"'So why do you read Shahnameh? You want to know how we defeat our enemies?'
I'm puzzled. Are we talking about the same book? The same thousand-year-old book? Sure, there might be a lot of battles in it - in fact, there are times when you wonder if there is ever going to be anything else. But the warriors of the Shahnameh fight with bows and spears and occasionally an ox-headed mace - it's not exactly the stuff of modern-day warfare. 'Because,' he says, 'if you read Shahnameh, you can understand why we will never let foreigners rule our country.'"
Shortlisted for the Dolman Travel Book Award and the Toison d'Or Travel Book Prize (French Edition - A la barbe des Ayatollahs).
Living in the house of an Iranian dissident author, I learned about a world teeming with history and culture. Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard is my attempt to make sense of the region's tumultuous present by delving into the ancient tales of the celebrated poet Ferdowsi, discovering how these stories resonate for people in the Persian-speaking world today.
"In an age when it is fashionable to travel with a fridge, Nicholas Jubber's decision to take an 11th-century epic poem as his travelling companion to Iran and Afghanistan can only be admired...One of the great pleasures of this book, particularly for anyone unfamiliar with Iran, is how far removed it is from the weary-dreary media narrative we know so well... Poetry, not prose, is the order of the day here."
Justin Marozzi, The Spectator
Read an extract.
Reviews for Drinking Arak off an Ayatollah's Beard
'The mark of an accomplished storyteller is the ability to draw the reader effortlessly into a tale, using a light touch to explain complex, esoteric concepts. This is such a narrative…' Geographical Magazine
'Having moved from North Tehran villas to rickety Afghan buses, and having encountered kindness and brutality, technological savvy and vestiges of medievalism, Jubber's account offers a full and satisfying panorama of the region with its rich paradoxes and complexities intact.' Publishers Weekly
**** 'Jubber blends anecdote and analysis to show how Iranians negotiate being Persian and Islamic...(His) modern-day journey takes him through Helmand province and deep into Taleban country, where he has to pretend to be mute. The sheer preposterousness of this part of the quest makes it quite endearing and Jubber is a perceptive guide to a fascinating culture.' Metro
Jubber presents his journey just as it happened, and the raw emotion and experience come through his words. One can almost feel sand on one’s face as Jubber travels through Afghanistan to learn more about the Shahnameh...' The Library Journal
'An engaging book full of intriguing insights into little-visited countries.' Wanderlust Magazine
'This is the best
sort of travel book....Jubber’s cast is made up not of government
officials or clerics, but of bruised but unbowed ordinary people,
whose Persian spirit is kept alive by the flame of poetry... It is
important to understand this aspect of the Persian character, and
Jubber has touched the heart of the matter in a lively and readable
way.' Journal of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs