Tag Archives: Shahnameh

The Shahnameh: the Persian epic in world literature

Dabashi, Hamid. 2019. The Shahnameh: the Persian epic in world literature. New York: Columbia University Press.

The Shahnameh, an epic poem recounting the foundation of Iran across mythical, heroic, and historical ages, is the beating heart of Persian literature and culture. Composed by Abu al-Qasem Ferdowsi over a thirty-year period and completed in the year 1010, the epic has entertained generations of readers and profoundly shaped Persian culture, society, and politics. For a millennium, Iranian and Persian-speaking people around the globe have read, memorized, discussed, performed, adapted, and loved the poem.

In this book, Hamid Dabashi brings the Shahnameh to renewed global attention, encapsulating a lifetime of learning and teaching the Persian epic for a new generation of readers. Dabashi insightfully traces the epic’s history, authorship, poetic significance, complicated legacy of political uses and abuses, and enduring significance in colonial and postcolonial contexts. In addition to explaining and celebrating what makes the Shahnameh such a distinctive literary work, he also considers the poem in the context of other epics, such as the Aeneid and the Odyssey, and critical debates about the concept of world literature. Arguing that Ferdowsi’s epic and its reception broached this idea long before nineteenth-century Western literary criticism, Dabashi makes a powerful case that we need to rethink the very notion of “world literature” in light of his reading of the Persian epic.

About the Author

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is a founding member of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. Among his most recent books are The World of Persian Literary Humanism (2015) and Persophilia: Persian Culture on the Global Scene (2016).

Robert Adam Pollak’s versified translation of Šāhnāme

Firdausi, Abu’l-Qasem. 2018. Schahname. Das Buch der Könige. 4 vols. (Ed.) Nosratollah Rastegar. (Trans.) Robert Adam Pollak. With an instroduction by Florian Schwarz. 4 vols. Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag.
Das Schah­name oder „Buch der Könige“, verfasst um das Jahr 1000 im Osten Irans, ist ohne Zweifel das bedeu­tendste epische Werk in persi­scher Sprache und darf zu den wich­tigsten epischen Werken der Welt­li­te­ratur gezählt werden. Es erzählt die Geschichte der Herr­scher Irans seit den mytho­lo­gi­schen Anfängen bis zur Erobe­rung des Sasani­den­reichs durch die musli­mi­schen Araber im 7. Jahr­hun­dert.
Im 19. und frühen 20. Jahr­hun­dert erschienen Vers­über­set­zungen des Schah­name in mehreren euro­päi­schen Spra­chen, darunter eine voll­stän­dige italie­ni­sche Vers­über­set­zung des Orien­ta­listen Italo Pizzi und die eben­falls voll­stän­dige engli­sche Über­set­zung der Brüder Arthur und Edmund Warner. Deut­sche Vers­über­set­zungen wie dieje­nigen von Adolf Fried­rich von Schack und durch den Orien­ta­listen und Poeten Fried­rich Rückert blieben jedoch Torsos.
Erst­mals wird hier eine deut­sche Vers­über­set­zung der soge­nannten histo­ri­schen Teile des Schah­name (Bücher 20-50) von Fird­ausi vorge­legt. Der Urheber dieser meis­ter­li­chen Über­tra­gung ist der öster­rei­chi­sche Schrift­s­teller und Jurist Robert Adam Pollak (1877–1961). Pollaks Über­set­zung zeugt von seinen exzel­lenten philo­lo­gi­schen Quali­täten und seiner großen wissen­schaft­li­chen Sorg­falt, die den Text zu einem weiteren Meilen­stein in der Erfor­schung und Rezep­tion des Schah­name macht.
Bei der Heraus­gabe der maschi­nen­schrift­lich mit hand­schrift­li­chen Ergän­zungen vorlie­genden Über­set­zung von Robert Adam Pollak (des 4-bändigen Typoskripts) wurden von den Heraus­ge­bern nur notwen­dige Eingriffe in seinen Text vorge­nommen. Pollaks proso­disch oder durch Reim bedingte und daher hier und da vari­ie­rende Lesungen der Lemmata wurden soweit wie irgend möglich in der von ihm gewählten Form belassen bzw. vorsichtig ange­passt, um den poeti­schen Klang seiner Über­set­zung nicht zu zerstören.
Der voll­stän­dige Schah­na­me­text beginnt mit der Einlei­tung Fird­ausis (ca. 237 Doppel­verse), gefolgt von 50 über­lie­ferten Königs­büchern (52.000–55.000 Doppel­verse), die man inhalt­lich einteilen kann in: a) präh­is­to­ri­scher, mythi­scher Teil (Bücher 1-13), b) halb­his­to­ri­scher Teil (Bücher 14-19) und c) histo­ri­scher Teil (Bücher 20-50). Dieser letz­tere Text­teil, den Pollak als Vorlage für seine Über­set­zung nahm, umfasst die über­lie­ferte Geschichte der Herr­schaft Alex­an­ders über den Iran (331–323 v. Chr.), die Herr­schafts­pe­riode der Parther-Arsa­kiden (247 v. Chr.–226 n. Chr.) und die umfang­reiche Geschichte der Sasaniden (226–651 n. Chr.), schlie­ßend mit einer in ihrer Echt­heit und ihrem Umfang strit­tigen Satire gegen den ghaz­na­vi­di­schen Herr­scher, Sulṭān Maḥmūd (reg. 999 bis 1030 n. Chr.).
Mit der Über­set­zung Robert Adam Pollaks wird der umfang­reiche histo­ri­sche Teil des epischen Meis­ter­werkes Fird­ausis den deutsch­spra­chigen Inter­es­senten in poeti­scher Form zugäng­lich gemacht. Nunmehr sind die Grund­steine für eine voll­stän­dige deut­sche Ausgabe gelegt worden, die neben Rückerts und Pollaks poeti­schen Über­set­zungen auch die poeti­sche Über­tra­gung Adolf Fried­rich Graf von Schacks »Helden­sagen des Firdusi« berück­sich­tigen könnte.

The Middle Persian Book of Kings

Hämeen-Anttila, Jaakko. 2018. Khwadāynāmag: The Middle Persian Book of Kings (Studies in Persian Cultural History 14). Leiden: Brill.
The Khwadāynāmag is often conceived of as a large book of stories, comparable to Firdawsī’s Shāhnāme, but Hämeen-Anttila convincingly shows that it was a concise and dry chronicle. He also studies the lost Arabic translations of the book, which turn out to be fewer than hitherto thought, as well as the sources of Firdawsī’s Shāhnāme, showing that the latter was only remotely related to the Khwadāynāmag. It also becomes clear that there were no separate “priestly” and “royal” Khwadāynāmags.
TOC

Shahnama Studies III

van den Berg, Gabrielle (ed.). 2017. Shahnama Studies III: The Reception of the Shahnama. Leiden: Brill.

Shahnama Studies III focuses on the hugely successful afterlife of the Shahnama or Book of Kings, completed by the poet Firdausi around 1010 AD. This long epic grew out to be an icon of Persian culture and served as a source of inspiration for art and literature, leaving its traces in manifold ways. The contributors to this volume each treat an aspect of the rich legacy of the Shahnama and offer new insights in Shahnama manuscript studies, the illustration of the Shahnama, the phenomenon of later epics, and the Shahnama in later texts and contexts. Continue reading Shahnama Studies III

An Italian translation of Shahnameh

Cristoforetti, Simone (ed.). 2017. Shahnameh Il Libro dei Re. Testo Poetico Persiano Dell’edizione Turner Macan. Italo Pizzi.

The first integral reprint of the Persian text of Abu ‘l-Qasem Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh printed in Calcutta (1829), published along its Italian poetic translation by the reknown iranologist Italo Pizzi (Turin, 1886-1888).
The Italinan translation is annotated by S. Cristoforetti (University of Venice) with reference to the critic edition of the Shahname by Dj. Khaleghi Motlagh. The editorial project is under the supervision of Prof. G. Scarcia (University of Venice) and undertaken in collaboration with the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad.

Shāhnāma as a Mirror for Princes

Askari, Nasrin. 2016. The Medieval Reception of the Shāhnāma as a Mirror for Princes (Studies in Persian Cultural History 9) Leiden; Boston: Brill.

Nasrin Askari explores the medieval reception of Firdausī’s Shāhnāma, or Book of Kings (completed in 1010 CE) as a mirror for princes. Through her examination of a wide range of medieval sources, Askari demonstrates that Firdausī’s oeuvre was primarily understood as a book of wisdom and advice for kings and courtly elites. In order to illustrate the ways in which the Shāhnāma functions as a mirror for princes, Askari analyses the account about Ardashīr, the founder of the Sasanian dynasty, as an ideal king in the Shāhnāma. Within this context, she explains why the idea of the union of kingship and religion, a major topic in almost all medieval Persian mirrors for princes, has often been attributed to Ardashīr.

Nasrin Askari, PhD, (2012), University of Toronto, has completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of British Columbia, and will be working on her next project at the University of Oxford as a Bahari Visiting Scholar in the Persian Arts of the Book.

Ferdowsi’s presentation of Zoroastrianism in an Islamic light

Ghazanfari, Kolsoum. 2015. Ferdowsi’s Presentation of Zoroastrianism in an Islamic Light, Journal of Persianate Studies  8 (1). 23 – 41.

Composed in 10th and 11th century ce, the Shāhnāmeh (The Book of the Kings) contains Iranian ancient history since the first king, Gayumart/Kayumars, up to the end of Sasanian era. One reason behind its popularity is the poet’s method and art in describing and explaining ancient religious elements in such a way that it does not cause religious bias among Zoroastrians and Muslims. This article shows that Ferdowsi has employed various methods to read religious issues of ancient Iran in the light of the social, cultural, and religious spirit of his own time. In his epic narratives, Ferdowsi paid serious attention to contemporary beliefs and social conditions, and this can account for the popularity of the Shāhnāmeh and its lasting influence.

 

Ethics of War and Peace in the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi

Mahalati, Mohammad Jafar Amir. 2015. Ethics of War and Peace in the Shahnameh of FerdowsiIranian Studies. 48(6), 905-931.

 

This article provides an overview of the ethics of war and peace in the most important and normatively influential work of epic literature known in the eastern lands of Islam, namely the shahnameh of Ferdowsi (d. 1020 CE). As one of the greatest sources of the Iranian cultural identity for over a millennium, Shahnameh (lit. The book of kings) defines normative ideals in the ethics of war and peace within narratives that connect the ancient history of Iran to its mythical eras and in effect to both the medieval time of the epic’s authorship and modern Iranian identity. By identifying limits, standards and legitimacy for war and peace in Shahnameh, this article aims to facilitate an Iranian contribution to the global literature and practice on peacemaking that has deep roots in the Islamo-Persian tradition.

The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi as World Literature

The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi as World Literature

Iranian Studies, volume 48, Number 3, May 2015. Special issue: “The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi as World Literature

The special issue of the Journal of Iranian Studies, guest-edited by Franklin Lewis is dedicated to studies on Shahname within a  “world literature”  framework.

Iranian Studies is a peer reviewed journal of history, literature, culture and society, covering everywhere with a Persian or Iranian legacy, especially Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, the Caucasus and northern India.
Continue reading The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi as World Literature

The Kurdish Šāhnāma

Chaman Ara, Behrooz. The Kurdish Šāhnāma and Its Literary and Religious Implications. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.

The Kurdish Shanama and its Literary and Religious Implications, as the result of a long-time fieldwork in the cultural spans of Zagros, focuses on the newly survived epic-heroic narratives known as Razm-nama, Jang-nama or Shanama. In this work, author draws attention to the existence of an unexpectedly rich epic-heroic tradition in literary Gurani (a composite idiom used in the Zagros regions) and strongly suggest that this tradition is largely independent of the Ferdowsi’s Shahnama but has many common features with other works of the Sistani cycle of epics and the Persian Naqqali tradition. This work addresses the structural and contextual similarities and differences between this tradition and its counterparts in Persian literature, and subsequently proposes a new understanding of the term Shahnama and the term Xwadaynamag. In this work, Chaman Ara, challenges the common understandings of the concept of Gurani, and presents analysis and descriptions of some linguistic features of the theory of Gurani literary language.
See here for the ToC and the Preface to this volume.
Behrooz Chaman Ara received his PhD in 2014 from the Institute of Iranian Studies of the Georg-August University of Göttingen. His research focuses on the Kurdish languages, literature and cultures.