Vis and Ramin, a review

Left the following review on Amazon for Vis and Ramin, a historical Persian epic about two lovers who drift together, apart, and back together again throughout their lives. Posted here so you too would buy this wonderful book.

I recently learned that I really like Persian poetry, and that Dick Davis was the most talented translator for Persian poetry in all the world, probably. Vis and Ramin is a romantic epic that was written in the 11th century, but could date hundreds of years before. You’d probably think yawn, history but you’d really be quite wrong. Vis and Ramin is nearly timeless and written in beautiful poetic form. There’s very little of the story that won’t make sense, except for a few Persian city names, mapped in the beginning of the book. You’ll certainly find yourself wishing that more people were as emotional as Vis and Ramin were throughout the story. It’s a breath of fresh air from the shallow “TWERKIN N DA CLUB” culture we’re sadly polluted with. What struck me as strange was that this book is an undiscovered secret to English readers. As you can see by the limited amount of reviews here, the lack of any tweets, and the 150 fan Facebook page, we just haven’t discovered Vis and Ramin yet. But maybe somebody will do us all a favor and convert the story into a movie (which I promise would do well).

I was so impressed by Vis and Ramin, I found myself bitter that my high school wasted time on crap like “the odyssey” which was both unpoetic and droned on with overtly literal translation that drowned the entire story of what could have been it’s original elegance. Dick Davis painstakingly made sure to translate not only story and metaphors, but the very rhythm and aural eloquence of the story, which may not be the most literal translation, but one that’s sure to transform English readers into huge fans of this beautiful niche of historical literature.

A quote from my favorite passage:

Men say to me, ‘Vis, hope for him no more,
Despair can’t bring you what you’re hoping for,’
‘I’ll always hope for him,’ is my reply,
‘I’ll hope, and hope, and hope, until I die.’
My love, my hope for you cannot be shaken
Until that moment when my soul is taken,
Since love for you drove patience from my heart
This hope is in me and will not depart.
I burn, but I’ll survive this cruel desire,
Since hope’s sweet waters cool its raging fire -
If hope should leave me I would not survive;
Within an hour I would not be alive.

Some notes:

  • Vis and Ramin avoids much of the mysticism that can be found in other Persian poetry, if you are trying to avoid it yourself or avoid it on behalf of your children, you’re fine here.
  • There are no fewer than a dozen references to “husband-brother” which LOL because Vis takes it so seriously but some writings from this period use blood relationships romantically as a literary feature.
  • There’s a great introduction about other Persian literature and background/significance in the beginning of the book
  • Dick Davis himself said the most eloquent part of the book is the fourth section of Vis’ letter to Ramin (page 340). It ended up being my absolute favorite part of the story.
  • Plenty of good little pieces (rhymes) for letters to your girl, dudes! Step up your romance game a bit.

Image source.
Disclaimer: The quote in the image above is in Persian, not Arabic. It’s from Vis and Ramin. Please don’t freak out.