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Poets and Pahlevans: A Journey into the Heart of Iran Paperback – International Edition, August 7, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada; Reprint edition (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676977332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676977332
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,688,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A fine, fine talent to be savoured.”
–Wayson Choy

“The worlds of poetry and Persian wrestling intersect in this captivating book. It’s a journey spiced with sweat and the scent of saffron.”
–Will Ferguson

“Travel is all about connecting, true, but Di Cintio’s headlocks and body slams take cross-cultural bonding to a new level. . . . Though its subject is wrestling, this is much more a book about putting your life in other people’s hands in an age of distrust.”
The Globe and Mail

About the Author

Marcello Di Cintio was born in Calgary and studied Microbiology and English at the University of Calgary. Di Cintio was also a member of the University of Calgary wrestling team. He graduated in 1997 with a pair of degrees (a BA and BSc) and, he says, two cauliflower ears.

Later that year, Di Cintio travelled to West Africa with a volunteer organization, Canadian Crossroads International, and taught biology in a Ghanaian village for three months. (This would be the first and last time he used his science degree, much to his mother’s chagrin). When his volunteer placement was complete, Di Cintio travelled through western and northern Africa for nine months. His time amid the colour and heat of Africa led to a love affair with travel and resulted in his first book, Harmattan: Wind across West Africa, which won the Henry Kriesel Award for Best First Book and was also a finalist for the Wilfred Eggleston Prize for Best Nonfiction at the Alberta Book Awards.

In December 1999, hot with millennium fever, Di Cintio travelled to Jerusalem to watch the clock turn on 2000. He wandered throughout Israel and Egypt before returning to Calgary to begin his career as a freelance writer in earnest. Since then he has published articles in numerous magazines and literary journals including The Walrus, EnRoute, Geist and The Globe and Mail. His writing received several honours including the 2002 Maclean-Hunter Endowment Prize for Creative Nonfiction and a number of Western and National Magazine Award nominations.

Di Cintio travelled to Iran in the summer of 2003 seeking the connection between Persian poets and traditional wrestlers. This trip to Iran, and a subsequent return to the country the following year, yielded the stories that comprise Di Cintio’s new travel memoir, Poets & Pahlevans: A Journey into the Heart of Iran. Knopf Canada published Poets & Pahlevans in 2006.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Iran Writes on December 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
"Elegant and tasteful" may not fit the language of wrestlers, even if the wrestler is a poet. However, this travelogue was indeed tasteful and elegant.
The author visited only few standard tourist attraction cities; the rest were humble, dusty villages in the middle of nowhere, where he was looking for some zoorkhanehs (sport centers) to see the demonstration of some local wrestling techniques. Wherever he goes, he not only finds someone to demonstrate his wrestling, but he finds a dead poet under a tombstone which most of the time, though not so officially, serves as a shrine for the local people and the visitors. We find the author either wrestling on a wrestling mat or kneeling next to a tombstone of a poet...
I learned a lot about this sport through this book, and I have found its significance and its function in our history. Though this sport was the primary reason that Di Cintio went to Iran, what he came back with is something greater. If I learned one thing about wrestling, it is that it is a game of balance, which is so central to the Iranian life. It is this underlying idea which makes it such a ritual in Iran and compensates for its lack of glamor.
While traveling from village to village in search of a method which those local people use to test their ability to maintain their balance, the author comes to another central issue in Iranian life, and that is poetry. From Mashhad to Tous to Kashan to Isfahan to Shiraz and Kerman and Yazd or even tribal Luristan, our author finds the tomb of a poet. He is astounded to see that he is not the only visitor to those graves. Some of them are elaborate monuments and are shrines for the Iranian people.
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