Skip to comments.Tales of Persia’s Wondrous Past [The ‘Shahnameh’ mourns the loss of Iran’s pre-Islamic...]
Posted on 07/25/2009 7:51:02 PM PDT by sionnsar
Before the Islamic Revolution dimmed the Iranian literary imagination in 1979, and before an expanding Islam swept Iran into its Arab empire in the seventh century, there existed the rich and colorful Iran recounted in Ferdowsis Shahnameh, or the Book of Kings. Nearly four centuries after the Arab conquest, the Shahnameh tells the story of pre-Islamic Iranwhen Persian civilization was at its zenith.
The epic proceeds through the reign of many monarchs, chronicling the at times legendary, at times mythological, and at times quasihistorical stories of each reign. Then, with the Arab conquest, the chronicle comes to an end. This might seem to mark the end of Persian civilization, too. But Ferdowsis masterpiece, composed about A.D. 1000, both went on to inspire the greatest Persian miniature paintings and retrieved Irans lost identityalong with its language, which still survives.
The epic is not only a remembrance of a wondrous past but a mourning of the passing of that history and all that falls prey to the absolute of all tyrants, time, says Azar Nafisi. ...
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...
Pre-islamic Persia would definitely be in my top ten time travel destinations...
True. Abbasids. “1001 Nights.” Sheherazad. Numerous others. Beautiful architecture. Rife with Byzantine intrigue. The Hashisheen. Library at Merv that Genghis Khan destroyed.
Pre-WWI book, “Ali & Nino” is back in print. Marvelous but sappy. Good description of the period including Georgia.
Farsi is Indo-European, so it has the verb ‘is’ and some related words to English. Written in Arabic letters though.
Oh yes. Hellenic culture. Alexander went through there & back, but got stuck at the Indian elephants. Alexander married a Persian whom his Greek wife killed. Actually, she was Afghan. Killed her in Persia though.
I’m told that the best printed Shahnameh are from Moscow, and the best movies made based on Shahnameh are Russian also.
Early in the Islamic conquests, it wasn't so bad. However, things went south fast. Even the Jews were incorporated into the mix fairly nicely, since they were “of the book”.
That's certainly no longer the case. Unearned wealth, coupled with relatively uneducated populations has resulted in some crazy contemporary Islamic populations. That, and some truly mind boggling inbreeding (but that's another story). All told, Arabic Islam is living through their own version of the dark ages, and afflicting themselves on innocent populations just like they did on the Hindus and Sikhs of India. Even though they were invaded over a thousand years ago, they are still viewed as the boogey men by those populations.
“Im told that the best printed Shahnameh are from Moscow”
I’m wondering who told you that, and in what context?
“and the best movies made based on Shahnameh are Russian also.”
And, to which best movies you’re referring?
“True. Abbasids. 1001 Nights. Sheherazad.”
The Abbassids were the second Arab-Muslim Caliphs (not Iranians or Persians), who ruled Iran immediately after the first Arab-Muslim rulers of Iran (the Umayyads Arab Caliphs).
“1001 Nights” is, essentially, known as The “Arabian Tale”; it is from the Arab-Muslim Caliphate era in Iran. It is a hotpotch of certain pre-Islamic Persian folklore & literature, combined with the Egyptian, Indian, Mesopotamian ones. It has little to do with the intentions of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh.
hotpotch = hotchpotch
If you look at where Ferdowsi is from, and the history of that region, it may make more sense. Also, since Iranians don’t trust the regime, the best versions along with the movies (and some of the most expensive printed books) are considered from Moscow.
lol, I know where Ferdowsi is from, thanks. Since you don’t read or speak Persian, I am wondering where you got the Persian link from. I found your comment misleading.
Had you said Tajikistan or even Afghanistan (about Ferdowsi)- “in the region” - it would have made much more sense to me; historically too.
Try looking for Tajikistan in particular & for “movies” about Shahmaneh too. By the way, Afghans & Tajiks are not Russians; certainly not “the Moskovite Russians” to have had any historical interest in Shahmaneh.
As for region: Iran, as known for past 100 years, at least & today, shares a massive border with Russia & is in “the region”; not to mention that centuries ago, prior to and during Ferdowsi’s era, Iran actually included Afghanistan & Tajikistan, republic of Azarbaijan and a few others on its Eastern border, which you now call in “that region”.
“prior to and during Ferdowsis era, Iran actually included Afghanistan & Tajikistan, republic of Azarbaijan and a few others on its Eastern border,”
I know that - thanx. And Tajikistan was part of USSR
I’ll see your Firdowsi & raise you Umar Khayyam’s “Rubaiyyat” and Rumi’s “Masnavi.” I’ll even throw in Bernard Lewis & Samuel Huntington. Oh, & Ibn Sina.
If you didn’t want opinions and agreement, which the post was ment to do, why not expect someone whose study goes back decades?
The Abbasid absored the Arab influence, just like with Alexander. Khorasan was the most interesting to me though. The waves of invasions and conquest. And Georgia/Azerbaijan. The edge of culture.
The writings of Mary Renault in their entirety, though largely about WWI, are nevertheless intriguing, especially “The Persian Boy.” She was from Mozambique.
All those off-coast listeners learning from desert-loving English. DLI knows its stuff.
I suppose I should ask LoM about this, for something accessible to one who does not know Parsi (or Russian).
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Maybe Odds can make some suggestions
The Persian Book of Kings
by Abolqasem Ferdowsi,
tr by Dick Davis,
foreword by Azar Nafisi
Deluxe Edition Paperback
Thanks, we needed that.
I was going to just let it slide, but someone encouraged me not to. There are smart, informed people on FR, many who are powerful people. We’re studied by smart, informed opposition in power, too. I’m talking all over the world. Private. Public. Retired. Rich. Barely making it. Many experts. Even people who were killed in 9/11 showed up previously (Barbara Olson comes to mind).
I’ve only tangled with a few folks here, and I’m not one to start something, either.
Signing up to post is a big decision for any of us. Respecting those that have (except the zot worthy, Viking Kitty, bunny pancake types) is critical. No one here knows all of what the other guy knows—or who.
But you knew all that. Thanks for the comment.
Odds, do you have suggestions for an English/American translation of “Shahnameh” (Shahmaneh?)?
Sorry for late reply, I’ve been offline last 24 hours.
I think the English translation of Ferdowsi’s Shah-Nameh
(Shah”maneh” was a typo of course) by Dick Davis is a very good one - it is generally accepted by quite a few Iranian scholars as being one of or the best in English. Although, personally, I have not read the entire publication in English. When I went to school in Iran during the Shah’s era we read the Shah-Nameh in Persian.
“If you didnt want opinions and agreement, which the post was ment to do, why not expect someone whose study goes back decades?”
Nothing against your opinion. I’m sure there are a lot of non-Iranians who are knowledgeable about many aspects of Iranian literature, history and so forth.
Since I happen to be part Iranian, and went to school in Iran during the Shah’s era, the foundation of my knowledge about Iranian history, folklore, literature and poetry comes from that source.
Thanks for mentioning Mary Renault. I’d also suggest you read Abdolhossein Zarrinkoub’s classic book entitled “Two Centuries of Silence”. It is considered one the most reliable sources on the history of Persia after Islam (which includes the Abbassid Arab Caliphate rule of Iran).
p.s. - as much as your opinion is respected & we aren’t playing poker, your opinion does not change the facts outlined in comment #10. Particularly the last paragraph.
nuconvert: I had a closer look at a couple of articles in the google (Persian) search page you posted earlier. They suggest that there are numerous mistakes and shortcomings in the Moscow edition. The one replacing the infamous Moscow one, in Farsi, is a critical edition by Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh (1988). This won the Saidi-Sirjani Book Award (first prize) in 1996.
sionnsar: an additional note about Dick Davis: his is the prose version in English, and is somewhat condensed, although still very good. A more complete earlier English translation in full and in verse is by Arthur and Edmond Warner. It is quite expensive too, apparently, around $180 per volume - there are 9 volumes. I have not, personally, read this one.
Hope this helps.
odds, no problem. When I travel (even domestic travel) I often spend much more time than that away from FR.
I don't know Parsi and only know a little of the alphabet, so my only hope right now is a translation. Though I suspect a translator would have a very difficult task to translate the nuances of Persian expression into English (and vice versa). I remember years ago trying to read Pushkin's poetry in English... though the translator was highly regarded, it fell absolutely flat. Lifeless. Dead. Not even up to pining for the fjords.
The Shahnameh by Dick Davis -- LoM, taking note?... never mind, just placed it on hold with the library.
You’re very right, a translator won’t do at all.
Even reading it in its original Parsi verse, for a native, educated & fluent Persian speaking person, it requires quite a lot of interpretation, as well as cultural understanding of the time/era during which it was written. That is why the critical edition (in Persian) by Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh (#26) is so very important.
I just noticed the previous link doesn’t work any more. Hopefully this one will last a bit longer.
” Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh, who has also given us the only critical edition of this major text, the Shahnameh, has now provided several volumes of notes to his edition. The Notes clarify not only the form and meaning of words, their developments and their orthography, but also discuss the structures and the authenticity of dubious verses through a careful examination of their episodes in a comparative context.”
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