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The Hymns of Zoroaster: A New Translation of the Most Ancient Sacred Texts of Iran Hardcover – December 21, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: I. B. Tauris (December 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848853475
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848853478
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,292,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Translating the words and comprehending the meaning of Zoroaster’s devotional poems is always challenging. M. L. West has produced a lucid interpretation of those ancient words. His renditions are filled with insights and empathy. This endeavour is an important contribution toward understanding more fully some of the earliest prophetic words in human history." -- Jamsheed K Choksy, Professor of Iranian Studies, History, and India Studies, Indiana University

"In this new and dauntless translation of the Gathas, M.L. West resuscitates the notion of Zoroaster as the self-conscious founder of a new religion. In advancing this idea, he takes position against many modern interpreters of these extremely difficult texts. The clarity and beauty of his translation will be much welcomed by students of Zoroastrianism and by Zoroastrians themselves, while his bold interpretation will spark off welcome debate among specialists." -- Albert de Jong, Professor of Comparative Religion, Leiden University

About the Author

M.L. West is an Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and a Fellow of the British Academy. From 1974-91 he was Professor of Greek at Royal Holloway, University of London. His many books include The Orphic Poems (1983), An Introduction to Greek Metre (1987), Ancient Greek Music (1992) and Indo-European Poetry and Myth (2007).

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By C. Dalrymple on August 26, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
On the one hand, M. L. West is not an expert on Zoroastrianism. On the other, he is known for his expertise in Ancient Greek poetry, and his work on ancient poetic forms in general. This book came about after West studied the Gathas for his book Indo-European Poetry and Myth and decided that he saw things that other translators were missing.

This expertise in ancient poetry gives West a different perspective on the Gathas than most translators. He is not just looking at the words, but seeing forms, styles, and references that he is familiar with from Homer and the Rig Veda and using these to influence his translation. Not everything is in sync with other translations, but what would be the point if it agreed 100%?

This book is sure to provoke discussion, which is never a bad thing. However, I am hoping for a second edition with a bit more editing. In the introduction West jumps ahead of himself several times in ways that could be very confusing to someone not familiar with the subject. Additionally, in an example given of the Avestan script, the transliteration does not 100% match the script, with no explanation given as to why this is.

West's attempts to keep the translation in the same poetic forms as the original does at times make it hard to read. He accommodates by having one page be the direct translation, and the facing page a synopsis. I think I would have preferred if he had also included a free verse form, if just for ease of reading for those not used to the structures often found in translated poetry.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Will Jerom on May 31, 2012
Format: Paperback
I am hardly an expert on Zoroastrianism, but upon my first reading I would give this a sold 4 stars. The scriptures of the Gathas themselves would not make much sense, but West offers an introduction and prefaces each scripture with his own commentary that gives it much more meaning. Overall one gets the sense that Zoroastrianism emerged from a pastoral community interested in religion as a foil against cattle-raiders and opponents. How it got projected to such a cosmic scale, it is not clear. The dates of Zoroastrianism are at least 2500 years old, if not older, making it one of the most ancient world religions. West's short little work offers an fascinating overview of these excerpts of Zoroastrian scripture.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By OneWho Ceeks on September 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Have been researching Zoroaster for awhile now and most translations are pretty stilted and not necessarily complete. The translations seemed very plausible and reasonable variations of other works. Was thus less taxing to look for meaning vs trying to twist things around to how we think today. Definitely keeping this for reference.
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