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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meaty and a delight to read
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...
Published on 16 Aug 2002 by Amazon Customer

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chatty, erudite and kaleidoscopic
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...
Published on 24 Oct 2005 by Ralph Blumenau


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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.
If you've ever wondered about characters like Ahura Mazda, Cyrus the Great, Mithras, the Manichaeans and the Cathars, you will not find a more delightful or accessible way to learn about them. As for Strauss and Stanley Kubrick's 2001, in case you're wondering, you'll find them here as well.
This book has enabled me to see all sorts of religious practices and human behaviours in a new light, though I did feel slightly envious of Kriwaczek's ability to be simultaneously erudite and compelling. Great stuff.
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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 (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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. A very long time after his death, as Zoroastrianism departed from the original view of the prophet, it produced another god called Mithra, who seems to have borne a very similar relationship to Ahura Mazda as Jesus would bear to God the Father. Now the Romans also worshipped a god called Mithra, but, although Kriwaczek tells us that some modern scholars think that it was a mere coincidence that the same name was given to two gods who had nothing to do with each other, he devotes 2/3 of that chapter to telling us everything he knows about this Roman Mithras. Truth to tell, in the course of the book we really learn far more about Nietzsche, the Cathars, the Bogomils, the Sarmatians, the Romans, the Manichaeans and the Jews than we do about Zarathustra. Kriwaczek knows so much history that the slightest link he can establish with Zarathustra's teaching (or its later perversions) is enough to get him to unpack it all. The penultimate chapter ends, "Having mapped the Persian seer's influence back through the two and a half millennia that separate our own era from the dawn of Persian civilization, what remains in to seek out the traces of a time before ... recorded Iranian history began - the days of the First Prophet himself."
It was therefore with some eagerness that I looked forward to the last chapter for a comprehensive account of what Zarathustra stood for, but I found it a rather thin harvest. Yes, very likely Zarathustra was the first monotheist, the first who spoke of the End of Time, the first who saw life as a battle between Good and Evil, the first who taught that mankind has a choice between them, the first who summed up the duties of man as "Good Words, Good Thoughts, and Good Deeds". Yes, if we dig down through Judaism, Christianity and Islam, we can find a Zoroastrian substratum. And yes, I do understand that Kriwaczek would not call that a thin harvest; and I can see his point.
In any case, this is a rattling good read. There is a wealth of information here - some of it quite startling (for instance, that much of what we call Gothic is actually Sarmatian); the patches of history he tells us about are exciting and little known to the general reader; his enthusiasm is infectious; and his word painting is superb. The book was not what I expected from the title or what I think it ought to have been, but I enjoyed every page of it and am very glad I read it.
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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
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 7 Mar 2010
By 
Mr. Christopher P. White "Grizzled chef" (Ashford Kent UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I was new to the subject of Zoroastrianism and wanted a clear introduction. This book gives a whirlwind tour of early middle-eastern history and gives much context to early religion and beliefs. The author clearly has much detailed knowledge of pre-christian and early christian beliefs and heresies but I would really have appreciated a "time-line" to refer to, as he seemed rather to flit about from one historical period to another. As a result I became confused at times and lost the narrative thread, or rather, the chronological order of events.
Nonetheless I would recommend this book as being extremely readable and very enjoyable.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not a comprehensive investigation of Zarathustra, 11 Aug 2007
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Whilst I enjoyed this book, full of well-explored possible traces of Zarathustra through the centuries, it was not what I had been hoping for. The book is more the travel journal of an academic adventure than a study of one of the world's oldest religions and its enigmatic prophet. However, reading it did further feed my curiosity, and I will certainly be looking to read more as a result.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Right on time, 17 Feb 2014
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Great, prompt service. Beat expectations. Before anticipated date. Would buy for them again. Have no problem recommending them to anyone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, 5 Jan 2013
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Full of those details which modern education and over-summarised history has either conveniently forgotten or deliberately airbrushed from the picture. This is a good book to start with if you would truly seek to understand who we are, and how often we have gone over the same ground before. Tradition is always older than we are encouraged to assume, and even Zoroaster was probably not the first prophet; just the first whose writings have survived alongside the behaviours of his faithful. There were prophets before there was writing of course.

One summary of events in 1244 succinctly explains why veganism and vegetarianism proved so mysterious to many mainland European nationals until quite recently - it was the sort of preference that would have resulted in the practitioner being burning alive, together with their family and friends. Carnivorous practices therefore became a badge of loyalty to another faith, and a route to longer life before death from other causes.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, 3 July 2012
I picked this book at a Airport as the blurb seemed really interesting. The book tries really hard, but is unable to convey much. It suffers from the lack of a proper structure.
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