The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar / ISBN 9780140444346 / 240-page paperback from Penguin Classics
Composed in the twelfth century in north-eastern Iran, Attar's great mystical poem is among the most significant of all works of Persian literature. A marvellous, allegorical rendering of the Islamic doctrine of Sufism - an esoteric system concerned with the search for truth through God - it describes the consequences of the conference of the birds of the world when they meet to begin the 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. By turns witty and profound, The Conference of the Birds transforms deep belief into magnificent poetry.
"Like Rumi and Hafiz, the name Attar conjures up images of passionate attraction to the divine. Attar was a Persian Sufi of the 12th century and his masterpiece is The Conference of the Birds, an epic allegory of the seeker's journey to God. When all the birds of the world convene and determine that they lack a king, one bird steps forward and offers to lead them to a great and mighty monarch. Initially excited, each bird falters in turn, whereupon the leader admonishes them with well-targeted parables. These pithy tales are the delight of this 4,500-line poem, translated deftly into rhymed couplets. What is your excuse for not seeking God? Your life is fine already? You prefer material pleasure? You are holy enough? You have pride, lack courage, or are burdened with responsibility? Attar has an answer to encourage you on the path to the promised land. And when you get there, the king may not be what you'd expect, but you must make the journey to see." --Brian Bruya