from the Introduction
Often called the national epic of Iran, the Shahnameh, or Book of Kings, was written in the 10th century by Abolqasem Ferdowsi, who took as his subject the pre-Islamic history of the Iranian people, starting with the creation of the world and ending with the 7th century Muslim Arab conquest of the Persian empire. The poem.…represents an act of cultural resistance, an assertion that the values and traditions of ancient Iran were still relevant despite three hundred years of Muslim Arab rule.…Nonetheless, Ferdowsi’s intent in writing the Shahnameh was neither heretical nor seditious. He was both a devout Muslim and loyal to his king. What Ferdowsi wanted was to place Iran squarely at the center of its own narrative, pushing back against the revisionist history some Iranians were creating in order to reconcile Iran’s past, ideologically and otherwise, with that of the dominant Arab Muslim culture.
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In this compelling translation of the Iranian epic, Richard Jeffrey Newman has given a new generation of readers access to this classic tale of politics, devotion, war and peace-making. Newman’s own narrative and lyric gifts as a poet make this a must-have volume.
Newman’s selection is accurate in presenting the tales he’s chosen to cover, and he’s done so in a form that honors those whose stories he is representing. This is a tidy version of a classic and indispensible human story, full of lessons and observations which remain timeless. Let’s have more translation of these tales from Mr. Newman published in the future.
At a time when Americans need to look deep into Iranian culture, Richard Jeffrey Newman’s excellent translation of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh opens a window on a literary work that is so embedded in a the collective Persian consciousness that it seems a part of the daily life of every Iranian. Newman’s version maintains the elegance and nobility of the original.
Richard Jeffrey Newman’s translation of these stories from the Shahnameh is creative, smooth, and delightful to read.