from Attar's "Parliament of the Birds" they discover that they themselves constitute and embody the object of their quest, the People of the World, just as the thirty birds came to constitute the mystic "Simurgh" which they had sought. One of the characters in Spiritus Mundi Mohammad ala Rushdie, is a Sufi novice of the Mevlevi dervish order and Sufi themes abound in the work, including poems from Rumi and Mohammad's spiritual musings on Sufism in the modern world, as well as "Opening the Gates of Ijtihad" as means of renovating modern Islam. For a fuller discussion of the concept of World Literature you are invited to look into the extended discussion in the new book Spiritus Mundi, by Robert Sheppard, one of the principal themes of which is the emergence and evolution of World Literature: For Discussions on World Literature and n Literary Criticism in Spiritus Mundi: http://worldliteratureandliterarycrit... Robert Sheppard Editor-in-Chief World Literature Forum Author, Spiritus Mundi Novel Author’s Blog: http://robertalexandersheppard.wordpr... Spiritus Mundi on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17... Spiritus Mundi on Amazon, Book I: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CIGJFGO Spiritus Mundi, Book II: The Romance http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CGM8BZG Copyright Robert Sheppard 2013 All Rights Reserved

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    The Shâhnameh recounts the history of Iran, beginning with the creation of the world and the introduction of the arts of civilization (fire, cooking, metallurgy, law, etc.) to the Aryans and ends with the Arab conquest of Persia. The work is not precisely chronological, but there is a general movement through time. Some of the characters live for hundreds of years (as do some of the characters in the Bible), but most have normal life spans. There are many shahs who come and go, as well as heroes The Shâhnameh recounts the history of Iran, beginning with the creation of the world and the introduction of the arts of civilization (fire, cooking, metallurgy, law, etc.) to the Aryans and ends with the Arab conquest of Persia. The work is not precisely chronological, but there is a general movement through time. Some of the characters live for hundreds of years (as do some of the characters in the Bible), but most have normal life spans. There are many shahs who come and go, as well as heroes and villains, who also come and go. The only lasting images are that of Greater Iran itself, and a succession of sunrises and sunsets, no two ever exactly alike, yet illustrative of the passage of time. The Shahnameh is largely his effort to preserve the memory of Iran's golden days and transmit it to a new generation so that they could learn and try to build a better world. Ferdowsi started his composition of the Shahnameh in the Samanid era in 977 A.D and completed it around 1010 A.D. during the Ghaznavid era.” متاسفانه بسیاری از روایت های شاهنامه که در بازار کتاب یافت می شوند، تایید نشده و نا شناس اند، و پر از ابیات منسوب به فردوسی و گاه با تحریف های بسیار. در میان شاهنامه های موجود، دو روایت که از طرف شاهنامه شناسان تدوین و تایید شده، عبارتند از شاهنامه ی چاپ مسکو در 9 جلد و شاهنامه به روایت دکتر جلال خالقی مطلق در هفت جلد. در این دو شاهنامه که از روی نسخ معتبر در موزه های معروفی چون "آرمیتاژ"، موزه ی لندن، موزه ی توپکاپی در ترکیه و...استخراج و تدوین شده، ابیات الحاقی، تا حد ممکن تفکیک شده اند. http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jee Koh

    Finally finished reading Shahnameh today, the Persian Book of Kings, translated by Dick Davis. Arranged like a royal chronicle, the book falls into two parts, the first legendary half, teeming with hero-kings and demons, and the second more "realistic" half, closer as the history is to Ferdowsi's own time. The turning point lies in the reign of Sekandar (Alexander the Great), who is depicted initially as a world conqueror, but later, more importantly, as a seeker of knowledge. I like the legen Finally finished reading Shahnameh today, the Persian Book of Kings, translated by Dick Davis. Arranged like a royal chronicle, the book falls into two parts, the first legendary half, teeming with hero-kings and demons, and the second more "realistic" half, closer as the history is to Ferdowsi's own time. The turning point lies in the reign of Sekandar (Alexander the Great), who is depicted initially as a world conqueror, but later, more importantly, as a seeker of knowledge. I like the legends better. They have more colorful characters, and livelier adventures.The defeat of Zahhak the Demon King by Feraydun, the Simorgh (magical bird) that raised Sam and helped him in his distress, the riddles posed to Zal by Manuchehr's priests, the seven trials of Rostam, the duel between Rostam and his son Sohrab, which I first read as a poem by Matthew Arnold. The characters in the second half may be more complex, less easy to pin down, but the struggle between hero and king is played out in never-ending, repetitive warfare. The prose of the translation reads well, but the poetry is rather lame. Too much is sacrificed to rhyming the couplets. I don't know Ferdowsi's method of versification, but Davis's poetry reads like Pope's translation of The Odyssey. Fortunately, most of the translation is in prose. I know I will return to this treasure house of stories again and again.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    Both FMF & Bloom rec this one ; so who's to argue? And now Penguin has an edition with new translation forthcoming in just a few days. It's gunna be FAT :: Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings. ______________ I saw the new edition of Shahnameh yesterday at The Village Bookshop. Slipcased. But shrink wrapped so I couldn't smudge it with my beautiful fingers. US$75, but cheaper today at amazon which has a few pretty pics up. A wonderously put-together volume it would appear. isbn 1593720513.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rosanne Hawke

    Who am I to rate or review Abolqasem Ferdowsi's ancient and classic Shahnameh, The Persian Book of Kings? Since I only know a smattering of Persian, nor can I comment on Dick Davis' translation from the original into English, which I have heard is excellent, but cannot verify. This is a volume which I dip into and will still be doing so in the years ahead, so I will take it from my currently reading list even though I am halfway. It is fascinating and I am enjoying it but that is not the only re Who am I to rate or review Abolqasem Ferdowsi's ancient and classic Shahnameh, The Persian Book of Kings? Since I only know a smattering of Persian, nor can I comment on Dick Davis' translation from the original into English, which I have heard is excellent, but cannot verify. This is a volume which I dip into and will still be doing so in the years ahead, so I will take it from my currently reading list even though I am halfway. It is fascinating and I am enjoying it but that is not the only reason to rate a book. The scope of the original Shahnameh is huge: it covers 700 years of the history of Persia from creation to the Arab conquest, written in verse, in nine volumes. If it needs rating at all, it would be presumptuous to give less than five stars.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Well, it's been a while since I tackled this bad boy, and what a big boy it is. Picture this: you're a poet, you're Zoroastrian, it's about 1000 years after this Christ fellow (whom you don't know) got to meet his maker (curiously, himself), and you decide it would be a good idea to record the complete history of the great Persian empires whose final vestiges has been overrun by those pesky Moslems. Oh yeah, and it takes you thirty years to write it. There is a reason it is a cornerstone of Pers Well, it's been a while since I tackled this bad boy, and what a big boy it is. Picture this: you're a poet, you're Zoroastrian, it's about 1000 years after this Christ fellow (whom you don't know) got to meet his maker (curiously, himself), and you decide it would be a good idea to record the complete history of the great Persian empires whose final vestiges has been overrun by those pesky Moslems. Oh yeah, and it takes you thirty years to write it. There is a reason it is a cornerstone of Persian literature. The summary of the book here in Goodreads is accurate. This is a national epic covering thousands of years of myth and history, beginning with the creation of all things, the building of various empires, rollicking adventures, the occasonial romance, and a final, crumbling decline into subservience. There is so much in here you could just have it sit on your shelf and pick and choose portions to read as you please, a huge treasury of tales. Or, you could be a glutton of punishment like me and decide to read it from beginning to end. The cycles of inheritors to great kingdoms being abandoned, growing to maturity, and taking back their kingdom by strength can become repetitive if you read it this way. It probably took me three months. I'd recommend just reading sections at time so you can get a flavor of the times. It's well worth it for armchair time-travellers.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mossein

    It has been called the "Persian Quran" by Ibn al-Athir, even though this title is not common knowledge among the Persian speakers but somehow indicates the importance of this book for all Persian speakers of the Iranian world, including Afghanistan and Tajikistan, to other Persian speakers of Central Asia, Pakistan and as far as China, the Republic of India, as well as the many Iranians living abroad all around the world since the Revolution of 1979. This book is also important to the It has been called the "Persian Quran" by Ibn al-Athir, even though this title is not common knowledge among the Persian speakers but somehow indicates the importance of this book for all Persian speakers of the Iranian world, including Afghanistan and Tajikistan, to other Persian speakers of Central Asia, Pakistan and as far as China, the Republic of India, as well as the many Iranians living abroad all around the world since the Revolution of 1979. This book is also important to the remaining 200,000 Zoroastrians in the world, because the Shâhnameh traces the beginning of Zoroastrianism to the defeat of the last Zoroastrian king by Arab invaders.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Simin

    Started this masterpiece of Persian poetry in January 2017 and finished it in August 2017, dedicating an hour a day every day. This was not an easy task for me to accomplish, as I have been away from Iran for 40 years, during which I did not read any books in Farsi. I realized immediately that I need help! First and foremost, there was the question of the pronunciation of many words, especially the names of the characters. What helped: the audio version of Shahn Started this masterpiece of Persian poetry in January 2017 and finished it in August 2017, dedicating an hour a day every day. This was not an easy task for me to accomplish, as I have been away from Iran for 40 years, during which I did not read any books in Farsi. I realized immediately that I need help! First and foremost, there was the question of the pronunciation of many words, especially the names of the characters. What helped: the audio version of Shahnameh done for the Institute of the Blind (narrator: Esmaeel Ghader-Panah). Using the print and audio versions simultaneously had another advantage: it brought the stories to life and made them much more enjoyable. The audio edition can be downloaded from many sites, including http://www.chamanara.net/Shahnameh%20... The highly educational lectures of the late Prof. Mohammad Jafar Mahjoub were also of immense help. Besides describing some of the stories in detail, he explains the political and historical situation during Ferdowsi’s time and how the poet spent most of his life and wealth to do research and gather stories that were passed oraly from one generation to the next for 1000 years. These lectures can be downloaded from https://www.facebook.com/Mohammad-Jaf... I should also mention that many of the Shahnameh stories are discussed by several Persian literature enthusiasts and are available online. I particularly like https://www.facebook.com/search/str/m...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rodney

    Dick Davis’s English is the closest I’ll ever get to Persia’s national epic, a multivolume poem condensed here to a version that leavens the inevitable tedium of the chronicle with a remarkable string of well-realized vignettes related in supple, vivid language. In Dick’s translation, each of the many kings and heroes of Ferdowsi’s giant epic miraculously stay distinct, and you get enough of each story—especially the famous Rostam’s—to develop a feel for the aesthetic predilections of classical Dick Davis’s English is the closest I’ll ever get to Persia’s national epic, a multivolume poem condensed here to a version that leavens the inevitable tedium of the chronicle with a remarkable string of well-realized vignettes related in supple, vivid language. In Dick’s translation, each of the many kings and heroes of Ferdowsi’s giant epic miraculously stay distinct, and you get enough of each story—especially the famous Rostam’s—to develop a feel for the aesthetic predilections of classical Persian poetry: the jewels spilled out from goblets, the kingly demons, the cypress-statured heroes, the thwarted loves, the splendiferous banquets, the raven-haired princesses, and shah after shah passing along the regal glow of his farr. Undercutting the bling is Ferdowsi’s insistent warning that glory’s born to fade, and death meets us all when the wine cup’s dry: a little sour pathos to season the narrative sweet. For the historian, the Shahnameh gives one of the few windows onto pre-Islamic Persia, as Ferdowsi carefully collected the myths and stories preserved in sources that were willfully forgotten at the glittering Muslim courts: “No one has any knowledge of those first days, unless he has heard tales passed down from father to son.” Ferdowsi, who ended his days (and this volume) lamenting how little his efforts brought him, created a way to be distinctly Persian but still Islamic, and his work lives on in the plots of a thousand and one Bollywood films, as well as in this terrific one-volume translation by the man the backflap calls without blinking “the greatest translator of Persian poetry.”

  20. 5 out of 5

    Yasaman

    Reading this epic's stories and knowing them by heart is part of being an Iranian. It's one of the richest and one of the most important sources of Persian literature, language, culture, mythology, and history. Ferdowsi's work is a national treasure and, although in his time it wasn't regarded as such, it certainly is today.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    # 26 of 133 on Clifton Fadiman's New Lifetime Reading Plan Entertaining at the start, and then just tedious.....

  22. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    Why am I giving this book a star rating? Obviously it's a 5, it's the basis of literature, it's the Old Testament of Iran. And it's dense, and poetic, and lovely, and repetitive, and slightly boring, and I'm glad I read it, and I never will again, but I do wish I'd read it in a classroom setting, because I'm from a completely different culture, and I don't even have any friends that are from Iran, much less anyone that speaks Farsi. I probably missed literally everything important in this poem. Why am I giving this book a star rating? Obviously it's a 5, it's the basis of literature, it's the Old Testament of Iran. And it's dense, and poetic, and lovely, and repetitive, and slightly boring, and I'm glad I read it, and I never will again, but I do wish I'd read it in a classroom setting, because I'm from a completely different culture, and I don't even have any friends that are from Iran, much less anyone that speaks Farsi. I probably missed literally everything important in this poem. And so I landed on 3 stars because of my own failings, and not this classic work of art. But I will always remember the following quote: "Her mouth was as small as the constricted heart of a desperate man."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I have an older edition of this book. I read it because it was mention in two other books I recently read. If you like epics, it is wonderful. It also includes a fore runner of "Rapunzel" in the story of Zal and Rubadeh which is better than "Rapunzel" for Zal refuses to climb up using Rubadeh's hair; he says doing so would besmirch it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eadweard

    Worthy epic of a nation and people many many centuries old. Full of iranian mythology, wars (a lot of it), romances, heroes, villains and shahs. Ferdowsi deserves the honor and praise he receives. Composed a century or so after the arab conquest, it helps preserve the stories and legends of pre-islamic Persia for future generations. If you enjoy other epics, you'll the Shahnameh.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mohammad Aboomar

    What a ride! After almost 10 months, I finally managed to finish it. The book collects mythical stories about the kings and heroes of Persia and beyond (even Sekandar makes an appearance). It would be interesting to read about the historical accounts that survived. A slow read, that's for sure.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Donnie Corrêa

    Much like the Bible's Old Testament, the Book of Kings is a veeeery beautifull piece of persian classic literature. I fell in love with it the first time I came into contact, and a good part of my love for the middle east and it's beauty was born with the last page of this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rochelle

    I picked up Shahnameh twice before, even purchasing a used copy the second time, but could not get into it. This time I was determined to read it and I am so glad I invested the energy and the determination. It requires both as it does get somewhat repetitive in terms of descriptors for the noble knights and savagery of battle and the beauty of women, the fruit of deceit, envy, greed, treachery, fratricide, patricide, infanticide, but it is worth the time. I only wish I had been able to read it I picked up Shahnameh twice before, even purchasing a used copy the second time, but could not get into it. This time I was determined to read it and I am so glad I invested the energy and the determination. It requires both as it does get somewhat repetitive in terms of descriptors for the noble knights and savagery of battle and the beauty of women, the fruit of deceit, envy, greed, treachery, fratricide, patricide, infanticide, but it is worth the time. I only wish I had been able to read it in its original language, as its narrative must be so subtly nuanced and multi-layered. Aside from what has already been written on it as a literary repository of Persia's pre-Islamic glory, of which I have little knowledge, it appears also to me to be a primer on how to live a life that is noble and worthy of renown, a life that understands that Death is no respecter of persons of either high or low rank and that everyone, if they can uncover it, must find and live their destiny--or they will not understand the twists and turns of their destiny as they are delivered up to it. The good guys don't always win, but they are immortalized for their noble actions. There are some wonderful vignettes which involve a hero's trials and challenges, and mythical beasts and places, and in particular, the hero King Sekandar's journey. I couldn't really put it down as it drew to a close.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    The Shahnameh is a treasure of 10th Century literature: an epic poem purporting to tell the history of Persia from the creation of the world up to the time of Caliph Omar and the introduction of Islam. It's roughly contemporary with Beowulf, but it's about 15 times longer and vastly more complex. My reading of the work was sort of peculiar, because I was most interested in the weirder, non-historical elements, but I enjoyed it all. The early part of the Shahnameh is one legendary king The Shahnameh is a treasure of 10th Century literature: an epic poem purporting to tell the history of Persia from the creation of the world up to the time of Caliph Omar and the introduction of Islam. It's roughly contemporary with Beowulf, but it's about 15 times longer and vastly more complex. My reading of the work was sort of peculiar, because I was most interested in the weirder, non-historical elements, but I enjoyed it all. The early part of the Shahnameh is one legendary king's tale after another. There's treachery, revenge, romance, strange birth circumstances, and so on. Good stuff. Among all that, these more striking images stood out to me: - A black dragon, billowing smoke from its mouth, with eyes like bowls of blood. - An Arab conqueror with a snake growing from each shoulder where the devil kissed it. - A great hero wielding an iron mace shaped like the head of an ox. - A magical cow the author compares to a peacock in that every hair on it was a different color. - Everyone handsome or beautiful is compared to a cypress tree. - Lots of people wear leopard skins or even tiger skins, sometimes along with their iron armor. The hero Rostam is alive for a significant portion of the book, and there's plenty of action in his section: he constantly has to go save one particular king from some bad decision or other that he has made; there's a miniature/incomplete hero's journey with a series of trials; tragically, he has to face off in battle against the son he doesn't recognize; etc. Incidentally, his son also briefly fights a really tough woman named Gordafarid who takes up arms and disguises herself as a man. Anyway, here are a few fantastic things Rostam has to deal with: - The White Demon (associated with a city of sorcerors) who blinds an invading Persian army. - A witch who turns black when Rostam speaks the name of God. - A bunch of dog-headed people who just have to be avoided along a certain trail. - The Akvan Div, a demonic wild ass that looks as if it has been dipped in gold. Cutting it open reveals an elephant-headed creature with long hair, black lips, and a mouth full of boar's tusks. The Shahnameh isn't really about weird demons or supernatural creatures though. It's mainly human stories, particularly tragedies and ethical dilemmas, either faced by or instigated by Persian kings and their champions. Single combat is extremely common, and the combatants are fairly talkative about their motivations, quandaries, and aims while fighting. Around 75 pages (~8% of the book) are about the reign of Alexander the Great ("Sekander"), which is interesting. It's repeatedly emphasized that his conquests are pretty much luck (also, that he's silly for often going alone as an envoy to meet the rulers he's about to conquer). There are numerous anachronisms and imaginary episodes, e.g. mentions of Christianity and Caesars, plus trips to Mecca, Abyssinia, China, and Moorish Andalusia. Incidentally, in the Shahnameh, Alexander is secretly half-Persian, his mom having been married to the king of Persia but sent back to Greece when, following an apparently awful case of bad breath, her husband stopped loving her. Other fantastic episodes include … - Alexander taking possession of four wonders (a beautiful woman, a goblet that remains full no matter how much you drink from it, a philosopher, and an Indian doctor who can tell what's wrong with someone by looking at their urine). - Alexander feeding poisoned cow carcasses to a fire-breathing dragon to kill it. - Alexander encountering a city full of nothing but virginal women, about whom he has many questions. - Alexander meeting talking birds and a talking tree. - Alexander going up a mountain to deal with a sort of undead king whose aura terrorizes other people to death. After Alexander, the book gets sort of Game-of-Thrones-ish, the stories featuring things like self-castration, a king getting sewn up inside an ass's skin by the Romans, the Roman emperor getting a hole bored through his nose, and the casual murder of a slave girl who risks a noble's reputation by asking him to perform impossible shots with his bow (which he does by treating it all as a riddle to be answered with trick shots--then he kills the girl for asking). There's one fantastic episode where a king named Ardeshir goes to war against another kingdom protected by the supernatural power of a giant, leathery worm--black with yellow spots on its back. The worm starts out as a normal-sized lucky worm found inside an apple, but it grows and grows, and because it brings good luck, it's given a home in a cistern. To defeat the kingdom of the worm, Ardeshir has to disguise himself as a merchant, sneak into the city, and kill the worm by pouring hot lead down its gullet. The later chapters of the Shahnameh are full of human drama: battles, betrayals, poisonings, assassinations, a king who is blinded and later strangled, the wise and heroic woman Gordyeh, a musician who cuts off his own fingers in a symbolic protest, the tragic story of the faithful empress Shirin, etc. There are also long speeches about how to be a good ruler and vivid examples of how to be a bad ruler, like the crazy guy who is appointed governor of the city of Rey as a punishment to its people and who randomly decides to tear down all the gutters and kill all the cats in town. Anyhow, it's an amazing work of literature, and it contains so many, many stories worth considering on their own.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Amazing epic story/myth/history of the ancient Persian civilisation, filled with intrigue, wars, magic and kings-challenging-each-other-and-other-silly-things. Something special about reading a book written more than a thousand years ago.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    This is a large book to get through and it is likely that few readers will try.  For those who are aware of Persian history, this book is going to be somewhat frustrating for most of it, since the tragic history of Darius and Alexander is the first incident in the book that even comes off as somewhat historical and even that has a lot of legends attached to it.  The provenance of this book is at least as interesting, if not more so, than the book itself.  The author wrote this epic poem (it exte This is a large book to get through and it is likely that few readers will try.  For those who are aware of Persian history, this book is going to be somewhat frustrating for most of it, since the tragic history of Darius and Alexander is the first incident in the book that even comes off as somewhat historical and even that has a lot of legends attached to it.  The provenance of this book is at least as interesting, if not more so, than the book itself.  The author wrote this epic poem (it extends more than 50,000 lines in its Persian original--this version is a prose translation that lasts more than 800 pages but is still an abridged version) over the span of decades, and towards the end of his poem he mourns the death of his son, who died before him and before he could finish the poem.  Also, he wrote the poem while one dynasty was ruling over the area that is now Iran, and that dynasty had fallen to a Turkish one which was not as thrilled with the way the book showed a particularly fierce Iranian nationalism and consistently showed the Turks in a bad light. The book itself is divided into a large number of stories of various length and quality.  There is a roughly halfway division in the book, where the first half of the book consists of legendary stories related to imaginary rulers over Persia.  The second half of the book consists of stories that have at least some pretension to factuality, but which present serious interpretive problems.  A lot of the stories end up doubling, as the tragic story of Dara (Darius III) and that of Yazdegerd show a great deal of similarity in their military defeats and their efforts to escape and survive that are thwarted by the treachery of their own officers whose attempts at securing their own power are unsuccessful.  The author weaves stories of brave and heroic soldiers as well as rulers with a sometimes ambivalent relationship to their overmighty subjects, some of whom end up getting powerful enough that their loyalty is sometimes less than certain.  There are stories of foreign brides, which tend to be celebrated in the first half and condemned in the second half of the story.  There are also some interesting elements to stories that seem to resemble various Greek myths about the ordeals of famous heroes. Overall, though, this book is not an enjoyable one to read.  Aside from its massive length, the book is quite a challenge in terms of its approach.  The rulers behave in ways that are often unjust, and there is a high degree of fatalism and superstition that runs throughout the stories.  Endless people are talked about in terms of their present or absent farr, but while some generals serve their rulers loyally and get nothing for their troubles but an early grave and a lot of mistrust, others seek to parlay their power into greater independence or even a replacement of a previous dynasty.  The author also shows a markedly anti-Christian bias, showing the Nestorian population of Iraq as being at best ambivalent if not hostile to Persian rule, and having some pessimistic views about Christian fidelity.  That said, the book shows a marked bias against anyone the author does not consider Persian, as the Arabs, Turks, Greeks/Romans, Chinese, Indians, and Afghans, as well as the Iranian population of Central Asia in the pre-Turkish period, all come off as being restive or treacherous.  Any time one hears of a hero going to Kabul, for example, one should be very worried about their survival.  How one takes the bumptious Iranian nationalism of this poem written towards the beginning of the Islamic period in Iran is something that every reader or would-be reader has to decide for themselves.

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