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Faces of Love

Hafez, Jahan Malek Khatun, and Obayd-e Zakani
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Paperback Book
Penguin Books USA
August, 2013
$27.00 CAD
Banyen's Description: 

Together, Hafez, a giant of world literature; Jahan Malek Khatun, an eloquent princess; and Obayd-e Zakani, a dissolute satirist, represent one of the most remarkable literary flowerings of any era. All three lived in the famed city of Shiraz, a provincial capital of south-central Iran, and all three drew support from arts-loving rulers during a time better known for its violence than its creative brilliance. Here Dick Davis, an award-winning poet widely considered “our finest translator of Persian poetry” (The Times Literary Supplement), presents a diverse selection of some of the best poems by these world-renowned authors and shows us the spiritual and secular aspects of love, in varieties embracing every aspect of the human heart.

And if the wine-sellers says wine
   Should dye your prayer-mat… dye it!
Pilgrims should know each stage’s rule
   And seek to satisfy it.

On this dark night, amidst these waves,
   The whirlpool’s fearsome roar,
What can they know of our distress
Who watch us from the shore?


Hafez’s poems account for the first 135 pages of this volume. Of Hafez, Davis says,

Hafez’s poems are packed and dense, with, as Keats says, every rift loaded with ore… It’s estimated that he wrote about ten poems a year; clearly he revised and polished extensively, and the density and frequent obscurity of his verse would seem to be deliberate… If at some point in his life he had been involved with Sufism, he seems to have thought better of it by the time that most of his poems were written… His verse frequently slips or swerves from possibility to possibility in a way that is quite untypical of most unequivocally Sufi verse in Persian… He doesn’t know, and he says no one else can know either, but he quests and searches…

He chose “Hafez” as his pen-name. The name is a constant pun, one that evokes both the serious and the scandalous, the exaltedly religious and the sexily secular, that moves between both worlds, as Hafez’s poems do.

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