Written by the Persian poet and mystic Farid ud-Din Attar, The Conference of the Birds tells the story of the birds of the world in search of their mythological king – the Simorgh. The birds represent different characteristics found in human nature, each making excuses for not embarking on the spiritual journey. In this edition, I have selected thirteen stories from the Penguin Classics translation by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis (London, 1984) and illustrated them using a fluid and decorative style of calligraphy called Jali Diwani.
Each chapter begins with a passage from the book, followed by the name of the bird in Jali Diwani. A line from the Arabic version of the poem (with a literal English translation) that represents the essence of each story is then illustrated and broken into its component elements using the system explained on the bookmark. The system is designed to enable readers to understand the meaning, reading direction and flow of the calligraphy, giving greater insight into the intricacies of Arabic script.
The book concludes with a glossary of the Arabic alphabet in Jali Diwani and interpretations of the letters according to Sufi mystical values. This project aims to celebrate Eastern culture in the West, creating a bridge between these two worlds and spreading light upon some beautiful mythologies of the East.
Farah K. Behbehani