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Ferdowsi: A Critical Biography
Dr. Shapur Shahbazi

Book Review

Dr. Mehrborzin Soroushian


General Information:
Mazda Publishers
Costa Mesa, California 

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Professor Shapur

Amongst the national heroes and the literately greats of all times, Ferdowsi has a very special place. His one man crusade to preserve the national identity, language and heritage of his homeland put him in great personal harms way at the same time that it won him fame for one of the great literally masterpieces of all time.

In writing his 1991 book, Dr. Shapur Shahbazi does a fine job of researching, documenting and presenting the historical evidence about the life of this great poem and patriot. He goes through painstaking trouble of separating historical evidence from myths surrounding the life of this nationalistic figure. He examines his sources and accuracy of his evidence before using it to make determination of the events that unfolded over a millennium ago in Iran.

Dr. Shahbazi with great skill takes us over various stages of Ferdowsi’s life, and gives us a good view of the conditions prevailing in the homeland of Ferdowsi at the time of his living some three centuries after the fall of Sassanian Iran to Arab invasion. He gives us a good understanding of the factors motivating Ferdowsi to undertake the arduous task of perpetuating his sense of nationalism in his master piece the Shah-Nameh, a feat that brought him fame on the one hand, and left him heartbroken over the loss of his son and in financial ruins by the end of his death.

Topics such as Ferdowsi’s patrons, and his relation with the temporal ruler Sultan Mahmud Ghazanvi are given adequate coverage as is the issue of Ferdowsi’s religion inclinations based on the evidence he finds in the Shah-Nameh. Ferdowsi’s longing for ancient Iran, and his perspectives on the state of his motherland are assessed adequately.

Dr. Shahbazi’s presentation of translation of some poetry from the Shah-Nameh into English goes along way towards giving the reader a better appreciation of the person that Ferdowsi was and the moral and ethical standards that he aspired to. The lifestyle and the cultural setting that Ferdowsi engaged in manifesting his longing for the cultural norms of the Sassanian era is brought to the reader in a vivid way.

In short, Dr. Shahbazi does a great job of introducing his reader to the world of Ferdowsi through his book that can serve as a great reference source.