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Shahnameh (Classics Deluxe Edition): The Persian Book of Kings (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Paperback – Deckle Edge, Feb 27 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Composed more than a thousand years ago, this national epic of Persia tells the story of Iran from the first "lord of the world," Kayumars, through the seventh-century Arab/Islamic conquest of the Sassanid dynasty. With a foreword by Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, and illustrated with Persian lithographs, Davis's translation of this epic poem is an accessible combination of poetry and prose.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This immense volume translates into clear, accessible prose the bedrock work of Iranian literature. Compiled and cast into verse by a tenth-century bard, Shahnameh contains the stories of the kings of ancient Iran before Islam overwhelmed the land in the seventh century. The first half deals primarily with mythical and semimythical figures, chief among them the great hero Rostam, while the latter half, beginning with the conquest of Sekandar--that is, Alexander the Great--records historical persons and events. In the concise, informative introduction, Davis calls attention to the entire book's recurrent themes of father-son conflict and contrast between kings and heroes, the latter of whom are nobler in character than the former; indeed, so noble that they invariably decline the throne when it is proffered to them. Davis encourages viewing both themes as reflections of a detached and critical attitude toward formal power and markers of a humane spirit that has allowed the epic to persist as the supreme classic of its nation. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The Shah-Namah is the National Epic of Persia/Iran, composed by the poet Abulqasim Firdausi in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. The current standard edition of the poem which runs into nine volumes (roughly 300 pages per volume), includes over 50,000 lines. In its great length, and it's multiplicity of characters and generations, as well as in other significant ways, the Shah-Namah comes closer to the Indian Epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, than to say the Illiad, the Odyssey or the Aeneid of the western world.
According to history, Sultan Muhammad Ghaznavi commissioned Firdausi to compose the Shah-Namah, promising to pay the poet a gold coin for every line. The King does not fulfill his promise. Instead he sends the poet silver coins, which Firdausi despite his dire poverty refuses. The King finally realizing the worth of the poet, repents of his behaviour and travels to the city of Tus to console the poet. He is too late, as his procession enters the main gate of the city, it encounters another procession leaving the same gate, with Firdausi's coffin. While political power is temporal, history and literature are eternal. We remember the King, because we remember the Poet.
GIven the poem's immense length and repititions, some passages have inevitably been omitted and others presented in a summary form. The most substantial ommission is the episode of the "twelve champions" which occurs during the Kaikhushru's war against Turan. Variant editions of the Firdausi's text have been used in working on this translation, for justifiable reasons. The illustrations used in this edition are taken from the lithographs for popular nineteenth-century editions of the poem of Dr. Ulrich Marzolph.
The book is very readable with meticulous English and well framed sentences. The books ends with a sumptuous glossary of names. Every Parsi and Zarathushtrian the world over, who may want to know a little of their past heritage, should give this book their undivided attention.
As an earlier reviewer noted, nowhere on the cover, dustjacket, or contents is it indicated that the text on offer is an abreviated version; indeed, I had asked the Penguin sales rep at a conference if it was abridged as was told that it was not. I am a bit miffed that in fact, it is, with no indication of where or how much beyond a brief note in the translator's preface.
As the original is verse, there are no footnotes, and no bibliography for further reading, I was dissapointed to discover that the vast majority of the book is in prose. I was hoping for a text that would enable me to easily find a way into more advanced scholarship related to this epic, but have unfortunately not found this edition helpful in that regard.
If you are looking for a good read in a new epic tradition this is a good book for you; if you are hoping to research Persian folk traditions and mythology, this book is probably not the resource for which you are looking.
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