The Conference of the Birds

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By Farrid Attar

Composed in the twelfth century in north-eastern Iran, Farid Attar’s great mystical poem is among the most significant of all works of Persian literature. A marvelous, allegorical rendering of the Islamic doctrine of Sufism - a system concerned with the search for truth through God - it describes the conference of the birds of the world when they meet to begin their search for their ideal king, the Simorgh bird. On hearing that to find him they must undertake an arduous journey, the birds soon express their reservations to their leader, the hoopoe. With eloquence and insight, however, the hoopoe calms their fears, using a series of riddling parables to provide guidance in the search for spiritual truth. This masterly translation by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis preserves the poem’s rhymed couplet form and nuances of language.

Penguin Classics, 2011 edition, softcover, 278 pages.