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Iran's Epic and America's Empire

by Mahmoud Omidsalar


Category : Home

ISBN No :9780985498108

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The Shahnameh is Iran's national epic. It is a compendium of Iranian myths, legends, and history. Unlike other Indo-European epics, it is not about a war, like the Iliad, or an individual, like the Odyssey,Beowulf, or the Ramayana. The central character of the Shahnameh is Iran, which it glorifies both as subject and hero. Unlike other classical Indo-European epics, the Shahnameh is not in a dead language. It is intelligible to every speaker of Persian in Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.

Following a brief survey of Iranian history from its beginning in the 7th century B.C. to Ferdowsi s time in the 11th century, this book provides a history of the poem and a biography of its author. It offers an explanation of the Shahnameh as a national icon and considers the implications of the poem for the present political tensions that mark Iran's relationship with the West.

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Mahmoud Omidsalar

Mahmoud Omidsalar obtained his Ph.D. in Persian Literature from the Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley, where he also studied Folklore under Alan Dundes. In addition to publishing many essays on Persian literature and folklore, he has also edited the 6th volume of the new critical edition of the Shahnameh, under the general editorship of Professors Khaleghi-Motlagh and Ehsan Yarshater. He has served on the editorial board of the Encyclopeadia Iranica since 1990, and was appointed to the Supreme Council of the Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia (Tehran) in 2006. Together with Iraj Afshar, he edits the series Folia Medica Iranica and Persian Manuscripts in Facsimile. In 2004, the first volume of his collected English and Persian papers received the book of the year award of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance in Iran.

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    Ethnic pride, nationalistic passion, cultural heritage, territoriality and similar traits are all natural hereditary or genetically engrained tendencies that make us what we are, human beings. All human groups, tribes and nations, even the conglomerates that constitute empires, whether in the historical past or at the present time, have regarded and do regard themselves as somehow special, exceptional and superior, if not in demonstrable power or wealth, but in some other attributes that could not be easily challenged. This human characteristic exhibits itself in many ways, perhaps symbolically best portrayed in the often heroic composition of national anthems. However, such self-glorifying expressions and, indeed, beliefs do get in the way of objective scholarship in the study of history and cultural evolution of peoples and nations. A true scholar must remain dispassionately honest, unbiased, and forensically astute in searching for, analyzing, interpreting and presenting the results of his research. In this, Professor Mahmoud Omidsalar has done a superlative job in "Iran's Epic", with a uniquely apropos subtitle, "And America's Empire". The author has managed to separate myths and legends from historical facts, from Iran and the Iranian's historical roots to the clashes and intermingling and exchanges between the Iranians and Macedonians and Greek cultures, to the encounters with the Islamic civilization. The vehicle that carries the narratives through the various stages of the book is the great 1000-years-old Iranian epic, Ferdowsi's Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), elegantly handled by the highly acclaimed master of that work. I would highly recommend this book, above all others of this genre, to all students of Iranian history, and in particular to those, young and old, of Iranian background who live in the United States or Europe. Kam Zarrabi

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