an Iranian woman inspired this British author to delve into the
beautiful history of Persia. After a visit to Iran and some extensive
research, Howard Lee decided to tell the story of Jamshid. A big part
of the storytelling for Howard was the illustrations which are depicted
in this book and really help tell the story.
We had a chance to speak to Howard about this creation.
us about yourself.
I spent my early childhood in Kenya, in East Africa. Even though it has
been many years since I was there, I still have a great fondness for
Kenya. Most people who have lived there find that wherever they live
after, an echo of Africa remains forever in their thoughts. I moved to
England for my secondary education and I went to London University to
study Geology. It was there that I met my wife, Mojgan, who is from
''I was also blown-away by the scale of the place'' -
PM: How did you become interested in the story of Jamshid?
I had the privilege of visiting Takht-e Jamshid (Persepolis) with my
wife's family during one of our visits to Iran. It was the sight of my
son Daniel, looking through one of the windows that his ancient
namesake must have looked out of 2500 years ago, that made a deep
impression on me. I was also blown-away by the scale of the place and
its sophistication. From the engineering of the interlocking stone
blocks, to the elegant curves and delicate sculpture of the
bas-reliefs, I was profoundly impressed. The idea that it was not
constructed with slaves, and that the lead construction contractor was
apparently a woman, was also amazing for those times. I began to wonder
what it must have been like to live there every day, surrounded by such
splendor, in a land already ancient with the passing of older empires.
PM: What kind of research did you do to be able to write about the book?
The setting of the book is as real as I could make it, based on my
research using published literature, and also my visits to Iran. As
well as visiting Takht-e-Jamshid, I also visited the caves of Ali Sadr,
and the ruins of Ekbatana (both of which feature in my book). I found
relatively little information published on the every day lives of
people in Achamaenid Persia, so I had to extrapolate the rest from what
I knew of Persian culture today (like Nowruz, Ta'rof, an of course the
wonderful food!). It is a great shame that much of what we “know” about
this era is from the Greek accounts, which were hugely biased. I hope
that some day a fresh cache of clay tablets may be found sufficiently
preserved to give a contemporary Persian perspective.
The plot of my story is pure fiction, but I drew upon the magical
beasts depicted at Takht-e-Jamshid along with Ancient Persian and
Mesopotamian Myths to weave the fantasy element into my story. Lastly,
the names are either names of people that I know or they are ancient
Persian names from that time.
PM: What would you do if you lived in Jamshid's time?
That rather depends on the ‘class' I lived in. Let us assume that I was
rich and privileged enough to be associated with the court of the
Emperor. In that case I would be a scientist, like the character
Parthesus in my book. I would take advantage of the unprecedented law
and order, and modern highway system (the Royal Roads) to travel the
Empire and study the peoples and traditions I found, as well as the
rocks and astronomy. I think that under Cyrus and then Darius, there
was comparative tolerance of new ideas and freedom of expression, which
must have been an age of enlightenment. I will always wonder how much
influence this had on neighboring Greece and thinkers such as
Pythagoras, and thence ultimately an influence on western culture.
PM: How do you imagine Persepolis looked in real life?
That is something I struggled with during my research. I was able to
find illustrations of parts of it and there were some overall views,
but I still felt there was too much left to the imagination. More
recently, there have been some excellent 3D renderings on the web, at http://www.3dparse.com/ and http://www.persepolis3d.com/ .
But, to really answer your question, I have to think what it must have
been like for the ordinary person of the day, or a visiting official
from the provinces. I think the sheer immensity would have been
overwhelming, rather like one of us today stepping onto some vast alien
intergalactic spacecraft. The decoration, colors and gold would have
added to the effect. It must have given the impression that the Persian
Empire was all powerful, almost magical. I guess that was part of the
PM: What are you working on next?
Right now, I am creating a woodland garden for our house, which is
taking all my time for the moment. I am also incubating an idea for a
sequel to Jamshid, which is likely to be a darker story.
Desert Island. Three things. What will you take?
HL: 1 ) IPod (with a solar-powered charger), 2 ) Paper, pencils, brushes and paints, and 3 ) The complete works of Shakespeare
For more information
on Howrad Lee and his book, please
visit his website