Drinking Arak Off an Ayatollah’s Beard: A Journey Through the Inside-Out Worlds of Iran and Afghanistan by Nicholas Jubber - review by Hazhir Teimourian

Hazhir Teimourian

Backgammon Vs the Sword

Drinking Arak Off an Ayatollah’s Beard: A Journey Through the Inside-Out Worlds of Iran and Afghanistan

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Da Capo Press 327pp £9.99 order from our bookshop
 

Cho Iran nabāshad, tan e man mabād

Bedin būm o bar, zendeh yek tan mabād.

(If Iran should die, let me die also.

Let no man breathe in this dear land.)

Perhaps more than anyone, Ferdowsi, the epic bard of the late tenth century, ensured that Iran and Afghanistan are not members of the Arab League today. In his Book of the Kings, the Shāhnāmeh, he gave fresh life in Farsi (or New Persian) to the myths and chronicles of pre-Islamic Persia that still survived in the Zoroastrian, Middle Persian texts and folk memory of his time. 

While it is probably an exaggeration to say that Persian would have disappeared completely if the Shāhnāmeh had not given it new prestige and vast, immediate popularity, without it the language might have been confined to a small enclave and have had no greater presence in our time

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