A Thousand Years of the Persian Book: A Curator’s Tour


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington DC. [Music]>>HIRAD DINAVARI: Hi,
I’m Hirad Dinavari, the Iranian World Reference
Specialist at the Library of Congress. I’m responsible for Persian
Language, other Iranic languages. I want to welcome you
to this amazing exhibit, 1,000 Years of the Persian Book. We have a large Persian speaking
community in the Washington, DC, and California regions
which are Iranian, Afghan, and Tajik background,
and essentially live in the United States and
this is their heritage. We are trying to show
you the background which is often lost in modern times. The lingua franca aspect of
Persian, a common language of an entire region, and this
exhibit goes out of its way to not just focus on Iran
but also show you works and the Persian language
materials from all the areas that use the language —
Afghanistan, Tajikistan, historically in Mughal India,
the Ottoman Empire, Central Asia. [Music]>>Persian is an Indo-European
language, actually closely related to English, German,
French, Spanish, Hindi, and related to Sanskrit and Latin. And it is crucial to
understand that Persian is one of the number of Iranic languages. There are a number of languages from
the Indo-European Iranian family. Of course, Persian is
the west’s best known. However Pashto, Kurdish,
Ossetic, Balochi, these are other Iranic languages
that are related to Persian closely. And there are a number of
regional names for the language. Many Iranian Americans here have
started to use the term Farsi. In the native language
they call it Farsi as well. In Afghanistan, both
Farsi and Dari are used. So, many Afghans would refer
to the language as Dari. And under the Soviet influence
in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the language is referred
to as Tajiki. In English we have a historic
name for the language and the name in English has always been Persian. And this is why we are using
the term Persian and the Library of Congress uses the term
Persian for the language. [Music]>>We decided to explain the
history through the writing systems, the scripts of the language, and
we have selected three panels. First panel is an example
of the Cuneiform script. As you see, the writing
system is taken from ancient Mesopotamian Cuneiform. This is the Persian that here you’re
familiar with through the stories of the Bible, Queen Esther,
King Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes. I also want to bring to
your attention this replica of the famous Cyrus cylinder. This was a very important
document in the ancient Near East. We are using this beautiful
replica as an example of how cuneiform would have
been used in ancient Persian. Second panel is the Pahlavi
language, or Middle Persian. And even though it
is Middle Persian, the writing system is borrowed, or taken from the Aramaic
or Syriac language. Third panel, and the focus of
the exhibition is modern Persian, the last thousand years
plus and it written in the modified Arabic script. But, Persian of course
has an additional number of letters as well. And the last thousand
years, more or less, the language has been
written in this script. However, as we go through
the exhibit you will see that modern Persian, which is
the period we are talking about. And yes, modern Persian does
go back a thousand years, which is quite an achievement — modern Persian is also
written in additional scripts. And Jewish Persian communities did
write Persian in the Hebrew script and the language is
known as Judeo-Persian. So in medieval times we have a body
of literature that looks like Hebrew but actually it’s Persian
and Hebrew script. And areas that fell under czarist
Russian and then Soviet rule in Central Asia – today’s
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, where there are large
Persian speaking communities, experimented with writing Persian
first with the Latin script and presently in the
Cyrillic script. Hence today, Tajik Persian
is written in Cyrillic. [Music]>>I also want to showcase
this amazing map that you see. We decided not to go with the
modern map that is political and based on nation states. We went with a thematic map
that is from the 1700’s. It’s a Dutch map in
the language of Latin. It’s showing you the
cultural world of Persian. It shows you the areas to the
east from the Indus River, what is the border of present-day
India, all the way coming west to the Tigris and Euphrates,
what is present-day Iraq. The areas you see in color, highlighted what is present-day
Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, coming up into the
Caucasus and Azerbaijan are where the language was spoken on a
day-to-day basis by native speakers. As we explain in the exhibition,
the Persian language was also used as lingua franca, a language of
culture and elites extensively for 600 years in India,
in Moghul India, from the 1500’s to the 1900’s. For many centuries, it
was the official language of the Indian Court and the Ottoman
Empire in the west also used Persian in addition to Ottoman
Turkish, and Arabic. Persian became a language of
literature, of historiography, and also some scientific works. So it became an international lingua
franca to which many contributed and it wasn’t narrowly identified
with a specific ethnic group. [Music]>>Every language in the world
has areas of strength and areas in which it has excelled in. Persian is best known for
its literary tradition and its contributions in the
fields of literature and poetry. The Shahnameh is the seminal
piece of Persian literature that really set forth and formed
the modern Persian language in a very substantial way. Around the 7th, 8th Century,
after Persia became part of the Islamic world,
Persian was on the decline. The language was not being used. But by the 10th Century Eastern
parts of the Islamic Empire, the Abbasids that ruled out of
Baghdad, became little too far flung and Arabic was not as dominant. Regional rulers and dynasties that
arose – the Samanids, the Saffarids, the Ghaznavids, started to
encourage the use of Persian. And this was a new modern
Persian, a Persian that was derived from Middle Persian, from Pahlavi,
but used Arabic vocabulary, was written in Arabic script,
and the language was strengthened by this amazing work produced
by the poet and the writer, Firdawsi who started his
work under the Samanid court. And in 977, he started to
compile works and stories from the ancient Persian,
Sasanian pre-Islamic Persia, works that were often in Middle
Persian, and he composed it and translated it into modern
Persian but into verse, into poetry. He created a work, the Shahnameh, that essentially encompasses
62 stories, 990 chapters, and it is 50,000 rhyming couplets. A very important work
for modern Persian because it set forth a
standard for modern Persian that over the centuries
has become a blueprint for Persian authors and writers. And this has allowed the language to change very little
over the centuries. Today when you hand the Shahnameh
to a modern Iranian, an Afghan, a Tajik, they can easily
read it and understand it. The Shahnameh also became a cultural
and civilizational masterpiece that captures Persian and
a greater Iranian identity but is also multi-ethnic and diverse with many different ethnic
groups represented in it, many heroes and heroines. It is the Persian version
of the Iliad and Odyssey. It has heroes like Rustam,
the Persian Hercules. Many women heroines at a time
when women characters were scarce, the Shahnameh is filled
with a number of very powerful women characters. The language and the
stories became so popular that it influenced the
neighboring languages as well in neighboring cultures, the Turks
of Central Asia, of Azerbaijan, the Caucasus of the Ottoman
lands, the Kurds, the Pashtuns, and the Georgians, all have taken
the Shahnameh and have adapted it to their own cultural and
linguistic traditions. We have selected from the
library’s collection three or four great examples
of Shahnamehs. The library’s oldest Shahnameh is
this amazing manuscript on display. It is dated 1618 in the
back but it’s believed that the text is from 1618. The art historians who
looked at the miniatures feel that the miniatures are older
and are in the Iranian style. The script is the Nastaliq script which is the preferred
script for Persian writing. However, the binding, the
leather olive green binding that the book is presently
bound in is believed to be from the 18th Century, much
later, and from Central Asia, from the cities of
Samarkand and Bukhara. Next to it we have on the
wall an example of a page from a Safavid Shahnameh
from 16th Century Iran, and on display we have a
regional Indian Shahnameh from the 18th Century. The reason why we selected
these two is because they are essentially
showing you that the content of the Shahnameh hasn’t changed but different regions used
their own regional esthetic. On the wall you see a
classically Iranian Safavid style from the 16th Century. In this amazing manuscript,
you see a regional Indian style of Shahnameh book manuscript making which uses the local
Indian esthetic. Both of them are telling
you the story of the hero, the Persian Hercules if you
like, Rustam and his battles with the various demons, the Div. Here on the wall you see
Rustam battling Div-i Akavan and Div-i Akavan has picked up
Rustam while he’s sleeping and is about to toss him into the sea. Below in the Indian manuscript, you’re seeing Rustam slaying
the white demon or the white Div as his mythic horse Rakhsh is
watching from beyond the mountain. Next we have a lithographic
Shahnameh, and lithography and Shahnamehs became very important
because many of the early works of lithography in Persian
that were produced in India and in Iran itself later,
were essentially Shahnamehs. Now the stones for this original
work were produced in 1906 and the book was published
in India in the city of Pune. But this edition which was a gift to
the library by the Mehrizi family, is a reprint from 1913 but produced by the Parsi Zoroastrian
community of India. The Parsi community of
India very much feels that the Shahnameh is a book
that captures the ancient glory of pre-Islamic Persia,
because the stories and the tales are all based
in pre-Islamic Persia. Even though the Shahnameh isn’t
technically an Islamic work, to the Zoroastrian community it
is revered and seen as a work that captures their
heritage and history. And the book has in the
front a page with the image of the Prophet Zoroaster, and an
additional chapter has been added to the end of all the great
notables and important personalities of the Indian Parsi community. Similarly we have another
page from a Georgian Shahnameh that has been enlarged and put on
display to show you how the region and neighboring cultures
also took the Shahnameh and adapted it to their
own traditions. [Music]>>Classical Persian
literature has evolved over time. Of course the first style or genre that is important is the panegyric
epic style of the Shahnameh, which started in the east
of what is now Persia – areas that are today
essentially Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Central Asia. It’s also referred to
as the Khurasani style. The Khurasan is the eastern
Persian lands and that’s the style in which both the Shahnameh
and the works of the great poet,
Rudaki are produced in. Later, by the 13th Century, the
center of focus moves westward to the area presently known as
western Iran or at the time referred to as ‘Iraq-i ‘Ajami if you like,
Western Persia or Persian Iraq. It is this region that you have
the lyrical Sufi mystical style of Persian poetry that evolves. By the 15th/16th Century, so much
Persian was being produced in India, that a new genre of
Persian is developed and it is essentially the
Persian that is developed out of Indian Mughal Court
known as the Sabk-i Hindi or the Indian style of Persian. If we had to roughly
divide our Persian into three styles these
three would be it. But, this is an over-generalization
– there are many styles of Persian. But, these three are the largest
subcategories that exist in Persian. The grandfather if you like, or the
founding father of Persian Poetry in many ways is the poet, Rudaki. Rudaki predates the great poet
Ferdowsi who wrote the Shahnameh. But he does come from the same
period, the Samanid period around the 7th/8th Century. To honor him, I have
selected a modern work of his poetry from Tajikistan. Since he is today a hero and
an icon of Tajik society, this Tajik book beautifully
captures his works both in the Arabic Persian script used
in Iran and Afghanistan but also in the Tajik Persian
script in Cyrillic. And it also has a Russian
translation next to it. The tradition of the lyrical
Sufi style of Persian poetry or ‘Iraq-i ‘Ajami, is a style in
which a number of poets wrote in. Of course Omar Khayyam
was one of them. But, the great poet, Rumi who wrote in this lyrical and
mystical Sufi style. In many ways he is the
maestro of this genre. From the city of Shiraz, the city of
poets, we have the great poet S’adi and the great poet Hafiz. Both of them wrote in
this lyrical style. Continuing with the regional
styles of Persian manuscripts, you have a Safavid Persian
manuscript from Iran that captures beautifully the
esthetics of Safavid Persia with very ornate illuminated
gold leaf. This book known as Licit Magic by the famous Shirazi poet
Ahli-yi Shirazi, is the manuscript that we have used for the banner of the exhibition and
the brochure cover. And it shows you a uniquely
16th Century Iranian style. For the great poet Nizami, who
also wrote in this lyrical style, we chose to go with a
Kashmiri Indian work of his famous work, the Khamsah. The Khamsah or the Quinary is
a long series of five stories. And Nizami is a great poet
from the city of Ganjah which today the Azerbaijanis
essentially have made in their national icon and hero. Another great Persian author that in
recent years has become very popular with American audiences is
the great Persian poet, Rumi. Rumi is a poet that
essentially was born in an area that is present-day Afghanistan
(near Tajikistan as well. Over the years he lived in Nishapur,
Iran, what is present-day Iran, and Baghdad, and Damascus, what
are present-day Iraq and Syria, and he settled in Konya, what is
today’s Turkey, and is buried there. Oldest manuscript here is from 1441. It is the Rumi manuscript that’s
on display, it is believed to have been produced in Shiraz. Although some have also said that it could be a work
from the city of Herat. We have on display the great poet, Sanai from what is now
Ghazni in Afghanistan. The lithographic work
that you’re seeing here by Sanai is actually produced in
India but the reason why we have it on display is because this use of
calligraphy in the shape of animals and birds is something
that didn’t start in India, it started in Ottoman lands
in what is now Turkey. It became a style that became so
popular it traveled all the way to India and even though the poet
comes from what is now Afghanistan and the work is produced in India, the esthetics did come
out of what is Turkey. It’s showing you the
dialogue and conversation of this vast region all being
conducted in the Persian language and a common style and
esthetic that is developing. From Central Asia, we have the great
love story of Yusuf and Zulaikha. In English, Joseph and Potiphar’s
wife from the biblical tale. And this Central Asian manuscript
shows you the elaborate colorful designs of Central Asia in which
they use borders and bright orange and purple and green and colors
that are not so prevalent in Iran. All of them showing you
the diversity of manuscript and Persian bookmaking from a
range of territories stretching from Ottoman lands to
the Indian subcontinent. The interest in Persian
literature in Europe and the United States really
began in the 18th/19th Century. By the early 20th Century
in the United States, the famous Edward Fitzgerald
had created and produced this amazing
translation of the Rubayat of Omar Khayyam, which became a
bestseller in the United States and really captivated American
audiences with Persian literature. On display from our rare books
collection, we have a translation of the Rubayat by Edward Fitzgerald
with the beautiful paintings of Arthur Szyk, the famous
Jewish American painter of the Washington Haggadah. Despite maintaining a
uniquely Arthur Szyk style, beautifully captures the
essence and touch and feel of Persian miniature
painting as well. [Music]>>When you speak of
classical Persian literature, mainly the genre is poetry. Poetry became a very important
force not just for literature. It’s crucial to understand works
that were based on philosophy, religion, science even, history,
were often delivered in verse. For religion, it was crucial
that we showcase the diversity of the religious and
philosophical traditions of the larger Persian-speaking
world. We decided to showcase
the region in two sections in a timeline – eastern and western. For the western regions, which essentially today would
be the Caucasus, western Iran, and parts of Mesopotamia, we are showcasing how the
ancient near eastern traditions, Mesopotamian traditions
mix in with the Iranian and Indo-European traditions. In the eastern regions, what is
today eastern Iran, Khurasan, Central Asia, and Afghanistan, we are showing how the
Indian traditions mix in with the local Indo-Iranian
or Iranic traditions. From there, the next major
faith traditions that come into the area are the Jewish and
Christian traditions which come in through Mesopotamia followed by
Islam which came in through Arabia and equally influenced both the
western and eastern regions. However, in the eastern
regions, Buddhism and Hinduism also make an impact as
we have seen with the great Buddha’s of Bamiyan and Afghanistan and the
great Buddha’s and Buddhist culture of central Asia and
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. After the coming of
Islam in the 8th Century, within 200 years a
mystical form of Islam, Sufi Islam develops
in the entire region. And within another couple hundred
years we have the first form of Shiite Islam or the
Ismaili path that develops. And then by the 1600’s and what
is Safavid Iran, parts of Iraq, and Azerbaijan, the western region
of the Persian speaking lands, the Twelver form of Shiite
Islam becomes dominant. And that’s the Twelver form that is
now dominant in this region as well. However in the Eastern regions,
Afghanistan and Central Asia, people predominantly remain Sunni. By the 19th Century in Iran
in the western regions, we also have the Bahai’
faith that blossoms. All of these faith traditions that I mentioned are still presently
practiced there in the region. We have a selection of wonderful
manuscripts and lithographs, modern printed materials here to
showcase this rich, religious, and philosophical tradition in the
greater Persian speaking lands. The dominant religion of this region
is Islam so we selected a number of items that are on basic Islamic
tradition across all denominations. We have a book of morning prayers that you see there ornately
illuminated in the Persian style. Next to it we have a Quran from Iranian Azerbaijan
region in the Iranian style. Next to it we have a
lithographic book published by the Royal Publishing House
of Kabul for all the judges in Afghanistan for practicing Sunni
and Hanafi branch of Sunni Islam. We have a Sufi Treatise here that
you see from 1520, and this comes from Afghanistan or Iran, and
essentially the Sufi material tends to be predominantly
in Persian language. The earlier works that we discussed, because they are scriptural,
are in Arabic language. And according to Islamic law,
scripture cannot be translated into other languages, it has to
remain in the original Arabic. But as soon as you enter the
realm of mystical Sufi works, Persian becomes dominant and often
it’s delivered through poetry. Lithography or essentially
in Persian, Chap-i Sangi, which is prints made from stone,
stone prints, were introduced to the region in the
mid 19th Century. Earlier on, printing press
modern prints did come to Iran. It was introduced by
the Armenian community. However, printing did not
become popular in the region because calligraphy was a
high art that was very valued and the printing press
didn’t capture the beauty of the calligraphy or allow
for the illustrations. But lithography, which are
prints that are done on stone, became very crucial because they
allowed the beautiful esthetics, the beautiful calligraphy, and
the illustrations to be continued. And here you have showcased three
pieces that are clearly Iranian and Shiite, and I would
like to bring your attention to this beautiful lithography
from Iran. And as you see, this is discussing
metaphysical and mystical concepts of awareness and consciousness. You see in this circular
form human depictions that are upside down and sitting up. The areas that are upside down and that are dark represent the
subconscious mind and the areas where people are sitting
up is the aware mind. Next to it you see in
a circular spiral form, like a staircase going deep
down, down, and further down, different layers of awareness. Each layer has been categorized, it has been given a name
and the use of gold ink. Now remember, these are lithographs and lithographs are essentially
prints made from stone. The use of gold in
lithography is not easy and as you see this is a beautiful
representation and you also see in the Iranian tradition of
lithography, there is a number of human figurines which is
quite unique in many ways to the Iranian lithographic
tradition. Next to it, we have two great Shiite
pieces, the words and the writings of ‘Ali, the son in law
of the prophet Muhammad. And for the Shiites,
he being the son in law and the first Imam,
he’s very revered. And these books would be items
that would be usually used as prayer books on the gravesite
or the mausoleum of ‘Ali in various Shiite religious
sites of Iraq. The one item on top
is an interlinear. Starting in the 1500’s
or a little earlier, a tradition of writing Arabic
prayers with a Persian explanation, became popularly known
as interlinears in which the Arabic
original prayer was written in the bold Naskh script. And underneath it in
the Nastaliq script, the Persian explanation was
there for Persian speakers to understand the Arabic content. Another tradition that
comes out of the Iranian and other spiritual
practices is the Bahai’ faith. And at the very top you see a modern
publication from Germany in Persian of heavenly verses by
Bahá’u’lláh, morning and evening prayers
for the faithful. The most ancient religion of
the Persian-speaking world that has survived of course
is the Zoroastrian faith. The Zoroastrian faith is native
to greater Persia and the Gathas, the holy scriptures have survived. The Gathas are the oldest
examples of religious poetry and were written in Old Persian. Here we have a book from the
Zoroastrian Parsi community of India. This book has the Gathas in the
Middle Persian language of Pahlavi and next to it you have a
modern Persian translation. Beside it, I have from the
ancient Christian community of northwest Iran, the Urmia region,
today referred to as the Assyrians, the book of Ewangeliyon or
the four books of the gospels. The language used is Aramaic,
and present day Assyrians in Iran still speak Aramaic. The Assyrians historically
were known as Church of the East or Nestorians at times. And they have been in the
region since the biblical times. The language, Aramaic is
crucial to understand, it was a lingua franca
of pre-Islamic Persia. Pre-Islamic Persia, both under
the Parthians and Sassanians, encouraged the use of Aramaic
because it was a language that was used in the
entire empire and beyond. Therefore, its writing system
influenced Persian itself. As you see, middle
Persian here, Pahlavi, is written in a script
based on Aramaic and similarly the large Jewish
community that lived in Mesopotamia from the period in
which the Talmudic works and writings were developed
onwards to the Jewish communities who ended up living in Persia. Aramaic also became important
in the Jewish tradition. So right next to the Ewangeliyon,
from the Assyrian community, I have a modern Psalms of
David in both modern Persian and the original Hebrew produced by
Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani in Iran. All of these faiths were
interconnected in the ancient world and Aramaic was an important
language of that time. [Music]>>There are a number of important
works in the Persian language that essentially are on subjects
such as science and historiography. I would like to give a little
background on the importance of how language interplays here. From around the 7th
to the 10th Century, modern Persian was still evolving and Arabic had become
the lingua franca. Many Persian scholars,
historiographers, and scientists wrote their
works in the Arabic language. These works later on were
translated into modern Persian. But, what’s also crucial is Persia
itself was a center of science and technology and historiography
prior to coming of Islam in the middle Persian
language of Pahlavi. From the 7th to the 10th Century,
especially in the city of Baghdad under the Abbasid rule for a number
of centuries, the great works of Aramaic, ancient Sanskrit,
Greek, Middle Persian, Pahlavi, and other ancient languages were
all translated into modern Arabic. Arabic plays an important
role here because it ended up preserving middle Persian
works like the Kal lah wa Dimnah that otherwise would have been
lost to modern Persian-speakers. Subsequently by the 10th/11th
Century many of these works that were now in Arabic,
were translated from Arabic into modern Persian. And it’s crucial to understand the
interesting play of language here. In Iran and Central Asia, Arabic
remained an important language for scientific and
religious writings. So you would see science
manuscripts produced in Iran as late as the 18th/19th Century in Arabic. However, as Persian
became the lingua franca of the Indian Mughal court
and the language of culture in the Mughal court, in India
from the 16th Century onwards, you see a large number of
Persian language manuscripts on science and history. Far more, you could argue,
science manuscripts in Persian came out of India in some
ways that actually came out of Iran or Persia itself. I have a number of
wonderfully illustrated and beautiful manuscripts
and lithographs that represent the
scientific tradition in the Persian speaking lands. The first example over
there is from Afghanistan, produced by two Pashtun commanders
from the Durrani ruling elite of Afghanistan who have created
this amazing book on medicinal and herbal plants known
as ‘Amal-i Salihin. Now the book is a lithograph
and because it’s fairly late in the 19th Century, it has
an amazing index on the side and the index lists all the
primary and secondary sources that went into the creation of it. Next to it from Tabriz Iran, we
have a book on human anatomy. This amazing lithograph focuses
on different parts of the body and it really is intended to be
used as a textbook or a manual in the Dar al-Funun
University in Tehran for educating young
doctors or physicians. The book is filled with these
amazing fairly modern illustrations and various parts of the human body. Here you see depicted is the
dissection of the lower half of a woman’s body and
next to it we have a work that showcases the interplay of
language I was discussing earlier. The author Qazvini, who
is of Persian origin, has created this amazing work
known as “The Marvels of Creation and Oddities of Existence.” The work was originally
written in Arabic which was the lingua
franca of the time. However, the library is proud
to have this in manuscript form in the Arabic original,
in the Persian translation which you see showcased here
and even in Ottoman Turkish. We have it in three languages. The Persian version is beautifully
illustrated and has an amazing map and it shows you oceans
and continents and wild beings, et cetera. We have an example of geographic
surveys which is a tradition that started in Baghdad, actually
by the scholar Yaqut originally in Arabic but became popular
through the Islamic lands. Here you see a Persian
lithographic version of it from the Nasir al-din Shah period. And showcased on display I have
selected the city of Baghdad because Baghdad is a great
place where both Persian and Arabic culture came together. You see depicted the ancient
Sasanian Persian palace of pre-Islamic times and you see
a map of the Tigris, Euphrates and the city of Baghdad
during the Islamic period. Next to it we have a manuscript from
India and this is a great example of Persian manuscripts from
India not produced by an Indian, a Persian, a Turk, or an Arab. The author, James Skinner
is actually British and these were the British
dignitaries and personalities in the Mughal court in India
who had learned the language and were communicating
and writing in Persian because that was the
language of the court, and produced amazing manuscripts. This book discusses the
various castes and kinsfolk of the Indian subcontinent
and the trades and technologies they
were involved in. You are seeing a group
of papermakers in the Indian style here,
and this book itself is from our Rare Books collections
at the library and part of the Rosenwald Collection. [Music]>>On the subject of history, one of
the most famous works by the scholar of Persian origin, Tabari, is his
famous history Tarikh-i Tabari. Many historians in the period of the
9th/10th Century wrote in Arabic. However, Tabari’s work
was of such importance that it was translated a couple
of centuries later by Bal’ami and the manuscript on display
is Bal’ami’s translation of Tabari’s history. And many manuscripts were broken
up and various pages were sold to different institutions. What we are trying to do at the library is virtually
reconnect manuscripts that have been broken up. Other works of history that are on
display are lithographic pieces. We have a book produced by the
Parsi Indian community known as the “Monuments of Persia.” It showcases beautifully the
latest work of archeology that was being done in
the 18th/19th Century by western archeologists in Persia. So many of these works were produced
in lithographic form in India, in modern Persian, to essentially
educate and bring knowledge to Persian speakers
around the world. Next to it, we have a lithographic
book known as Kuliyat-I Riyazi. The page on display is on
current events, current history. It showcases portraits from
recent Iranian kings ranging from Nadir Shah to the last
Qajar king on the throne in Iran. But simultaneously underneath, you
have two rows of Afghan Barakzai and Durrani kings showing you side
by side Persian-speaking kings from Iran and Afghanistan
and the formation of the modern nation states
of Iran and Afghanistan. Similarly we have a memoir
by the Amir of Bukhara, from what is now Uzbekistan. At the time, Bukhara was being
fought over in Central Asia by the czarist Russian forces. The memoir known as “The Anguish
of Nations”, “Huzn-i Milal,” is an account by the
Amir of the troubles that the Central Asian
populations were having with the czarist Russians. It is beautifully done
in lithographic form. The map and the photography
is modern French, the binding is western. However, the lithography is in
the traditional classical form. A whole genre of travel
literature that had started with Europeans coming to the Islamic
world, set forth a whole tradition of historiography known
as Safarnamehs in the Persian-speaking world. Safarnameh are travel
letters or travel books. This time a number of Persian-speaking elites
including this example of Muzaffar al-Din Shah Qajar
or the Qajar King of Iran, they traveled to Europe and they
wrote their memoirs and stories about their visits to Europe. The book however is a very good
example of early printing in Persian and it is essentially known
as Chap-i Surbi in Persian, or lead prints, produced
by single typeset. And here you have an interesting
example of early printing. The library’s most exquisite
Persian language book of historiography is this amazing
precious manuscript of the rule of Shah Jahan, the famous
Mughal emperor of India who produced the famous Taj Mahal. The book is compiled of two
parts, the Padishahnameh which is the first 10
years of Shah Jahan’s rule, and the Shah-Jahan Nameh, which is
the remaining years of his rule. The book is an amalgam or a
mixture of Mughal Indian styles with Safavid Persian styles with
Western European influence as far as perspective and art design. It’s beautifully illuminated
with gold, lapis, and turquoise. Almost every other page is jeweled with precious metals
and precious stones. It is from 1825 and it
is a perfect example of Persian from the Indian world. It is a part of the Rosenwald
Collection from Rare Books. [Music]>>Persian in the Indian style
is another very important style that develops in the
15th/16th Century. And of course the great poet,
Bidil is a great example of that. Here in the 18th/19th
Centuries we have a legacy of Indian style Persian that
continues with a variety of poets from the Indian subcontinent. We have on display the works of
the great poet Ghalib and Iqbal. Their Persian works are very
important for two reasons. In addition to being a
continuation of the Indian style, they also happen to be capturing
the modernity trend which was coming in from the west and Europe. Similarly in Afghanistan, we
have on display a great book by the founding father in
many ways of the Tarzi family. A great Pashtun family
that brought modernity and advancement to Afghanistan. And the anthology is
in the Shahnameh style and it is written beautifully in
the Khurasani style of Persian and it’s showing you the
use of Persian styles across the different regions. Moving onwards, the library’s most
exquisite Iranian Persian manuscript is the small pocket-sized
manuscript with a lacquer binding. All the paintings are done
with a single haired brush, but it’s a book selection of all
the choicest of Persian poems. It’s the great poems
of S’adi, Hafiz, Jami, and other great poets coming all
the way down to the 19th Century. The handwriting is in the
Shikastah script, which is a script that develops later in the
Persian-speaking world, and it is a perfect
example of the love affair of Persian speakers with poetry. Last but not least is a tradition
of bookbinding making from Iran, this is from Qajar Iran and it
illustrates the use of leather and gold but there’s
also a tradition of lacquer bookbinding making. But around the same time,
around the 19th Century, new trends come into the region. You have the great author raj
M rz , who in Iran starts to write Persian in
colloquial everyday language. Next to it in Central Asia, you
have Sadriddin A n who starts to write novels and short
stories and is seen as the father of Tajik Persian literature. In the Caspian region of Iran,
Nima Yushij starts to write poetry, this time free verse,
influenced by his Tabari roots, which is a regional dialect. He creates a genre of
Persian poetry, a new genre, which didn’t use any of the old
rhyme schemes and structures. And similarly in Afghanistan,
Khalilullah Khal l the great poet of Afghanistan, also starts to produce Persian
language free verse poetry. Short story writer, Jam lz dah
who lived in Europe many years, starts the genre of short
stories with famous works like “Once Upon a Time” and
“Persian is Sugar.” This is the time in which works have
been produced for mass audiences. Education of the masses
begin to become important, and you see a number of regional
writers and authors come about. And what is interesting is there’s
no central court necessarily for which the authors are producing, but the main focus
becomes the public square. And regional styles and
modern styles influenced by the west also come about. These styles begin to form in what
is now today, the Iranian form of Persian, Afghan form of
Persian, and Tajik form of Persian. [Music]>>Women writers and
authors have been present in Persian speaking lands
for many, many centuries. There is this notion that somehow
women have not been active. It is true that oftentimes in
medieval times women writers were of elite backgrounds
or were royalty. But, we have a number of
women authors showcased here from the great poetess R bi’a
Balkhi from the city of Balkh who wrote at the same time
as Firdawsi and Rudaki when they wrote the Shahnameh
in the 9th/10th Centuries. And we have other great
poets displayed here. The famous Indian princess,
Zeb-un-Nissa who wrote under the pen name, The Hidden
One, and whose works were banned. Her father had imprisoned her
for 20 years for her works. Today the Tajik nation has fallen
in love with her works and many of her works have been
turned into pop songs. So, on display we have Tajik edition
of her poems and it essentially says in Tajiki “101 Odes”
by Zeb-un-Nissa. The library’s oldest book by a Persian-speaking woman
is this beautiful lithograph from the Afghan Queen and Princess, ‘ yisha Durr n
and it’s from 1881. And this important
woman was the first to start a women’s
school in Afghanistan. And she essentially represented
a new trend of modernity coming to Afghanistan in the period. Similarly in Iran, you
have the great poetess, Táhirih Qurrat al-`Ayn who in
many ways wanted to reform society and became very controversial. Many of her works have been
destroyed but we have here on display the works
that have survived and have been translated
into English. The great poet, Parv n Etesami
from Iran who wrote beautifully in the classical style
and is often compared to the classic poets
of the medieval era. The new trendsetters
and modernizers. From Iran we have the author Simin
Danishvar, the great novelist. From Tajikistan we have the
great author and poet, scholar, Gulrukhsor Safi, a great
scholar of Persian literature. This is one of her latest
anthologies Shulah Dar Sang, “The Flames from the
Stone,” in Tajik Persian. The great poetess, Simin Behbahani
who you have first edition of her first anthology, Ja-yi Pa, “Footprint” that the library
has in its collections. The library also has a first
edition of “Another Birth” by the great poetess
iconoclast Fur gh Farrukhz d, probably the best-known woman
poet of the Persian language. And she is a very important author that has been translated
into 16, 17 languages. Similarly we have the
author, Shahrnush Parsipur who has written many novels
in the magical realist style. A number of her works
have been translated. One book, “Women without Men,”
has become a feature film here and has been turned into a movie. And of course we have a book
from the Armenian Iranian author, Zuya Pirzad, who has won
several awards in Iran and often her stories deal
with stories about Christian and Armenian traditions
and characters that are of Armenian background. She’s become very popular in Iran and is outselling many
men in the marketplace. We have on display here a range
of authors including a page from the Quran, the chapter
on women, S ratu an-Nis . This 13th Century chapter
on women is quite important because it shows you a very
archaic old form of Persian in which the dots and diacritics
have not been set in place yet. I really recommend that you look
at the website and read in detail about each one of these women. They’re all very important starting
with the great poetess R bi’a in the 10th Century,
all the way to the 21st. Mind you that this is just a
small selection of women authors. There were literally hundreds
from all three of these countries and beyond and it was very hard
to reduce to such a small number. [Music]>>Here we have showcased a
number of Iranian, Afghan, and Tajik contemporary authors. I’m not going to get into
detail on each author because they all have
lengthy biographies and I really recommend
you read the descriptions on each one of these titles. I would just like to showcase the
great writers and poets of this era. The great Sadiq Hidayat, who started
a whole new genre of prose writing and really changed Persian prose. Similarly, the father of modern
Persian poetry, Ahmad Shamlu. The great novelist Sadiq Chubak,
who wrote beautiful novels that were really focused on details and were a new genre
of novel writing. Short story writer, Samad Bihrangi, his “Little Black Fish” has
become essentially a sensation and translated into English. The great painter, Suhrab Sepehri
who took Buddhists and Sufi thoughts and delivered it in free verse
poetry but using nature as his theme or muse for delivering the poems. Other great authors of the time
from Iran, have three critics of society and social trends. Jalal al Ahmad, who wrote about
the influence of western culture in ’60s Iran, with his famous
book “Westoxification.” Akhavan Salis who essentially
writes from a voice from the past, a voice from the Shahnameh
or the Holy Book of Avista, looking at modern times and
looking at society in the present but from a view from the past. Or a great writer, Dawlat’ b d
who would essentially be the voice of a peasant or a villager in his
famous series of novels Kalidar, in which as a Kurdish peasant coming
to town, he is exploring modernity and looking at things from the
prism of a small towns person. Then other genres that have
developed from Tajikistan, the great poet Loiq Sheral , who
essentially writes Persian poetry but with a uniquely Tajik
identity and nationalistic twist. From Iran, the humorist writer, “My
Uncle Napoleon” is his famous work, Iraj Pezeshkzad who you
see on display here. This work has been translated and
also been turned into a TV series. From Afghanistan, the great writer, Sultanzadeh who essentially
writes often about exile and lamenting life not being
in his homeland of Afghanistan. [Music]>>One of the oldest traditions
of literary works is of course, the genre of storytelling. Going back to the stories
our grandmothers told us in Persia growing up or the famous
tales that have now been passed on century after century starting
from Gilgamesh all the way down to the modern
stories of the Middle East. One of these rich traditions is of
course the stories of the Thousand and One Nights, here also
known as the Arabian Nights. On display we have a lithographic
Persian version put to verse, known as the Hizar Dastan,
“A Thousand Nights.” And we have an amazing example of
a 19th Century lithographic style in this “Thousand and
One Nights” genre. Of course the heroine of
it, Sheherazad was Persian and the villain also
Shahriyar, was Persian. Another great storyteller of the medieval times was Ubayd
Zakani from the 13th Century. Many of these great old stories have in present times been
turned into children books. On display, we have the
work of Ubayd Zakani’s, “The Joyous Treatise” and adapted
to a Tajik children’s book. Similarly we have from Iran and
Afghanistan works that are inspired by the Shahnameh, the
stories of the Shahnameh that have been today turned
into children’s books. We have the great author, Parvin Pijvak who essentially
has written a series of books on the character Arash
that is from the Shahnameh, as well as Zarrin Kilk from Iran
who has done a series of books on the various stories
from the Shahnameh. This one on display is the mythic
bird Simurgh saving the albino prince Zal. Also, the same character Simurgh,
or Phoenix if you like in English, has been an inspiration
for other artists. We have on display here a
vinyl cover from the works of the Armenian Iranian
composer Loris Tjeknavorian, who has created a number
of operas and ballets and musicals based on the Shahnameh. We have the pop-up genre
of children’s books. Inspired by Ken and Barbie here
in the west, we have “The Voyages of Sara and Dara through Iran.” It’s a beautiful pop-up
book from Iran. Storytelling has come
into the modern age. Graphic novels have
become quite popular. On display we have the famous
work of French Iranian artist, Marjane Satrapi who told the
story of the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq war in the form of a
graphic novel published in Paris. We began with the Shahnamehs,
the old ones from middle ages, and we are ending with the 2013
modern Shahnameh that you see on display here translated into
English by Ahmad Sadri in New York and all the graphics are produced
by Hamid Rahmanian by using images from Indian, Persian, Central
Asian and Ottoman manuscripts and lithographs all turned
into high-tech graphic images. The book is geared toward American
youth and the diaspora communities, Iranian Americans, Afghan
Americans, and Tajik Americans. And it is essentially bringing
the stories of the Shahnameh to the American and
English speaking audiences. [Music]>>I would like to
finish with a number of sound recordings showcasing three
different styles of Persian starting with a few seconds of the Shahnameh,
a few seconds of the lyrical style of Rumi, and of course, free verse
poetry of the Persian poetess, Fur gh Farrukhz d
in her own voice. This recording is from
a collection of stories from the Shahnameh by Firdowsi. Here is an excerpt from
“The Battle of Kumarth with the Demon” narrated
by Parviz Ahur.>>[RECORDING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]>>This recording is from the
book, “Divan-i Shams” by Rumi. This poem is titled,
“I was Dead and Came to Life” narrated by
Abdul Karim Sorush.>>[RECORDING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]>>This recording of the poem,
“Conquest of the Garden” is from an Iranian radio
broadcast written and recorded by the poet, Fur gh Farrukhz d.>>[RECORDING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE]>>[Music]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

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