To highlight and celebrate the Persian language, in March 2014, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) will be sponsoring an exhibition celebrating Persian literature an language at the Library of Congress. This first-ever exhibition, AThousand Years of the Persian Book, will provide a glimpse into the Library’s unique Persian collections and the important role that the Persian language has played in world history.

Persian language and literature has a long tradition and a unique place in the history of world literature. It is one of the world’s oldest and best-known literatures – its use coming into prominence as a literary language and a cultural lingua franca over a thousand years ago. As a literary and cultural language, Persian was used mainly in Central, South and West Asia; however, among cultural elite, the use of Persian covered a vast area that reached the bay of Bengal to the east of India, throughout the Caucasus region reaching the borders of southern Russia to the north, in Iraq and the Persian Gulf to the south and in Ottoman lands of Anatolia, the Balkans and many parts of the eastern Mediterranean to the west. For nearly five centuries, Persian was the official language of the Indian court used throughout the subcontinent and beyond.

Over the centuries, Persian literature has influenced the cultural and literary traditions of modern nations such as India, Pakistan, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Presently, Persian is the official language or a major language spoken and in use in nation states of Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Its impact on world literature and history cannot be underscored and should be celebrated.

The exhibition will feature, among many others, the poetry of Rumi, Sa’adi, Hafez, Omar Khayam, and Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh. The exhibit will showcase classic Persian masterpieces such as Sa’adi’s Bustan and Gulistan, Jami’s ‘Uruz -i Jami, the Divan-i Hafiz, and Khayyam’s Rubaiyat. It will also feature a number of Qurans with Persian designs and decorative motifs, lithographs such as the Iskandarnameh (the Book of Alexander), ancient maps of Iran, and unique calligraphy texts. Unique in its breadth, it will include a display of works from modern poets and writers, such as Sadegh Hedayat, Nima Yushij, Forough Farokhzad, and Sohrab Sepehri.

Over a million visitors are expected to view the exhibition, including members of Congress, prominent members of the Iranian American  community, well-known experts   in the  worlds of media, culture, and literature, university students, school children, teachers and academicians, tourists, artists and the general public.

It is a unique opportunity for the Iranian community to celebrate our rich and ancient heritage, the beauty of the Persian language, and showcase the Persian culture and literature in an unparalleled manner.
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