Art And Culture

Book of Year Winners Awarded

Silvia Balatti from University of Kiel, Germany,(R) receives her award from President Hassan Rouhani (C)  and Culture Minister Seyyed Abbas Salehi.
Silvia Balatti from University of Kiel, Germany,(R) receives her award from President Hassan Rouhani (C)  and Culture Minister Seyyed Abbas Salehi.

Winners of the 35th Iran National Award for Book of the Year and the 25th Iran World Award for Book of the Year received their prizes from President Hassan Rouhani and Culture Minister Seyyed Abbas Salehi, in a ceremony at Tehran’s Vahdat Hall on Wednesday.

Works for the national award were categorized into 72 groups, including books written and translated in Islamic and western philosophy, religion, social sciences, language and literature, applied sciences, art and history.

A total of 28 authored books, 13 translated works and two critical editions received Book of the Year awards in the national section.

Nine titles were announced as winners in the Iran World Award for Book of the Year. The prizes are awarded each year for the publications in the field of Islamic and Iranian studies.

‘A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity’ by American historian Richard E. Payne is among the winners. Payne is a historian of the Persian world in late antiquity (200–800 AD). His research focuses primarily on the dynamics of Iranian imperialism, specifically how the Sassanid Empire successfully integrated socially, culturally and geographically disparate populations from Arabia to Afghanistan into enduring political networks and institutions. 

His winning book explores the problems of religious diversity within the empire, showing how Syriac-writing Christians could create a place for themselves in a political culture not of their own making. The book helps explain the endurance of a culturally diverse (Sassanid) empire across four centuries.

‘Mountain Peoples in the Ancient Near East: the Case of the Zagros’ by Silvia Balatti from University of Kiel, Germany, is another winner. It is a research project aiming at clarifying the social organization, the way of living and the relationship with the surrounding environment of the ancient people living in the Zagros Mountains.

The title focuses in particular on the early and mid-1st millennium BC when interaction between the Mesopotamian lowlands and the Eastern Mountains became more and more intense. The book refers to the texts of the people of the plains (first of all the Neo-Assyrian written sources), which give the best information about the Zagros ranges and their inhabitants.

‘The Formation of the Islamic Understanding of Kalala in the Second Century AH (718-816 CE): between Scripture and Canon’ written by Pavel Pavlovitch, head of the Department of Arabic and Semitic Studies at Sofia University in Bulgaria is also among the winners.

Kalala is an old inheritance law about the deceased who are survived neither by parents nor by any other off-spring. The wealth left behind by such person is distributed as inheritance among surviving brothers and sisters.

 Shahnama, Book of Wisdom

Written by expert in classical Persian literature Nasrin Askari from University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, ‘The Medieval Reception of the Shahnama as a Mirror for Princes’ was another selection for the year book. The book is a refined and expanded edition of Askari’s doctoral dissertation.

Through her examination of a wide range of medieval sources, Askari demonstrates that Ferdowsi’s oeuvre was primarily understood as a book of wisdom and advice for kings and courtly elite. In order to illustrate the ways in which the Shahnama functions as a mirror for princes, Askari analyses the account about Ardeshir, the founder of the Sassanid dynasty, as an ideal king in the Shahnama. 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 Ardeshir.

French art historian Sandra Aube was another winner. Her book is ‘La Ceramique dans l’architecture en Iran au XVème siècle’ (Ceramic in Architecture of 15th Century Iran). A special focus of the book is on the influence of Qara Qoyunlu and Aq Qoyunlu Turkic tribal federations on ceramic art and tile works.

Written by German theologian Klaus Von Stosch, ‘Herausforderung Islam, Christliche Annäherungen’ (Challenge of Islam, Christian Approaches) is another winner. The book deals with coexistence of Islam and Christianity in Europe and the West.

Professor of Islamic Studies Regula Forster from the Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies at University of Zurich, Switzerland, won Book of the Year Award for her title ‘Wissensvermittlung im Gespräch: Eine Studie zu Klassisch-Arabischen Dialogen’ (Knowledge Transfer in Conversation: a Study on Classical Arabic Dialogues).

Forster’s work is the first comprehensive study about the usage of the form of literary dialogue in Arabic literature. Forster studies an extensive corpus of classical Arabic didactic dialogues on very different subjects (religion, jurisprudence, alchemy, history, etc.) from the 8th to the mid-11th centuries.

She shows that Arabic dialogues create a literary universe of their own and use specific forms of argumentation and structuring. 

‘A Critical Edition and Translation of Tansuknama: the Ilkhanid Book on Khitan Science and Techniques’ written by Professor Shi Guang was among the award recipients. Tansuknama was written by Iranian polymath, architect, philosopher, physician and scientist Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201-1274) on Chinese school of astronomy.

The last book on the winning list is ‘Volumes 39-41 of Epistles of the Brethren of Purity’ co-authored by Carmela Baffioni from the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London and Ismail K. Poonawala from the University of California.

The ‘Ikhwan al-Safa’ (Brethren of Purity), the anonymous adepts of a tenth-century esoteric fraternity based in Basra and Baghdad, hold an eminent position in the history of science and philosophy in Islam due to the wide reception and assimilation of their monumental encyclopedia, the Rasa ‘il Ikhwan al-Safa’ (Epistles of the Brethren of Purity). This compendium contains 52 epistles offering synoptic accounts of the classical sciences and philosophies of the age; divided into four classificatory parts, it treats themes in mathematics, logic, natural philosophy, psychology, metaphysics, and theology, in addition to didactic fables.

Epistles 39 and 40 return to the Aristotelian philosophy of certain earlier Epistles. Epistle 39 explains movement and rest, the kinds of physical movement, and the species of moved beings, before introducing the divine Mover and the idea that when He ceases to move the world, it will end. The highly composite Epistle 40 addresses themes beyond the various types of causes and effects, including ‘divine gifts’, God’s origination and organization of the world, emanation, and the frequently invoked analogy of numbers. The main section of Epistle 41: ‘On the Definitions and Descriptions’ defines variously categorized phenomena and follows a diverse range of chapters detailing colors, numbers, ratios, and geometry.

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