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The History of Akbar, Volume 1 (Murty…
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The History of Akbar, Volume 1 (Murty Classical Library of India)

by Abu'l-Fazl

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Abu'l-Fazl can lay it on thick. The man is a master sycophant, a professional kowtower, a veritable Homer of the homage. In this work, he exalts his patron, the third emperor of the Mughal dynasty, Akbar, telling us of Akbar's extra-ordinariness in every way, from the portents of his birth to the extraordinary accomplishments of his childhood to the glory of his reign (though, this being volume 1, most of that glory will have to wait).

But this encomium is not just floriferous and entertaining; it is also fascinating. For many, the Indian subcontinent in the Elizabethan age is an exotic thought, a distant and unfamiliar world to try to imagine. Yet the empire of Akbar, told to us by Abu'l-Fazl, is in many ways a not unfamiliar world. The characters are lively, interesting, and understandable; they live in a sophisticated, urban and literary culture. The empire building zeal and craft of the Emperor may well exceed the skill and enthusiasm of the British imperialists who would dismantle the empire over two hundred years later. And Abu'l-Fazl is as comfortable talking about Socrates and Plato as he is talking about Muhammad; his world is really not so exotic. While he may lay the flattery on a bit heavily to justify his courtly sinecure, Abu'l-Fazl can also be very revealing about the world he and Akbar inhabit, and very disarming in his accessibility.

The Murty Classical Library is a new venture, and this is among their first volumes. It is an extraordinary offering in many ways. The book is beautiful, with an elegant design and a pleasing heft to it. The presence of the printing in the original is not just scholarly, it is lovely and helps to set the feeling that we are reading something from that classical Persianate world. The introductory material is helpful and well-written. I'm not in a position to judge the quality of the translation, but the English version is readable but still literary, reminiscent in many ways of the always engaging Dick Davis. This is a book to cherish. ( )
7 vote A_musing | Jan 6, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674427750, Hardcover)

Akbarnāma, or The History of Akbar, by Abu’l-Fazl (d. 1602), is one of the most important works of Indo-Persian history and a touchstone of prose artistry. Marking a high point in a long, rich tradition of Persian historical writing, it served as a model for historians throughout the Persianate world. The work is at once a biography of the Mughal emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605) that includes descriptions of his political and martial feats and cultural achievements, and a chronicle of sixteenth-century India. The first volume details the birth of Akbar, his illustrious genealogy, and in particular the lives and exploits of his grandfather, Babur, and his father, Humayun, who laid the foundations of the Mughal Empire. The Persian text, presented in the Naskh script, is based on a careful reassessment of the primary sources.

The Murty Classical Library of India makes available original texts and modern English translations of the masterpieces of literature and thought from across the whole spectrum of Indic languages over the past two millennia in the most authoritative and accessible formats on offer anywhere.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:32 -0400)

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