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The Conference of the Birds [from Ted Hughes]

The Conference of the Birds [from Ted Hughes] by ATTAR Farid ud-Din; C S Nott [Emma Tennant; Ted Hughes] C S Nott (1971)
Author: ATTAR Farid ud-Din; C S Nott [Emma Tennant; Ted Hughes] C S Nott
Title: The Conference of the Birds: Mantiq Ut-tair [Presentation copy from Ted Hughes to Emma Tennant]
Year: 1971
Publisher: Routhledge and Kegan Paul Ltd
Place: London
Dust Jacket: No
Signed: Yes
Price: £400
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Presentation copy from Ted Hughes to his lover, the novelist Emma Tennant, with an elaborate drawing of the mythical Simorgh bird.

Publisher’s pictorial wrappers, a near fine copy of C S Nott’s translation of the Persian original with an extraordinary provenance. Ted Hughes has drawn and labelled a ‘Simorgh’ bird on the half title with the inscription: ‘For Emma/ with love/ from Ted’.

A writer herself, Emma Tennant had an integral role to the Hughes psychodrama in the 1960s and 70s during her lengthy affair with the poet which she recorded in her diaries as well as writing a fictionalised version of Hughes’s relationship with Sylvia Plath. Hughes’s choice of gift for Tennant is fascinating as he owned many books on Sufism and he used this work, The Conference of the Birds, as the basis for exercises which he devised for Peter Brook’s theatre company after their performance of Orghast in 1971. At Brook’s request, Hughes used Attar’s poem to create his own bird-characters, situations and bird-language and these ideas played into his subsequent exploration of bird characters in Crow. Emma Tennant told an interviewer of the existence of at least two books inscribed to her by Hughes which contained bird drawings that carried a secret significance within the couple’s relationship. Another of Hughes’s drawings of an unfeasibly well-hung Simorgh is held at the V&A Museum.
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