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New Translation of 'Persian Book of Kings'

Iranians are in the middle of a 13-day celebration of the Persian New Year, Nowruz. It's an ancient tradition that dates back before the Arab conquest of the Persian Empire in the 7th century.

Just in time for the celebration, there's a new English translation of the Shahnameh, the "Persian Book of Kings." The epic was written over the course of 35 years, begun in the 10th century and finished in the 11th century by the poet Abolqasem Ferdowsi when the Persian Empire was a memory and Arabs dominated what is now the nation of Iran.

The story told in the Shahnameh begins with the origins of the world, recounts myths and legends of ancient times, then traces centuries of royal lineage, ending with the Arab invasion of Persia.

Translator Dick Davis is currently professor of Persian at Ohio State University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He takes an unorthodox approach to the epic, transforming Ferdowsi's verse into a combination of poetry and prose.

The Shahnameh's 60,000 couplets of Farsi roughly translate to 100,000 lines of English verse. It evolved from earlier oral epics and a Persian history commissioned by the royal family.

Davis says his translation is an effort to more closely mimic the cadence and feel of how storytellers have recited the Shahnameh for 1,000 years.

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