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A LIFETIME QUEST TO FINISH A MONUMENTAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF IRAN

UMD's Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, director of the Center for Persian Studies, discusses the man behind this encyclopedia.

By Patricia Cohen, The New York Times

Ralph Ellison wrote for 40 years without finishing his novel “Juneteenth.” Antoni Gaudí labored 43 years on the Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona, but construction continues today. And in the annals of grand quixotica, Ehsan Yarshater also deserves a prominent chapter.

At 53, he embarked on his magnum opus, a definitive encyclopedia of Iranian history and culture. At 75, he started looking for a successor. He didn’t find one so he kept going himself. Now he’s 91. He’s up to “K.

...“I’ve seen him work 12 hours without a break,” said Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, director of the Center for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland, who has known Mr. Yarshater for more than 40 years. He remembers a visit when Mr. Yarshater stayed up until 3 a.m. editing. Three hours later, he was in the shower, getting ready to return to work.

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Date of Publication: 
8/12/11