Customer Review

36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About the work in general, not this edition, 27 Oct 2006
This review is from: Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings (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. And given Persia's prominence and hegemonic status during the whole of the Middle Ages, the work provides an invaluable window into other cultures of the time, notably Indian, Chinese, Turkish, Arabic, and many others by way of association and peripheral reference.
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