• Wed / 15 May 2019 / 13:10
  • Category: Culture and Art
  • News Code: 98022513445
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Ferdowsi in world literature

Ferdowsi in world literature

Tehran (ISNA) – Persian literature has not been only limited to a particular region, but a great part of the world literature which helps us to understand the ancient history of the world.

One of the most important Iranian literary works is Shahnameh and an outstanding work in Persian culture and language. Shahnameh “The Book of Kings” is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 CE and is the national epic. Consisting of some 50,000 "distiches" or couplets (two-line verses), Shahnameh is the world's longest epic poem written by a single poet.

This literary masterpiece included mythical, legendary and, historical past of the Persian Empire from the creation of the world until the Arab conquest of Iran. Shahnameh as a great work in the area of culture and civilization represent the strengths and uniqueness of this Persian work gave inspiration to other nations and was translated several times into other languages which represent the strengths and uniqueness of this Persian work.

Professor of Comparative Literature in Imam Reza University of Mashhad, Dr. Maryam Kouhestani in an interview with ISNA talked about Abolqasem Ferdowsi Tusi (329 AH – 416 AH, in Tous Khorasan), not of his biographical information, but the linguistic structure and the cultural-historical context of Shahnameh. She said, “We found that he had observed ancients Poems and writings sufficiently so this was a prelude to compose Shahnameh. He was familiar with Arabic poetry, as well as Pahlavi language”.

Here is the full text of Dr. Maryam Kouhestani in the interview with ISNA:

Ferdowsi started writing the Shahnameh about 370 AH and completed it in the year of 384 AH. This edition was the first version of the Shahnameh, and Ferdowsi tried to complete it for nearly 20 years and donated Shahnameh to Sultan Mahmoud in the year 394 AH on Ferdowsi's 65st birthday. This phase was the beginning of the second edition of the Shahnameh and was completed in the year 400 AH on Ferdowsi's 71st birthday.

Shahnameh introduced as one of the 100 major literary masterpieces of the world

In the bibliography of Iraj Afshar, Shahnameh was translated to 225 times and nearly 27 languages by the 1355 year, and in 1886 Shahnameh introduced as one of the 100 major literary masterpieces of the world. In Iran, May 25 is celebrated as Ferdowsi Day. Every year on this special day the ceremonies of Ferdowsi and Shahnameh hold at universities and research institutions.

Shahnameh was first introduced to English readers by Sir William Jones (1746-94), who in his many essays on Oriental poetry compared Ferdowsi to Homer, his claim that it was through reading the Shahnameh, he found the family of the Indo-European languages. He translated some parts of the Shahnameh into English, French, and Latin, and drew up a plan for a play based on the story of Rostam and Sohrab.

The first significant translation of Ferdowsi’s epic was prepared by Joseph Champion in Calcutta in 1785.

In France, Louis M. Langles, the first French Orientalist, was the pioneering translator  who  set  out  to  turn  episodes  of  the  Shahnameh  into  French  in  1778.

James Atkinson (1780-1852) translated the story of Rostam and Sohrab in verse and prose which is the first fully independent English version of Shahnameh, but not in the form of an epic narrative. His work “The Shahnameh of Persian Poet-Firdausi” was influenced by Romanticism and a free translation of Shahnameh.

One year after the publication of Rostam and Sohrab by Atkinson, Stephen Weston (1830-1747) published privately in London a small volume with excerpts from the Shahnameh.

Another 19th-century translation of Shahnameh was by Samuel Robinson (1794-1884). On 24 December 1819, he read a paper on Ferdowsi on the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, which in turn published Robinson’s paper in its Memoirs of the year 1819.

In 1810, Von Wallenburg began to translate some pieces of poems from the Shahnameh but his work remained incomplete because of his death.

Ampére published paper about Shahnameh in two worlds and compered Shahnameh with   Nibelungenlied (German), “the Iliad and the Odyssey” by (Homer), and “the Mahabharata, and Ramayana” by a Hindi author.

The first truly completed translation of the Shahnameh was prepared by the brothers Arthur George and Edmond Warner. They translated it in the form of blank verse, an epic style of poem in English to be closed to the original one. The brothers worked on the original copy which was in Persian but in some cases were not able to translate the aesthetic feature and metaphorical expressions as the original one, however, they worked hard, the result was not a successful one.

In 1907, Alexander Rogers translated “The Shahnameh of Fardusi”, a very free translation. This rendition of the critical events of the epic was published in 551 pages.

Jules Moul was German and received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Tübingen. He taught Persian at the Eastern Languages School, and was a student of Sylvester Düssy, and in 1826 the French government gave him the translation of the Shahnameh.

The translation of "Jules Moul" is still the most eminent translation and a complete version of Shahnameh. He translated from the original copy in Persian language. Moul spent 28 years to translation Shahnameh into French. This translation of Shahnameh was published in French in seven major volumes from 1838 to 1878 in Paris. This work affected European literature in the 19th century and many poets and writers, including Victor Hugo, François Edouard Joachim Coppée, Jules Lemaître, Maurice Barrès, and Max Müller were influenced by it.

Helen Zimmern (1846-1934) translated Shahnameh in English from the French version – Moul’s translation of Shahnameh. She translated some of the major stories of Shahnameh in prose and in the form of short story rather than an epic narrative.

In 1859, Victor Hugo wrote “the legend of the Ages” under the influence of the themes of the Shahnameh.

Barbier de Meynard completed the translation of the Shahnameh after Jules Moul  death.

Adolf Avrial wrote a book on comparing women of Shahnameh and European women.

Abel Bunar (Contemporary French poet) wrote a book "Iranian Shahriar" in 1908.

Joseph Ernest Renan (French expert) in his book introduced Shahnameh as the great documentary genius and creative power of the Aryan race.

François Edouard Joachim Coppée (French poet and novelist) praised Ferdowsi.

Sir John Malcolm commends Rostam and Sohrab in his book “The History of Iran”.

The British philosopher, Bertrand Russell believed that the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi is in the same level of the Greek Homer.

Hasan Abedi, the professor of Persian language in India and known as the father of Persian father, eulogized Shahnameh.

Rasul Rahim in his paper noted that 12 books and 50 research papers on Shahnameh and Ferdowsi published in Afghanistan.

Shahnameh is also known in Pakistan, Poland, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Dick Davis, a British poet who is a professor of Persian literature at Ohio State University. Davis earned a Master's Degree from the University of Cambridge where he was introduced to Persian literature. In 1970, he moved to Iran and became sick during his trip, an Iranian girl nursing him through the illness. They were married after his recovery. He lived in Iran for eight years and taught Persian literature at Tehran University. Davis has PhD. in Medieval Persian Literature and has written many books, most of which are related to Persian literature. Dick Davis has translated over twenty literary works and several literary works from Italian and Farsi and has a poetry book. Dick Davis in 1992 published a lucid and eloquent version of the story of Syavash in blank verse, which is the best poetic translation of an episode from the Shahnameh.

His translation of almost the entire “Shahnameh” is a distinguished literary work which won the “National Endowment for the Humanities” award. Washington Post has also named it the “Book of the Year” in the year 2006.

The first edition in three separate volumes is illustrated with reproductions of Persian miniature paintings from different manuscripts; each volume has its own introduction. The first volume covers the epic’s beginning, comprising about a fourth of the complete Shahname. The second volume concentrates on the theme of father-son relationships. The third volume is devoted to the history of Iran from Alexander the Great until the end of the Sasanian dynasty. The second edition (2006) provides the complete text of his translation.

His translations of Farsi about Ferdowsi include the following:

The Legend of Seyavash

The lion and the throne

Fathers and Sons

Sunset of Empire

The Shahnameh: the Persian Book of Kings

One of the most fascinating stories in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh is the tragic tale of Rostam and Sohrab; where in the son (Sohrab) is anonymously killed by his father (Rostam). Among the many translations throughout history, there is an exceedingly celebrated versed English version which was composed by the British poet Matthew Arnold and published in 1853. In a letter to his friend John Duke Coleridge, Arnold dedicated “Rustum and Sohrab”, his best poem, stating that: “I have grown fond of this poem, not for the beauty of my own rendition, but for the grandeur of its plot and the beauty of the emotions expressed in it.” Arnold’s primary source and motivation in composing “Sohrab and Rustum” was an article written by the celebrated French critic Sainte-Beuveon Julius on Mohl’s translation of Shahnameh.

While reading a note concerning Iran’s history composed by Sir John Malcolm, Arnold came across the tale [of Sohrab and Rostam], and was determined to versify it, but was ultimately discouraged of the task as a complete version of the tale was not available to him. Arnold also voiced his regret for not having seen a complete translation of Ferdowsi’s epic. Arnold related almost everything Sainte-Beuve had cited from Shahnameh, which made his work at times extremely close to the Persian original.

Matthew Arnold’s verse epic Sohrab and Rustum is not a verse by verse translation of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, but rather a liberal rendition inspired by that tale.  Arnold’s persistence in imitating Homer, most notably his use of epic simile, has given the poem its grand style. Therefore, upon reading Arnold’s “Sohrab and Rustum”, a Persian reader unacquainted with this literary style will be confused, and might even come to the wrong assumption that portions of another text have mistakenly found their way into this poem. This is because these similes are peculiar to Greek epics, especially The Iliad, whose beauty would appeal to western readers who are familiar with the style.

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