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In Search Of Zarathustra: The First Prophet and the Ideas that Changed the World [Paperback]

Paul Kriwaczek
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Feb 2003

IN SEARCH OF ZARATHUSTRA is a quest to trace the influence of the prophet the Greeks called Zoroaster and considered the greatest religious legislator of the ancient world. Long before the first Hebrew temple, the birth of Christ or the mission of Muhammad, Zarathustra had taught of a single universal god, of the battle between Good and Evil, of the Devil, Heaven and Hell, and of an eventual end to the world.

Over several decades, Paul Kriwaczek, an award-winning television producer, has cast his eye across Europe and Central Asia, from Hadrian¿s Wall to the Oxus river, from the Pyrenees to the Hindu Kush.

Passing via Nietzsche¿s interpretation of Zarathustra for a post-religious age, the Cathars of 13th-century France, the Bulgars of 9th-century Balkans, and the prophet Mani¿s revision of Zarathustra¿s message in the later Persian empire, Paul Kriwaczek then explores the religion of Mithras ¿ before going back past Alexander the Great¿s destruction of the Persian Empire, and the era of the great Persian kings Cyrus and Darius in the 6th century BC, to the beginning of the first pre-Christian millennium.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (6 Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842126555
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842126554
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 451,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Fascinating. . . . One vacillates between wonder at the story told and admiration at the genial intellectual virtuosity of the storyteller. . . . A delight." --"Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel ""Vital. . . . Remarkable. . . . Artfully reveals the Zarathustian hinges of Iranian culture. . . . [It] is written with the prescient elegance of a curious traveler and in the hope that ideas that once changed the world may do so again." --"Boston Review ""Intriguing. . . . Engaging. . . . [A] brisk, smart, remarkably detailed journey." --"The Memphis Commercial Appeal ""A fascinating and neglected subject. . . . [Kriwaczek takes] his readers back to ancient times with imagination and style, moving deftly between the present, the recent past, and the mists of time." --"The Independent" "From the Trade Paperback edition."

Book Description

A quest to find the most influential religious teacher in the ancient world: Zarathustra.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meaty and a delight to read 16 Aug 2002
Don't judge a book by its cover! In this case you would be forgiven for expecting a rather fusty and inaccessible book. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is the highly readable story of Paul Kriwaczek's search for the origins of Zoroastrianism and the influence that Zarathustra has had, not only on religions that followed him, but also on the world in general. I particularly enjoyed the format - part history and part travelogue, subtly and deftly written with wit and good humour.
I read In Search of Zarathustra from cover to cover in one sitting, such is the quality of Kriwaczek's storytelling. Perhaps it's because of his background in television documentary that I never once felt lectured. Instead, the history and concepts came across through the experience and practices of the people that he meets. The journeys through Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and even northern England are peppered with the kind of interesting facts that I found myself quoting in the pub the next day. I hadn't realised that so much of our understanding of the dual nature of the world, of good and evil, can be traced back to Zarathustra and that the world's religions as practiced today have been greatly influenced by him. Nor had I realised how the Bulgars had given their name to a great British swear-word, what the origin of Christmas might really be, or even the origin of the word 'Amazon'. (A-mazon - without a breast - female warriors would cut one off, the better to bend their bows). I loved the characters we meet on the way - the Frenchman Antoine Hyacinth for example. He was a latter-day walking disaster-area who set out to be the first translator of key Zoroastrian documents. His trip round India was a scream.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chatty, erudite and kaleidoscopic 24 Oct 2005
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kriwaczek tells us that he has been fascinated by Zarathustra (or Zoroaster) since his school days, when his English teacher introduced the class to Nietzsche, and this pupil, "naturally enough ... went to the school library to find out what he had written", and found Thus Spake Zarathustra. Kriwaczek's book now purports to be a search for this elusive character, working backwards in time from Nietzsche. This quest would, as an adult (and at times as a television journalist), involve him in travelling all over the Middle East, Iran and Central Asia. The result is this vividly written account of his physical journeys in these lands, peppered with historical disquisitions, written with equal vividness, but whose origins, I suspect, had come from some decent libraries and guide books before he set out. In any case this is not the easiest way to convey a clear picture of the subject, and the problem is aggravated by two other features: the first is a helter-skelter backwards and forwards in time and in space. So, for example we travel within a few pages of one chapter from Carcassonne in France (p.74) to Derbent on the Caspian (p.75); a page later we are on the Trans-Siberian railway (p.76); on p.77 we are with the 13th century Tartars and on p.79 with 5th century BC Sarmatians!
The other feature is that Kriwaczek is so entertainingly knowledgeable about so much that he devotes pages on matters which have only the thinnest link with Zoroastrianism. Zarathustra himself had only one god, Ahura Mazda, and described all the other deities of his time as not deserving of the name.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elevation of the TRUTH! 22 Sep 2003
I read this book few months ago. I found it enjoyable and easy to read. But, this in no way means the book lacks depth and quality. It is well researched and full of information. The author is familiar with most of the academic material on this subject. What is good about this book is the fact that Paul has knowledge of the latest theories on the origins of Zarathustra and his teachings. Anyone interested in Zoroastrianism or history of Iran-Persia must read this book, they would be saving themselves time and effort and this book gives the essence of what is available in the academic circles.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The search continues . . . 11 Aug 2010
By LuLu
I had hoped to learn about the origins, beliefs, and rituals of Zorastrianism. This book does not provide that information. While an interesting read, the author provides more detail on an obscure French linguist (du Perron) than he does on Zarathustra.

And so my search for Zarathusra continues.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In search of the first prophet 13 April 2003
Paul Kriwaczek takes us on a personal journy in search of Zarathustra. As a BBC External Services Specialist in Central and South Asia Affair, his book reads both as history of religion and a travel diary through Central Asia , Iran and Middle East. He discovers the influence of Zarathustra on Jewish, Christianity and Islam. The Universal appeal of the relegion to us now, is the idea of struggle of good against evil. In a temple in Iran he meets with a follower who describes the essence of Zarathustra's teaching as : "Choose truth and oppose lies. And Always strive for good words, good thoughts and good deeds." I highly recommend this book as an enjoyable read.
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