One hundred and fifty years after Thoreau praises the great Persian poet Sa’di in his masterpiece Walden, comes a pilgrim from Iran to speak of his own love of Thoreau and to describe his experience of reading Walden as one of the greatest books of his life.
As early as Alireza Taghdarreh can remember, one of his grandfathers, a tailor, would recite to him the poetry of the Persian poet Rumi. Taghdarreh’s maternal grandfather recited for him the poetry of Sa’adi. By the time he was ready for higher education, the government of Iran had changed, universities were closed, and music schools were no more. In 1982, with the aid of a $1 pocket radio, Voice of America, and the BBC, Taghdarreh taught himself English, recording the broadcasts and listening to the quotations many times to memorize them. Having connected with Thoreau’s writings, he undertook the labor of translating Walden into his native Persian, a task others more educated had begun and given up. Via the Internet, including a Walden “list” on Yahoo, he sought help with English nuances and puns from the most prominent Thoreau scholars. With the ten-year project of translating Walden completed and ready for publication in July 2015, the Thoreau Society and the Thoreau Institute brought Taghdarreh to the U.S., his first trip outside of Iran, where he visited Concord and Walden Pond—the places Thoreau and Emerson read and admired the Persian poets who have always been part of his life.