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Buy Bijan and Manije

Read a wonderful review of Bijan and Manije by Books for Keeps:

Bijan and Manije

This is a retelling from Shahnameh, the Book of Kings, the Persian epic collection brought together in the 10th century. In this tale a young Iranian knight, Bijan, goes into a neighbouring kingdom to deal with a herd of wild boars and is betrayed by a companion into visiting the palace of a cruel tyrant, king Afrasiab. There he falls in love with Manije, the daughter of the king. When the king discovers their romance, Manije is banished and Bijan is thrown into a deep well to strive. Fortunately, king Khosrow of Iran hears of Bijan’s plight and sends Rostam, the kingdom’s greatest knight to the rescue. Bijan and Manije accompany Rostam back to Iran, where they are married. This is a beautifully produced book, with stunning illustrations by Marjan Vafaian. Her richly coloured, intricate and strangely distorted plants and human figures conjure up a world which although the costume and appearance of the central figures seem to have a historical reality, belongs entirely to the imagination. The illustrations are remarkable. However, I am not sure that, beautiful as it is, this works as a picture book. The illustrations decorate rather than dramatise the story and, given their mesmerising strangeness, the text that they accompany seems bland and skeletal, as if told in a series of telegrams. It may not have helped that the text has passed through three modern authors. Originally retold by Ali Seidabadi, it is translated by Azita Rassi and, edited by Nicolette Jones. It may just be that the tale itself is unsuited to a picture book format and has lost too much in its reduction.

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