Hamid Rahmanian, a visual artist Living in New York City, believes that modern high classics such as “Lord of the Rings” and “A Game of Thrones” as well as ancient epics, popularized by everyone from the great 20th-century classicist Edith Hamilton to Brad Pitt as Achilles in the movie “Troy,” meanwhile “The Shahnameh” by the Persian poet Ferdowsi, a medieval Persian epic that rivals the “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” in scope, is missing in this tradition.
Regarding this point, Rahmanian set about to modernize “The Shahnameh,” or Book of Kings, in a way that would appeal to those most unfamiliar with it and the history it represents. The result is “Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings,” released last year.
This book has attracted the experts and observers.
“Illustrated ‘Shahnamehs’ are something that have been going on for hundreds of years,” Hirad Dinavari, specialist for the Iranian world at the Library of Congress, but “Rahmanian has brought it into a modern era with his very fantastical computer-graphic renditions.”
The Library of Congress hosted a discussion on the new version in March, as part of the Persian New Year. For this coming spring, Dinavari said, the library is putting together an exhibition on the traditions of Persian literature. It starts with an early “Shahnameh” illustration and ends with Rahmanian’s version, which was translated into English by Ahmad Sadri. “The importance of this specific work is that it is reaching a non-Iranian audience,” Dinavari said.
Each illustration is a cornucopia of images that are fluid, moving and rich in details that would please modern movie-centric sensibilities. There are also rewards for the inquisitive viewer. Among the more obvious large peahens and cheetahs frolicking in the background of scenes between human characters, tiny perching birds, floral nuances and flourishes in the clouds form landscapes that seem to expand the longer the page stays open.
The Shahnameh’s stories span 3,000 years’ worth of mythology to modern-day Iran and the nations once contained in the Persian Empire. In this epic poem,The names, places and animalia may be different from the classics of the Western tradition, but the stories of star-crossed love and redemption remain familiar to readers steeped in Shakespeare, Greek mythology and the other staples of Western storytelling.