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Faces of Love (Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions) [Paperback]

Hafez , Obayd-e Zakani , Jahan Malek Khatun

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Book Description

6 Feb 2014 Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions

Acclaimed translator Dick Davis breathes new life into the timeless works of three masters of fourteenth-century Persian literature.

Together, Hafez, a giant of world literature; Jahan Malek Khatun, an eloquent princess; and Obayd-e Zakani, a dissolute satirist, represent one of the most remarkable literary flowerings of any era. All three lived in the famed city of Shiraz, a provincial capital of south-central Iran, and all three drew support from arts-loving rulers during a time better known for its violence than its creative brilliance. Here Dick Davis, an award-winning poet widely considered 'our finest translator of Persian poetry' (The Times Literary Supplement), presents a diverse selection of some of the best poems by these world-renowned authors and shows us the spiritual and secular aspects of love, in varieties embracing every aspect of the human heart.

A Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title for 2013

Dick Davis is a translator, a poet, and a scholar of Persian literature who has published more than twenty books. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has taught at the University of California at Santa Barbara and Ohio State University. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Deluxe edition (6 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143107283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143107286
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 11.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 174,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Davis [is] widely acknowledged as the leading translator of Persian literature in our time...Faces of Love has made the Persian originals into real and moving English poems (Washington Post)

Davis has done something I'd thought impossible: given us an Englished Hafez whose verses retain an intimation of what all the fuss is about...this anthology is a revelation (The Chicago Tribune)

Radiant...Davis expertly elucidates the conventions these poets worked within and played against (A. E. Stallings The Times Literary Supplement - Books of the Year)

Dick Davis's love affair with Persian literature has resulted in another marvelous offspring. Faces of Love reveals to us the mysterious connections between three vastly different fourteenth-century Persian poets. Through their eyes, Davis brings us that other Iran of poetry, lyrical beauty, diversity, and sensuality; only a lover and a poet could so passionately and meticulously capture the true spirit of these magnificent poems that transcend the boundaries of space and time (Azar Nafisi, author of 'Reading Lolita in Tehran')

For me, the most remarkable poetic translation project in the last twenty years has been Dick Davis' ambitious recreations of classical Persian literature. In book after book, Davis has memorably translated one of the world's great literatures into real English-language poetry. Finally, Davis has brought us new versions of Hafez and the great Shiraz poets. What can I say about this new book except: Yes! at last we meet one of the greatest lyric poets in history fully alive in English (Dana Gioia, former chairman of the NEA and author of 'Pity the Beautiful: Poems')

In this heady volume of wine, roses, nightingales, and forbidden trysts, Dick Davis shows us three faces of medieval Persian love poetry: the elusively mystical, the searingly personal, and the gleefully profane. For those of us unfamiliar with this world, the excitement is something akin to stumbling across a new Pindar, Sappho, and Catullus in a single volume - that is, if they were contemporaries and flourished in the same small town. This book is equally valuable for its wide-ranging introduction and pellucid and musical translations (quotable as English poems in their own right) - it would be worthwhile for either, but is a gem for both. Perhaps the most thrilling surprise contained here, however, is the debut in English (if not the West) of Jahan Malek Khatun, an intellectual princess whose bold and moving poems of heartbreak (often daring in their exploration of gender roles) and exile are a revelation. Her pen name means 'the world' and indeed we feel that, in bringing these poems into our language, scholar, poet, and translator Dick Davis has opened a new world for us. One couldn't write a better description of this volume than one of her own epigrams:

Shiraz when spring is here - what pleasure equals this?

With streams to sit by, wine to drink, and lips to kiss,

With mingled sounds of drums and lutes and harps and flutes;

Then, with a nice young lover near, Shiraz is bliss

(A.E. Stallings, MacArthur Fellow and author of 'Olives')

Probably the most difficult task of all for a Persianist is translating 14th-century poet Hafez. Poet, translator, scholar of Persian literature, Davis has succeeded in this challenge admirably. The most admired of all Persian poets, Hafez is a wizard with words, always alluring, seldom quite within reach. Here Davis also provides translations of poems of Jahan Malek Khatun, a less-known female poet, and of Obayd-e Zakani, a scandalous 'lavatorial' poet (both also 14th century). The translations of all three poets are superb, and they open up a new world even for those who know Persian well. Davis has supplied a long introduction in which he explains how Persian lyric poems (ghazals) work, both in formal terms and in terms of what ghazals speak of and why. The formal structure of a ghazal is not easily reproduced in English, but Davis has managed, better than anyone else so far, to give a rendering that makes these translations come alive and sing. He has also translated Obeyd-e Zakani's "Mush-o-gurbeh" ("Mouse and Cat"), a well-known narrative poem with clear political undertones, in a charming fashion. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. (W. L. Hanaway, emeritus, University of Pennsylvania, CHOICE)

About the Author

Dick Davis is the foremost English-speaking scholar of medieval Persian poetry now working in the West. He read English at Cambridge, lived in Iran for eight years (where he met and married his Iranian wife Afkham Darbandi), then completed a PhD in Medieval Persian Literature at the University of Manchester. He has resided for extended periods in both Greece and Italy (his translations include works from Italian), and has taught at both the University of California and at Ohio State University, where he was for nine years Professor of Persian and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages, retiring from that position in 2012. In all, he has published more than twenty books, including the award-winning poetry collections Seeing the World and Belonging. His translations include Ferdowsi's Shahnameh: the Persian Book of Kings and Farid ud-Din Attar's The Conference of the Birds. The Times Literary Supplement has called him 'our finest translator of Persian poetry'.

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Book 5 Dec 2012
By NL - Published on Amazon.com
Like every book from Mage Publishers, Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (2012), by Dick Davis, is a beautiful book, both inside and out. Davis situates Hafez within the rich culture of medieval Shiraz, where both poetry and wine cultivation flourished. Apart from a lovely, informative introduction by Davis, the book is mostly devoted to Davis's translations of selected poetry from three of the best medieval poets of Shiraz: Hafez of course, Princess Jahan Malek Khatun, and Obayd-E Zakani. Davis's translations are formal in the sense that they have a conscious meter, and they rhyme. At the same time, they remain conversational, accessible, and often melodious. (The book closes with thorough explanatory notes for many of the translations.)

Davis's translations of Hafez are compelling and lyrical; however, the real discovery of this book is the section on the lesser-known Jahan Malek Khatun. Hafez is one of the greatest poets who ever lived. But Khatun is a wonderful poet in her own right. Davis spends some time on both her uses of and moves away from traditional forms. Deceptively simple at times, her poems have a modern, daring quality that readers of any century would find powerful. Davis mentions her androgynous address in several poems: true enough, in poem after poem of intense longing, Khatun both struggles with and seems to transcend gender.

The book is a delightful offering of gorgeous, timeless, and often controversial poetry. Yet, its genius is in the triptych structure of three poets from the same fascinating and complicated town. Furthermore, in beginning with Hafez, a mystic poet, and ending with Zakani, Davis allows the reader to contemplate the same themes of wine, desire, and longing from the perspective of the divine-reaching and touching (Hafez), the at times divine-longing (Khatun), and the unapologetically profane (Zakani).

In the introduction, Davis muses roundly on the problem of classifying Hafez as either divine or crassly secular, since his poems seem to touch both realms. Perhaps unwittingly, perhaps intentionally, the structure of Davis's book is an answer to this problem. The mystical artist necessarily embraces the high and the low, the blasphemous and the devout, the sacred and the profane all at the same time.

In this intelligently compiled, captivating book of poetry, Davis not only gives us a luscious glimpse of Shiraz as a poet's city, but his book also allows us to peacefully contemplate the parallel truths of pleasure and transcendent devotion, of material wine and divine wine, of buffoonish drunkenness and divine intoxication, of sexual desire and desire for God.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Medieval Persian Poetry in Contemporary English Verse 21 Feb 2014
By Gordiyeh - Published on Amazon.com
I was moved to write this review because I read Wendy Mcmullen's Amazon customer review of the 20th of February 2014 in which she says she likes Ladinsky and Bly's translations better. We are all entitled to our opinions, but neither Ladinsky nor Bly speak any Persian (Davis, while an English poet in his own right, spent 8 years in Iran and is fluent in Persian and a respected scholar of Persian literature). What is unfortunate about Ms. Mcmullen's advice to readers is that Ladinsky's and Bly's "poems" have almost nothing whatsoever to do with the actual poems of Hafez (Davis's translations, on the other hand, while in contemporary English verse, are so close to the actual Persian that they could be used as cribs). Liking the poems of Hafez that don't rhyme, as Ms. Mcmullen does, is like saying you like dances when the dancers don't dance. How can Ms. Mcmullen be "madly in love with Hafez" when she has clearly never read anything by him. A University Librarian!!! Jesus wept.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work not only of great beauty, but also of considerable social and political interest 23 Feb 2013
By CHR - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Faces of Love is wonderful. It's actually so wonderful that I've had to abandon all hope of recapping of its virtues in a comprehensive way. (The account threatened to be book-length.) Instead, here is what I hope will be a more useful, if only partial, description of a few highlights:

-- First and maybe most importantly, the collection has the rare quality of being as accessible as it is intelligent. Both the poems and the commentary that frame them offer plenty of depth and detail to satisfy the frequent reader of poetry, but it also strikes me that translator Dick Davis's wry prose and contemporary analogies could provide a very entertaining inroad someone less acquainted with this art form. (Do you like Bob Dylan? This could be the book for you!) Very easy to imagine someone who was otherwise not much of a poetry reader getting curious about what else is out there, after reading Davis's collection.

-- Second, the poems are remarkable. I'm not a reader of Persian, sadly, so I can't speak to the originals, but these translations make an impressive body of work on their own. There's a dexterity with rhyme and emotion I wish we'd see a lot more of in contemporary Anglophone poetry (Davis knocked me out resolving an otherwise-unrhymed poem on despair and solace with a final rhymed couplet, closing the poem with a comfort to the reader's ear that matches and magnifies the comfort the poem's themes offer the reader's heart). There's intellectual sophistication that gives lie to postmodernity's purported monopoly on the instability of meaning (a Hafez aside about "wine that's real and not a metaphor" is but the most explicit indication that one didn't need to wait for Barthes to grasp the pleasures and possibilities in the space between sign and referent. Is all the rest of the wine only metaphorical?!) And then there's the uproariously, graphically funny (I badly wish I thought I could get away with quoting the Obayd for you here, but my strong suspicion is that it would be censored. But perhaps that knowledge will be enough to tempt!) The work is terrific, across the board; it's a bit mind-bending to imagine that one translator could work so successfully in so many different styles.

-- Third, the physical book is as lovely as the poems it contains: smooth, cream-colored paper with plenty of blank leaves at the end for note-making; vibrant blue cover art, consonant with the vitality of the book's contents; a matching blue satin ribbon to mark your page or perhaps one you'd like to share. And I think you might like to share it; it's not just a book that would make a nice gift, but the kind of book that reminds why books make such nice gifts.

-- Finally, Faces of Love offers the Anglophone reader a rare view on three very different ways of making and writing a life in medieval Iran. The choice to group these three poets as well as Davis's narration of the world they inhabited brings their culture to life in an unusually vivid fashion. The documentation of their diversity (which often included fairly heterodox attitudes toward religion) may especially interest students of Iranian and international politics. In a passage explaining why alcohol would be so prominent in the lives of these poets despite its prohibition in Islam, Davis writes, amusingly, that in flouting the alcohol proscription, "Local Persian dynasties...were saying, in effect, `This is a part of our culture; get over it.' " Those inclined to speculate may wonder whether Davis, an eight-year resident of Iran, isn't making a similar statement with this publication, if in more circumspect fashion! Regardless of intention though, the book documents a fascinating, multidimensional culture with a good deal more evidence and interest than what, for instance, the U.S. readers usually encounter in the mainstream media accounts of Iran. As such the book becomes not only a work of great beauty but also one of considerable social and political interest.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dick Davis is the greatest translator of Persian literature since Edward Fitzgerald 16 Mar 2014
By Mahmoud Shahbodaghi - Published on Amazon.com
Hafez is a particularly difficult poet to translate due to his uses of double (or multiple) entendres, his precise meters & rhymes, and his wild metaphors. The greatest beauties of Hafez are language specific.

Dick Davis here has captured so much of the beauty of this poetry in English- has even aced many of them. I thought it would be impossible. No matter if he has captured the beauty of the original or not, this collection works because the results are always beautiful English poems in their own right.

Yet, some difficulties can not be overcome. One of these is that in the original all pronouns are unisex. Some poems are clearly about male lovers without saying so explicitly. In English, Davis has had to choose and assign a gender to the beloved, as in "Last night she brought me wine and sat beside my pillow". In the original this one is thought to be about a male.

Overall, gorgeous!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Met my expectations, and more. 6 Feb 2014
By Dan McDill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Enjoying the book. I am sure I will enjoy it for a long time, since books of poetry are meant to be read and re-read over time ! As a Texan born "Anglo-American" , it has always seemed odd to friends, that I have been strangely drawn to the mystical poetry of Iran, as well as traditional Persian music. Put them both together, and I am floating in Heaven...
I am glad I bought this book, because the author includes a helpful footnote section that explains the references relating to traditional Persian mythology and characters that are mentioned in the poems, giving clear explanations of the contexts in which these poems were written. "It all makes sense now".
I also enjoyed being introduced to two more Shirazi poets that lived and wrote around the time of Hafez. A female poet, a Persian princess of that time, Jahan Malek Khatun, and a free speaking and sometimes "bawdy" Obayd-e Zakani. Up until this book, I had mainly read Hafez, Saadi, and Rumi. This collection has now encouraged me to "broaden my horizons".
Thank you, Dick Davis.
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