Art And Culture

Davis Interpretation of Shahnameh in Persian

Dick DavisDick Davis

The Persian version of the book ‘Epic and Sedition: A Case of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh’ written by the British author Dick Davis and translated by Sohrab Tavoosi, has been recently published by Qoqnoos Publications in Iran.

Iran’s national long epic poem of Shahnameh, written by the celebrated Persian poet Abolqasem Ferdowsi (940-1020) tells the historical and mythical past of the Persian Empire.

However, in his groundbreaking book, Davis argues that the poem is far more than a patriotic chronicle of kingly deeds. Rather, it is a subtle and highly ambiguous discussion of authority, and far from being a celebration of monarchy, its most famous episodes and heroes amount to a radical critique of the institution, Mehr News Agency reported.

Davis demonstrates that the public world of kingly authority is shadowed in the poem by a series of tragic father-son relationships, and that in both the royal and familial spheres figures of authority are invariably presented as morally inferior to those whom they govern.

According to the author, Shahnameh’s complex aesthetic structure and its tragic resolution of problems of authority and hierarchy make it an artistic artifact able to take its rightful place beside the major masterpieces of world literature.

  A Stellar Career

Davis, 72, is a British poet, and translator. He is professor emeritus of Persian at Ohio State University. He has written scholarly works on both English and Persian literature, as well as eight volumes of his own poetry, and is the recipient of numerous academic and literary awards.

He graduated from University of Cambridge. In 1970, he taught at the University of Tehran. Davis has published numerous book-length verse translations from medieval Persian, including ‘Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz’ and Iraj Pezeshkzad’s novel ‘My Uncle Napoleon’.

The British translator has also rendered the whole Shahnameh into English. The Washington Post has called him “our pre-eminent translator from the Persian” who presents a comprehensive translation of Ferdowsi’s masterpiece in an elegant combination of prose and verse, interspersed sparingly with clearly-marked explanations to ease along modern readers.


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