Now in the name of that Lord who controls / Wisdom, and has created human souls, / Exalted beyond all that thought or speech / Is able to encompass or to reach, / The lord of Saturn and the stars at night, / Who gives the sun and moon and Venus light, / Above all name and thought, exceeding all / Of his creation, and unknowable . . . [Opening lines of Shahnameh translated by Dick Davis]
In its customary tradition to commemorate the birth of the great Persian epic poet Ferdosi (Ferdowsi) in January of each year, the Ferdosi Society of Northern California holds its celebration on Saturday, January 23, 2010. This year’s keynote speaker is the prominent scholar of Persian history Homer Abramian who will examine the correlation between Avesta—the ancient scripture of Zoroastrianism—and Ferdosi’s epic masterpiece Shahnameh—the Book of Kings.
“Zoroaster was the first” says Mary Boyce the British scholar of Zoroastrianism and Iranian languages, “to teach the doctrines of an individual judgment, Heaven and Hell, the future resurrection of the body, the general Last Judgment, and life everlasting for the reunited soul and body. These doctrines were to become familiar articles of faith to much of mankind, through borrowings by Judaism, Christianity and Islam; yet it is in Zoroastrianism itself that they have their fullest logical coherence.”
A crown jewel of the Persian literary tradition, Shahnameh of Ferdosi in nearly 60000 couplets is highly praised by most Iranians as a national treasure and is widely read and studied in neighboring Persian speaking regions such as Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Written around 1000 AD, Shahnameh states the mythical and historical past of ancient Iran up to the Islamic conquest of this country. Legend has it that it took Ferdosi thirty years to finish his masterpiece. A leading scholar of Shahnameh, Reuben Levey suggests “in the Shahnameh an amalgamation of the Persian equivalents of chapters in the book of Genesis, the Odysseys, Paradise Lost, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and Shakespeare. Indeed, it is astonishing how often the vocabulary of Shakespeare suits incidents described in the Persian epic. Drama, comedy, and tragedy – all are there.”
Ferdosi was born on January 3, 940 AD in a village near City of Tous in Khorasan Province and lived to be eighty. His tomb near City of Mashad is a shrine to lovers of Persian literary canon.
Saturday night event starts at 6:00 PM at Grace Adult Center (1197 E. Arques Avenue) in Sunnyvale, and guests will be served with tea and pastry. Contact 408-295-1240 or [email protected] for more info.