From Publishers Weekly
In his travelogue-cum-history, Jubber (The Prester Quest
) recounts his journey into the heart of contemporary Persian culture with the 11th-century poetic epic, Shahnameh
(The Book of Kings), as his Rosetta stone. Traveling through Iran, Central Asia, and Afghanistan, the author finds that the book is a living, breathing entity; the most accurate account available of the psyche of the Persian-speaking people; its myths, heroes, and villains are daily cultural touch points, from dinnertime conversation to pop song lyrics, in village butcher shops and on city stages. As Jubber becomes better acquainted with the Shahnameh
, he comes to see that the best way of getting to grips with this strange, secretive [region] might be through the unlikely binoculars of a thousand-year-old epic, and he uses the epic to scaffold his own discoveries. By book's end, having moved from North Tehran villas to rickety Afghan buses, and having encountered kindness and brutality, technological savvy and vestiges of medievalism, Jubber's account offers a full and satisfying panorama of the region with its rich paradoxes and complexities intact. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The mythical Christian king Prester John was the concern of Jubber's first book (The Prester Quest, 2006); here, Jubber's occupied by the tenth-century Persian poet Ferdowsi and his epic Shahnameh. Translating as “The Book of Kings,” the title enthralls Iranians, though not their despotic theocrats, who are averse to Ferdowsi's pre-Islamic themes. In this literary travelogue of a recent sojourn in Iran and Afghanistan, Jubber discovers sundry aspects of popular admiration for Ferdowsi. Holding a copy of Shahnameh invariably provokes a conversation about or a recitation of its verses, which serve Jubber as his open-sesame to social interaction on his journey. That, like Shahnameh itself, has a destination: the city of Ghazni, in Afghanistan. There, Jubber recounts, Ferdowsi was humiliated by the sultan to whom he presented his life's work. Recounting Ferdowsi's tribulations amid amusing self-deprecation about his own bungling, Jubber renders a lively portrait of the Iranians and Afghanis whom he meets and befriends. Those interested in founts of Iranian cultural pride will be entertainingly informed by the eminently readable and adventuresome Jubber. --Gilbert Taylor