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Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) Paperback – Deckle Edge, 28 Jun 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 992 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Deluxe edition (28 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143104934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143104933
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 4.3 x 22.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Dick Davis [is] our pre-eminent translator from the Persian Thanks to Davis's magnificent translation, Ferdowsi and the"Shahnameh"live again in English. Michael Dirda, Washington Post Accessible A poet himself, Davis brings to his translation a nuanced awareness of Ferdowsi's subtle rhythms and cadences. His "Shahnameh" is rendered in an exquisite blend of poetry and prose, with none of the antiquated flourishes that so often mar translations of epic poetry. Reza Aslan (author of "Zealot"), New York Times Books Review Davis s wonderful translation will show Western readers why Ferdowsi s masterpiece is one of the most revered and most beloved classics in the Persian world. Khaled Hosseini, author of "The Kite Runner" A magnificent accomplishment . . . [Davis s translation] is not only the fullest representation of Ferdowsi s masterpiece in English but the best. "The New York Sun" Reader-friendly essential reading Kirkus Review Marvelous . . . It represents the best of Persian culture. Azar Nafisi, from the foreword "

About the Author

Abolqasem Ferdowsi (940 - 1020) is the preeminent poet in the Persian language and one the greatest poets of his time in any language.

Dick Davis is the premier translator of Persian poetry at work today.

Azar Nafisi is the author of the bestselling Reading Lolita in Teheran.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Mrs D.G.Katsamas on 12 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dick Davis has produced a very readable translation. However he chose to omit some material. In his Introduction he informs us that the most substantial omission is an episode during Kay Khosrow's war against Turan, known as the Davazdah Rokh, or episode of the twelve champions. He admits that this is regarded by the Iranian author Golshiri as the heart of the poem. However, in the opinion of the translator this episode is too repetitive and ethnocentric for the general reader to be allowed to see, so he has simply cut it out. Personally I should like to decide for myself whether to plough through repetitions and to make up my own mind about the alleged ethnocentricity, and as to whether this episode is indeed central to the whole Shahnameh. Certainly I should like to have been alerted to the translator's editorializing before making my decision to purchase his work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Webster on 5 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback
A new translation of Ferdowski by Dick Davis, it is beautifully written mainly in prose with some verse for key passages. Davis tells us in the introduction that is how the story tellers of Iran would have told and retold the tales over the centuries and it is very effective.

Ferdowski's work is credited with keeping the Farsi language and indeed Iranian culture alive during the difficult centuries of the Arab Islamic invasion. When everything else was under threat, this amazing work provided a counterpoint of which all who came to know it could be proud, despite the humiliations of being conquered.

About half of the stories are fables and the rest tell of the Sassanid Kings who ruled Iran from 200CE to the arrival of the Arabs. They recreate vividly a magical world of courts and chivalry, the trials and successes in war and in love of its heroes and heroines. They describe a long established, wealthy society with richly decorated palaces and wonderful gardens with running water, which Iranians love to this day. It is a world where Iran is at the centre, in contrast to the troubled situation in which Ferdowski lived.
For those who are curious about Iran and its enduring culture, for those young and old who love tales, this is a wonderful read.
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37 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Julian Mascarenhas on 27 Oct. 2006
Format: Hardcover
Noting that there is no comment here on this classic Persian text, I shall enter at least some background on it, if not specific to this edition.

"The Shahnameh", or as it is better known in the western literary world "The Shahnama", is arguably THE classic, medieval Persian literary text and is fundamental to Persian identity. Attributed to the most famous and beloved poet in the whole Persian canon, Ferdowsi, it takes in Iran's ancient and medieval history, culture, beliefs (especially pre-Islamic Zoroastrianism) and is also an excellent source for the Pahlavi Persian language (basically, pre-10th century Middle Persian, and not strictly speaking the modern day Farsi language), depending on the edition of course. As an epic poem, it is unparalleled in Persian tradition and was very much the benchmark which future poets aspired to, technically, structurally, linguistically and so on.

Quite literally meaning "The Book of Kings", the Shahnameh was most likely written as guidance for rulers in the medieval world in which Persia was a major geo-political, imperial power. Blending the mythical and the historical, and compiling the oral and written traditions of Persia, it provided the royal reader with many examples of flawed and immoral shahs (kings), whose mistakes it is presumed were to be learnt from.

A related text is "The Arthashastra", which pre-dates the Shahnameh and is the Indian version from the same literary traditon. (One might also compare it to "The Prince" by Machiavelli as a tool for political guidance, but it is about far more than that!) Given Persia's close proximity to Indian culture and the presence of Indo-Iranian identity, this is hardly surprising. Aryan links abound between the two cultures and texts.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By pocillovits on 2 July 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a very readable book . It is clear and is written in a fluent English. The poems were translated in a matching style which had enhanced the story even when you have not read the original Persian text. The engraving are appropriately selected to enhance the book.
My only concern is that the author did not provide a map to help the reader to know were on earth those battles were. This is specially crucial for non-Persian and young Iranians who have no knowledge of the geography of the time
This book is invaluable and is a must for all Iranians abroad since they have never had a chance to read Shahnameh in Farsi. They might have read a poem from her and there. But never read the whole story to know what is it about.In the mind of most Iranians the intention of the book was to revive the Iranian language and preserve it.It has certainly done that.
But, the stories of the Kings, in the mind of Iranian both at home and abroad who had never read the original text from the beginning to the end, has created a false sense of glory of the past. The deposed "Shah" was the main advocate of this false legend. When you read this book, in prose not in poems, the truth about medieval Persia penetrates through. It shows the cruel system and the powerful network of the Zoroasterian Mullahs who were controlling every aspect of the country life. Even when the king should die or make a tiny domestic decisions etc. Then One would start wonder if the present Islamic Republic of Iran is any different. The king is missing . But the king in old Iran was only a figure head subjected to extreme manipulation by the mullahs(Does this remind you of Ahmadynedjad ).
The reason Iran was captured so quickly and people accepted Islam was the rigid social strata and the the extreme interference of the Zoroasterian Mullahs(which is the same in the present situation in Iran)in their daily life which had suffocated their minds.
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