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Lyrics of Life

Sa'di on Love, Cosmopolitanism and Care of the Self

Fatemeh Keshavarz

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A creative and analytical study of important facets of classical Persian poetry

This imaginative and accessible study of the lyrical, humorous, social and educational aspects of classical Persian poetry focuses on the works of the master medieval poet Sa‘di of Shiraz (d. 1291), one of the funniest, most influential and lyrical figures in classical Persian poetry. Sa’di, a prominent ethicist and a devout teacher of virtues, stands out for his worldliness, his practical teachings, and his love for living a wholesome life, as well as for his signature elegance and artistry that has compelled critics to call his lyrics perfectly polished diamonds.

In a language deliberately free of technical jargon, Keshavarz argues for the versatility of Sa‘di’s poetic voice and portrays his notion of love as open to multiple perspectives including homoerotic aesthetics. She brings to life the worldly wisdom that kept the lyrical, adventurous, and ethical legacy of Sa’di fresh and effective through the passage of time.

Key Features

  • Includes hundreds of verses in translation, making it ideal for use by students
  • Explores the connections between poetry and lived experience
  • Highlights the role of classical Persian poetry as the 'silk road of the imagination', connecting many polities and diverse ways of life
  • Examines the poetic strategies that give Sa’di’s substantive and sumptuous lyrics their unique status

About the Author

Fatemeh Keshavarz is the Roshan Chair in Persian Studies and Director of the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University of Maryland. She is a published poet and author of six books including Reading Mystical Lyric: the Case of Jalal al-Din Rumi, Recite in the Name of the Red Rose: Poetic Sacred Making in Twentieth Century Iran, and Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran. In 2009, her NPR appearance on 'On Being: The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi' received the Peabody Award, and she received the Hershel Walker Peace and Justice Award.


Sa'di is a poet for this age, and every age. And there is no better gateway to the rose garden of Sa'di's magnificent world than the mind, the heart, and the pen of Fatemeh Keshavarz. Keshavarz situates Sa'di as a deeply humane voice, poetically lyrical, and ethically cosmopolitan. We are indebted to Professor Keshavarz for another masterful and lyrical work that opens up not just Sa'di, but a whole possibility of humanistic encounter with the pre-modern world. Recommended most enthusiastically for all who love literature, ethics, and cosmopolitanism.

- Omid Safi, Duke University

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