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The Root of Wild Madder: Chasing the History, Mystery, and Lore of the Persian Carpetby Brian Murphy
Synopses & Reviews
Wisdom of a Turkmen proverb.
The Root of Wild Madder opens with an invitation that flows from the same ancient inspiration. "A carpet is poetry itself," an Iranian carpet merchant declares to author Brian Murphy. "You just have to learn to read them." So begins a journey. It follows Persian carpets from the remote villages of Afghanistan and Iran where they are woven — often by young girls — and on to the bazaars where they are traded, to the Sufis and mystic poets who find grace and magic in their timeless designs, and, finally and unexpectedly, to a carpet showroom in New York.
Told in exquisite prose befitting one of the world's loveliest art forms, The Root of Wild Madder eloquently chronicles how carpets embody humanity's endless striving for unattainable perfection. Here are stories of the weavers and their dreams, the "mules" who move the carpets from place to place, the tradesmen who sell them in the bazaars, and the refugee compelled to trade a carpet he believes contains the soul of his grandmother — because his family must eat.
The madder plant has fed the carpets' red brilliance since the earliest weavings. But the power of its palette, like the dyers' traditions, threatens to pass from memory. It would be a profound loss. It's part of a world as rich as any sublime carpet: steeped in spirituality, culture, allegory, and, above all, mystery. Nearly all the carpet masterworks are anonymous art for the ages, and Murphy seeks out their glorious hidden narratives. As he observes, "Every carpet carries its own distinctive voice. Suddenly I wanted to hear them."
"Murphy, an AP religion reporter, presents his travels across the zone where Persian carpets are made in a diligent quest to understand them as both art and commodity. He immerses himself in carpet-making culture, accruing trade secrets and learning specialized vocabulary from Afghan and Iranian mentors. Murphy begins his journey in a Tehran bazaar stacked high with carpets before traveling to the ancient weaving center of Herat, in northwestern Afghanistan, arriving weeks after the fall of the Taliban. Visiting Shiraz, he's impressed by the untutored intellect of young illiterate girl weavers. At last he finds himself amid wild madder fields (madder is the source of Persian carpets' characteristic shade of red). Taking in dog fights, gruesome games of polo and disturbing scenes of child labor and poverty, Murphy tactfully emphasizes the warm hospitality, expertise and enterprise of his Iranian and Afghan hosts, providing extended biographies for some of them. His book exudes humility and respect for Islamic culture and a welcome eyewitness account of, and historical information about, a region much in the news. Nevertheless, the writing too often becomes pedestrian and unsatisfying in misguided efforts to be atmospheric. Map not seen by PW. Agent, Robert Shepard. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Told in exquisite prose befitting one of the world's loveliest art forms, this guide explains the patterns, knots, and origins of designs of Persian rugs, while presenting practical information and exploring the artistic, religious, and cultural complexities of this enigmatic region.
From the remote villages of Afghanistan and Iran, down the ancient trade routes traveled for centuries, to the bazaars of Tehran and the markets of the Western world, every Persian carpet has a story to tell. Coming from a region known for its instability, this art form is one of the few constants, transcending religious and political turmoil. Woven into Persian carpets are centuries-old mysteries of faith and humanity, whirled into colors, patterns, and symbols that represent the key to understanding. Each carpet tells a story in its fibers and design and carries a deeper tale in its forgotten history and the anonymity of its maker. How can a man sell a carpet to feed his family when he believes the soul of his grandmother is borne up in its intricate knots? Carpets, as both art and commodity, represent basic survival as well as the search for human perfection. Told in exquisite prose befitting one of the world's loveliest art forms, The Root of Wild Madder offers accessible explanations of the patterns, knots, and origin of these carpets. From how to tell a quality carpet from a cheap copy to where the dyes come from (madder root provides red), the book presents practical information about carpets while exploring the artistic, religious, and cultural complexities of this enigmatic region. Part travelogue and part exploration into the enduring mysteries of Persian carpets, The Root of Wild Madder brings readers to far flung corners of the world that few Westerners will ever see in person.
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