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The Adventures of Amir Hamza (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – October 14, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for The Adventures of Amir Hamza:
The Adventures of Amir Hamza is a wonder and a revelation — a classic of epic literature in an interpretation so fluent that it is a pleasure to sit down and lose oneself in it. The story line itself is endlessly diverting and inventive, and the prose of the translation is beautifully rendered....For the modern American reader, The Adventures of Amir Hamza....with its mixed Hindu and Muslim idiom, its tales of love and seduction, its anti-clericalism….its stories of powerful and resourceful women, and its mocking of male misogyny, is a reminder of an Islamic world the West seems to have forgotten: one that is imaginative and heterodox.”
The New York Times Book Review and the International Herald Tribune, William Dalrymple

“This sensitive new translation by Musharraf Ali Farooqi is filled with lyrical resonance....a marvelous dovetailing of fantasy, history and religion.… Lovers of The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night will immediately notice many stylistic similarities....There's a familiar cast of supernatural characters, including angels, jinns, giants and dragons…..And there's a capacious quality, a generosity of imagination that seems to invoke the layers and centuries of storytelling….Readers who prefer their heroes to be unequivocally heroic and who are ready to enjoy special effects on the page will love losing themselves in this complex yet ancient world of the imagination.”
The Washington Post, Diana Abu-Jaber

“I was also bowled over by a remarkable new translation of The Adventures of Amir Hamza (Random House Modern Library), the Iliad and Odyssey of the medieval Persian world: a rollicking, magic-filled heroic saga, full of myth and imagination. It is the first time it has been translated into English and it is as close as is now possible to the world of the Mughal campfire - those night gatherings of soldiers, Sufis, musicians and camp followers one sees in Mughal miniatures - a storyteller beginning his tale in the clearing of a forest as the embers of the blaze glow red and eager, firelit faces crowd around.”
New Statesman, a BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2007 selection

“It’s hard to think of an epic more dazzlingly splendid….Farooqi has given world literature a gift….Non-Urdu-speaking readers can at last appreciate an epic ‘on par with anything in the Western canon.’ And, with luck, the classical pantheon populated by indomitable Achilles, cunning Odysseus and righteous King Arthur will now be joined by a new beloved hero: mercurial, mighty Amir Hamza, astride his winged demon steed, soaring to the heavens.”
Time International

“Students of world literature and Eastern languages will absolutely swoon if they are fortunate enough to receive this new translation of The Adventures of Amir Hamza…. With prose as embroidered as the tales themselves, the book should be savored under the covers like a secret lover before some filmmaker steals it away and dilutes it for mass consumption.”
Austin Chronicle

“The Indo-Islamic Dastan-e Amir Hamza is a rip-roaring, bawdy, magical journey into the fantastic life and exploits of Amir Hamza, the paternal uncle of the prophet Muhammad....the story is reminiscent of the tales of Homer and King Arthur and The Arabian Nights. Farooqi's unexpurgated and unabridged English translation from the Urdu is masterful….Destined to become a classic.”
Library Journal

“Possibly one of the most important fantasy events of the year….The Adventures of Amir Hamza turns out to be a terrific series of adventures that sometimes recall Don Quixote, sometimes The Arabian Nights, sometimes the great medieval romances….Farooqi’s energetic and stylish translation…captures brilliantly the insouciant delights of the story teller’s voice, and gives us a highly readable version of a major work of world literature that few of us even knew about. The Modern Library has done us a big favor.
LOCUS Magazine

“What a find it is! For classic refernece points, imagine a more exotic, populous, Eastern variant on Le Morte d’Arthur or Orlando Furioso….one is continually seduced by Hamza’s story. Farooqi’s translation is both elegant and earthy….One is tempted to think that only a malevolent enchantess of great power could have kept The Adventures of Amir Hamza from a mainstream American audience for so long. But now, thanks to the powerful enchantments of Musharraf Ali Farooqi (and the support of Random House, publishers of the Modern Library), we can all sit, transfixed, as this most enthralling and ancient tale unfolds.”
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

“A spectacular and literally marvelous Islamic epic that ought to be almost as often spoken of as the “Tales of the 1,001 Nights.”…By the time you’re well into this world of battles, mythical creatures, beautiful royal daughters, tricksters, demons, deities, erotic encounters, slaughters and poems, you are aware, again, of the seemingly endless miracle of narrative in the world….unequivocally an amazing piece of publishing history.”
The Buffalo News

“Having had the pleasure recently of hosting Musharraf Farooqi at a campus lecture, I can testify to both his skills as a storyteller and his love of language. This love comes across in his compelling translation of The Adventures of Amir Hamza. Its rhythmic cadences make his sentences cry out to be read aloud. Like The Arabian Nights: Tales From a Thousand and One Nights, The Adventures of Amir Hamza traverses the territories of the Islamic world; but–again like The Arabian Nights–these tales fascinate for the way they incorporate aspects of neighboring cultures and religions. The hundreds of endnotes, on topics ranging from damascened swords and cosmic mountains to the fate of fallen angels and the greetings used by outlaw Sufis, provide glimpses of the rich imaginative universe of Moghul India.”
—David J. Pinault, Religious Studies Department, Santa Clara University

About the Author

Ghalib Lakhnavi was a writer and poet who worked in India in the nineteenth century. His only known work is the one-volume Dastan-e Amir Hamza (1855).

Abdullah Bilgrami taught Arabic in Kanpur, India. His only known work is his enlargement of Ghalib Lakhnavi’s Dastan-e Amir Hamza (1871).

Musharraf Ali Farooqi is an author and translator. He has translated works by the contemporary Urdu poet Afzal Ahmed Syed and is currently working on the Urdu Project (www.urduproject.com), an online resource for the study of Urdu language and literature.

Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a prolific author and editor.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Paperback: 992 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Reprint edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812977432
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812977431
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,928,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Naheed K. Haider on December 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is delightfully written as a translation from the Urdu text. As I read, it has the flowery descriptiveness of the old Urdu stories, leaving me with a feeling as if I was reading an Urdu book. It is well written, is interesting and the story is captivating. This book is one to keep in your personal library and pass on as a gift to family members. As our Urdu language seems to be withering away maybe this will preserve the stories if not the language itself. The author has done a wonderful job !!
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Format: Paperback
As someone who has read the Urdu kid's version of the Dastanay Mir Humza by Maqbool Jahangir I think this translation is prettier. His prose is stunningly beautiful. I remember when I was in college- an English major at that time, I happened to read an English translation of Sohrab and Rustum and in that too the prose was absolutely beautiful. So I have a theory that Farsi and old urdu translated into English makes for beautiful prose.

When I was reading the kid's Urdu version by Maqbool Jahangir I was like these books must be for boys with all the "jungs" (battles) and the machismo of the heroes.

Anyway I thank Farooqi for translating this. It's such a pleasure to read this instead of the other two trends in work that is coming from Pakistani writers. One trend is the Jamatay Islami conspiracy theories type books that puts whoever reads them in a bad mood and the other trend is the very embarrassing novels about messed up people doing strange inappropriate things that you can't share with other people. This translation introducing us to the beauty and exoticism inherent in that culture is a great change and I hope Farooqi will be translating more Urdu literary works for us.

This book is also great to give as a present.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Musharraf Farooqi has done a great service to both Urdu and English literature by translating this all-time classic. It really captivates you so much that once you start reading it, you want to read more and more and that makes finishing this book much quicker than you anticipate. You never lose interest and find yourself taken back to the ancient times Arabia and Persia. The intensity and depth of imagination is amazing and I found it much more interesting and fascinating than Harry Potter or any other book of fiction that I ever read. I hope the translator will keep up his good efforts and translate more of Urdu classics (like Tilsim-e-Hoshruba).

Good job Mr. Farooqi, and many thanks!
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Format: Paperback
Having read the Urdu version (Das'taa'n'ae' Amir Hamza) by Maqbool Jahangir during my pre-teen years, I found the English Version to be very interesting and sweet. The funny episodes are still there. The prose is rich but requires concentration to connect the dots. The friendship of Amir and his friends is a reminder of the value of friendship and how it impacts one's life. There are many other lessons in this fairy tale like journey, but all in all it's an entertaining read.

As I galloped through this voluminous book, I could feel the affection, the association and the special reverence the translator held for the characters in this magical saga. It must have required a lot of persistence and effort to translate this brilliant piece of work for the non-Urdu speaking readers. The adventures cover the entire world and the reader can easily sit down and lose herself in the "magic filled heroic saga".

It is very clever of the original writer to choose long names for his characters. The names leave the reader with a lasting image. For the true fans of the Das'taan(Adventures), it is real hard to forget the names. To assist the readership, at the end, a chapter is devoted to the list of characters, historic figures, deities, and mythical beings. The list describes the meaning of each name and its relevance.

The print is small to keep the number of pages down (perhaps), but each chapter is loaded with funny episodes, rich culture, poetical ballads and interactions that bring smile to one's face. Each chapter covers a story but the reader craves for the next episode. The adventures are a collection of Four Books. I am enjoying my journey through the first one.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Musharraf Ali Farooqi has done a great service to the literary community by this translation. Books like this and "Tilism-e-hosh ruba" rival, and in many ways are better than, the likes of Lord of the rings and Harry Potter in the richness of characters and the story line. A carefully translated work, such as this, can go a long way to introduce the immense Urdu literary tradition to the English speaking audience. Farooqi sahib hats off to you for your hard work and perseverance, hopefully you will continue your good work and translate some more gems.
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Format: Hardcover
A treasure trove of wonderful, imaginative stories resides in the collective psyche of the Indian subcontinent. In Sanskrit, there is the mammoth "Ocean of Story," a collection of fairy tales and folklore that goes back to the mingling of Aryan and Dravidian stocks some four millennia ago. Many Indian story motifs found their way into the "Arabian Nights" tales -- that Middle Eastern cornucopia of adventures and wonder-tales beloved by Arabs since the Middle Ages and ultimately taken to heart by the West.

Then there are the countless stories of Hamza, uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, first spun by storytellers in Persia, and elaborated and multiplied in Mughal India. These tales found their way into Urdu, the language of Pakistan, and a 19th-century edition, complete and unabridged, has just been translated into English for the first time.

The stories are the printed fossils of an oral tradition that vanished with the death of the last of the professional storytellers, or dastangos, in 1928. But what vibrant fossils they are!

Amir Hamza, as articulated here, is not your average uncle. A superhero of Mughal vintage, he travels the world - and beyond - with his sidekick, the wily Amar Ayyar, battling evil and setting things right. He even ventures to the realm of the jinn, the distant Mountains of Qaf, and crushes a demon rebellion to restore the rightful jinn emperor to his throne.

The translation of these stories by Pakistani-Canadian scholar Farooqi is masterful and a true delight for all manner of readers. The book contains nearly a thousand pages. If you prefer to sample rather than read straight through, the tales are generally short and self-contained. But prepare yourself to be swept up by the relentless wave of narrative, which could very well carry you from beginning to end before you realize it.

[A version of this review appeared in Saudi Aramco World, Sep/Oct 2008]
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