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Wheeler M. Thackston is Professor of the Practice of Persian at Harvard University where he has taught for more than 30 years. He is also the author of other books including: An Introduction to Persian; A Millennium of Classical Persian Poetry; An Introduction to Koranic and Classical Arabic; and An Introduction to Syriac.
I agree with 2 of the 3 previous reviewers who have given this book a very high rating. I have been studying farsi for the last 4 years, informally, but with the help of native speakers, and for the last few months I have been reading through the Gulistan with their help. It seems to me an excellent book. The translation strikes me as very readable and, as far as I am able to tell, quite accurate. There are a few spots where my teachers have taken issue with a particular rendering but I think this has more to do with the fact that the text is an ancient one and, at points, genuinely ambiguous. The one negative reviewer criticizes the small number of footnotes. More notes would have been helpful but that would have obviously made the book more expensive and cumbersome. The same reviewer also criticizes the lack of a grammatical commentary. This would be fine, of course, but, then, it would be a different kind of book. The only real criticisms I would have of the book is that for some reason, a number of uncommon words are missing from the glossary, which is generally excellent, and their could have been more entries on the meanings idiomatic expressions which are often impossible for a non-native speaker to unravel from the meanings of individual words. This edition has really helped my study of farsi. And, in general, I have really appreciated the window it has opened for me on a very wise and beautiful text.
Books of this type are much needed in the world of Persian studies. Thackston's Gulistân will make a useful school text: the Persian text is clearly legible, and the glossary (despite being incomplete) will save the student's time. So, as a learning tool, this book should prove most useful. The faults of the book, however, are threefold and cannot be overlooked:
1. This edition bears all the marks of having been produced in haste and with little attention to detail. The preface is full of gross errors of style and spelling mistakes, and words are clearly missing from certain sentences. The translation usually gives a good *idea* of what the Persian says, but it is often far from literal, and in some places wholly inaccurate. There are very few footnotes, and they are not usually very informative.
2. The translation is inelegant and Dr. Thackston has made no effort to capture the feel of the Persian at all. Any 19th century translation of the Gulistân into English is head and shoulders above this one. I had high hopes for this translation, since the older versions can still be improved, but Dr. Thackston's English is dull throughout, and often downright insipid. A reader ignorant of Persian will get no impression of Sa'di whatsoever.
3. The text has no commentary. Grammatical commentaries on Persian and Arabic works would advance the study of those literatures enormously in the West, since commentaries are always more useful than translations--no matter how literal they may be. The best edition of the Gulistân that I have seen is entirely in Persian, heavily annotated (both on grammatical and historical topics) by a learned scholar. This is just the sort of thing that Dr. Thackston should have done.Read more ›
The layout is well constructed, with the English being on the opposite page to the Persian (and you'd be surprised how many bilingual books manage not to do this). An interesting read overall, with insights into Persian culture past and present.
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I am a graduate student in Religious Studies, and I purchased this book because I have used Thackston's introductory Persian grammar text as well as his survey of Persian poetry. I enjoy reading Sa'di a great deal, and being able to refer to the original Persian text is wonderful for me since I am still quite early in my studies of Persian. The lack of vowels may be frustrating for some, but this is where perhaps a later edition of the text could include a link to someone reading the Persian text aloud. Gulistan is an amazing piece of literature and this translation allows English speakers to enjoy it. Those who read Persian (or who aspire to, like me) will be able to make good use of the facing text and vocabulary index.
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