cover image Khosrow and Shirin

Khosrow and Shirin

Nezami Ganjavi, trans. from the Persian by Dick Davis. Mage, $50 (520p) ISBN 978-1-949445-63-3

This moving and influential narrative love story by 12th-century Muslim poet Ganjavi draws on historical characters from the seventh-century Iranian court. In the work’s first modern-verse English translation, Davis (Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz) brings the story of Khosrow, an Iranian prince, and Shirin, an Armenian princess, to life through highly lyrical rhymed couplets that weave in contemporary language. The introduction provides valuable contextual information for both general and specialist readers: “But for all his innovativeness, Nezami had not turned his back on the literary tradition he inherited; rather he transformed the tradition by combining elements within it that had hitherto existed more or less separately.” We hear Davis’s excellent ear for and skill with rhyme throughout: “The shining sun rose, and the head of night/ Was severed from day’s body by its light./ The night was like a raven, and the sun/ Its golden egg now morning had begun,/ Leaving the darkness as it rose on high/ Beneath the parrot-colored morning sky.” The tale is rich with nature imagery: “In winter a good fire is like a flower,/ Healing the heart with its reviving power./ From hand to hand a flagon was passed round/ Shaped like a rooster, with a fitting sound.” Davis’s energetic rendering ensures that Nezami’s important contribution to Persian literature will be appreciated by wider audiences. (Jan.)