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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true masterpiece of Persian Literature, 31 July 2010
This review is from: Vis and Ramin (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
This is simply one of the most beautiful works of epic poetry I have ever read. The language is vivid and sensuous - full of exquisite images and romantic allusions. By reading Davis' translation you really are transported to another world altogether, full of beautiful flowers, lush valleys, rich brocades, flirtatious women, wondrous depictions of the natural world and much more. Gorgani's character sophistication is utterly sublime, particularly in the way he depicts the inner life of the heroine Vis. The story reads like a novel and I assure you that if you can keep the pace you will be gripped by this page-turner! It is startling to think that this poem is so underrated and unknown even in its native Persia (Iran). One can guess that this is due to the fact that whilst later Persian romances, such as Nezami's 'Khosrow and Shirin' and 'Layla and Majnun', use the love between their characters as an allegory for the longing of mankind for unity with God, Gorgani's 'Vis and Ramin' is bereft of any trace of full-blown Sufi mysticism. There is no indication of Vis and Ramin's relationship having any spiritual, esoteric or religious dimension. Human erotic love and all the pleasures, hardships and joys which stem from it, is celebrated simply for its own sake. And what's more the relationship between Gorgani's lovers is no chaste Romeo and Juliet or Khosrow and Shirin. It is no courtly, chivalric European or pious religious affair. It is an adulterous relationship and the reader is made to feel sympathy for the adultress, who was forced to marry Mobad against her will, indeed she had been promised to him before she was even born! This then is a very unique work of literature and not just in Medeival Islamic Persia. The erotic splendour and unabashed illicitness of the love story revealed to us here would have shocked most contemporary Europeans with its unabashed glorification of the bliss of young, extra-marital love. It is thus worthy of being more widely read and known not just in modern Iran but throughout the Western world. Its message, a surprisingly optimistic one, of love reigning supreme over all the trials that assail it, as well as its intensely realistic psychological insights, is as relevant now in the 21st century as it was in the 11th century when Gorgani wrote it, although the story itself is pre-Islamic, going back to the time of the Parthian Dynasty in Persia (247 BC-AD 224), a remarkably ancient origin. Considering that modern Iranian women and young men are battling courageously for their human rights in the face of a totalitarian regime, the message of this poem, with its passionately free-thinking characters, unforgettable heroine and honouring of love, is especially pertinent now more than ever. It is my fervent hope that Vis's tale will be a source of inspiration for the girls and women of today's Iran. 'Vis and Ramin' is in a world of its own, above the barriers of time period and culture which would normally make it remote and of little interest to modern westerners. Dick Davis' translation is faithful to the original, rendering the Persian lyrics into very readable heroic couplets and I have to congratulate him for providing Western readers with the opportunity to read this truly timeless and little known masterpiece of world literature. I end with a quotation from the poem itself, which epitomizes everything I have said, describing the poet's raison d'etre, his ambition for writing the epic:

Ah Vis, across the centuries I heard,
Your human cry,
And vowed that I would do my part to see,
It did not die.

Please do your part and for the sake of this brave, fesity heroine of Iran by this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost treasure of Persia, 29 Jan. 2012
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Joseph Devine (Peterborough, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vis and Ramin (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Before Romeo and Juliet there was Tristan and Isolde, and before that there was Vis and Ramin. Gorgani's epic love poem is a beguiling, atmospheric and captivating tale of forbidden love in a time of feudal warring ancient kingdoms. It has all the beautiful and evocative descriptive language of the more well known Sufi Persian poetry but is pre-Islamic, so has been largely forgotten.
Despite the fact it is a novel length poem, you rarely feel it drag, the rhythm and pace is fast and mesmerising, so don't be put off if you've never read epic poems. I hand't before this and I found it a joy to read, and have since been devouring ancient Persian poetry. Exquisite!
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Vis and Ramin (Penguin Classics)
Vis and Ramin (Penguin Classics) by Fakhraddin Gorgani (Paperback - 3 Sept. 2009)
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