In Queen Esther's Garden


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An Anthology of Judeo-Persian Literature

Translated and with an introduction and notes by Vera Basch Moreen

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This wide-ranging anthology brings to English-language readers for the first time the riches of the Judeo-Persian literary tradition. The collection represents a variety of writings produced by the Jewish community of Iran—perhaps the oldest continuous Diaspora community in the world. Vera Basch Moreen has gathered texts written between the eighth and nineteenth centuries, including fragments of early documents, verse renditions of biblical books, prayers, religious poetry, secular poetry, commentaries, and historical chronicles. Most of the translations have been made by Moreen specifically for this anthology. Extensive notes accompany each selection to clarify its meaning in Jewish and Islamic history and legend.

Judeo-Persian texts, written in classical Persian but using the Hebrew alphabet, reflect profound Muslim influences as well as the extent of original thought and expression among Jewish-Persian writers. This welcome anthology of their literature provides access to a deeper understanding of the Jewish Diaspora experience, the Persian literary tradition, and Jewish and Islamic history.

Vera Basch Moreen has taught Jewish and Islamic subjects at several colleges and universities, and currently teaches at Swarthmore College. She is the author of Miniature Paintings in Judeo-Persian Manuscripts and Iranian Jewry During the Afghan Invasion.

“In view of the relative scarcity of edited, annotated, and translated Judeo-Persian texts, Vera Basch Moreen’s In Queen Esther’s Garden must be welcomed and appreciated. Although this original book is first and foremost an anthology of Judeo-Persian literature, it offers the reader more than thoughtfully selected and gracefully translated texts composed by Judeo-Persian poets, thinkers, commentators, and anonymous writers. A continuation of the author’s extensive research and publications over a quarter of a century, the book makes accessible to the English-speaking general reader, as well as to students and specialists in Jewish, Iranian, and Middle Eastern literatures, a vast body of textual and general information necessary for a better understanding and appreciation of the literature of the Iranian Jews.”—David Yeroushalmi, Jewish Quarterly Review

“This book is a unique introduction to an extraordinary and virtually unknown literary tradition. Moreen’s translations are full of remarkable felicities of phrasing that both do justice to the originals and read gracefully and persuasively in English.”—Dick Davis, Ohio State University

“An exciting and fascinating view of a great literature, this is an important addition to Jewish cultural studies. Highly recommended for Jewish literature collections.”—Library Journal

“Moreen brings the reader a wide variety of poetry and prose in this intelligently selected anthology. Epic, lyric, and didactic poetry and prose on biblical themes, midrash, biblical commentaries, historical texts, polemics, and mysticism are among the genres represented in translations that always read smoothly; some have great charm. . . . This anthology is unique: there is nothing like it in English or any other Western language. The compiler has done a remarkable service to everyone from the general reader to the specialist. Essential for all Jewish and Iranian-studies collections.”—Choice

“This splendid collection will be greatly welcomed by a wide audience and adds yet another heretofore unseen, indeed unknown, strand to the rich and varied fabric of Jewish literature.”—Religious Studies Review

“This book brings, for the first time, the riches of the Judeo-Persian literary tradition to English readers. . . . Moreen provides an excellent introduction to the entire book, as well as brief introductions to each sub-section. The book is also extensively footnoted and includes a bibliography and an index.”—Journal of the International Society of Bible Collectors

In Queen Esther’s Garden is a handsome volume. . . . It opens up an otherwise obscure body of literature to readers of English, and makes a strong case that this literature should be of special interest to Persianists. . . . Moreen’s background material and rich translations form a picture of a minority community negotiating its sometimes tenuous existence. Overall, the anthology is a testament to the successful acculturation of a community able to maintain its Jewish identity while allowing its culture to be enriched by outside influence.”—Nancy E. Berg, MESA Bulletin (Middle East Studies Association)

Selected as a finalist for the 2000 National Jewish Book Awards in the category of Sephardic Studies
ISBN: 9780300079050
Publication Date: May 11, 2000
416 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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