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This is a marvelous allegorical rendering of sufism - the secretive and paradoxical form of Islamic mysticism. Like The Canterbury Tales, The Conference of the Birds consists of a group of stories bound together by a pilgrimage. The Way of the sufi is expounded here in tales that are often riddling and sometimes obscure, but full of incident and suspense, laced with quick character sketches and witty vignettes of everyday life in twelfth-century Persia. Above all, though, the poem puts into words themes of love and the search for divine unity; in converying these Attar "has transformed belief into poetry, much in the same way that Milton or Dante did."
Composed in the twelfth century in north-eastern Iran, Attar's great mystical poem is among the most significant of all works of Persian literature. A marvellous, allegorical rendering of the Islamic doctrine of Sufism - an esoteric system concerned with the search for truth through God - it describes the consequences of the conference of the birds of the world when they meet to begin the search for their ideal king, the Simorgh bird. On hearing that to find him they must undertake an arduous journey, the birds soon express their reservations to their leader, the hoopoe. With eloquence and insight, however, the hoopoe calms their fears, using a series of riddling parables to provide guidance in the search for spiritual truth. By turns witty and profound, The Conference of the Birds transforms deep belief into magnificent poetry.
Dick Davis is currently professor of Persian at Ohio State University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His translations from Persian include The Lion and the Throne
, Fathers and Sons
, Sunset of Empire: Stories from the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, Vols. I, II, III
Dick Davis is currently professor of Persian at Ohio State University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His translations from Persian include The Lion and the Throne, Fathers and Sons, Sunset of Empire: Stories from the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, Vols. I, II, III.
"This felicitous translation is a classic and reaches the widest possible audience." David Azzolina, Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania