Category: Iran

Iraj Pezeshkzad: حافظ ناشنيده پند (Hafez in Love)

The latest addition to my website is Iraj Pezeshkzad‘s حافظ ناشنيده پند (Hafez in Love). This is a wonderful book about a period in the life of Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī, better known as Hafez, the fourteenth century Persian poet. A new ruler has taken over (by force) in Shiraz, where this book is set – Mubariz al-Din Muhammad, known as Mobarez in this book, and Hafez, not known for his tact, risks making an enemy of him and others, including the police chief who is as attracted to the poet Jahan Malek Khatun as Hafez is. She, of course, prefers Hafez but the police chief now has two reason to get rid of Hafez. Hafez seems to be indifferent to the danger he faces,though his friends are not, while he prefers to focus on his poetry, his lively social life and Jahan Malek Khatun. When he is arrested, it seems that his friends were right. It is a lively book with an interesting plot and lots of colourful and poetic discussion among the poets.

Rabeah Ghaffari: To Keep the Sun Alive

The latest addition to my website is Rabeah Ghaffari‘s To Keep the Sun Alive. This novel has two related stories. The first tells of an extended family in Iran before the 1979 Iranian Revolution and as the revolution unfolds. The various members have different views on the political situation, from the liberal to the religious right and, when the revolution breaks out, take different sides. Ghaffari is clearly against the religious right and shows some of the nasty things they do but she also shows some of the nasty things done by both the Shah’s regime and by foreigners, particularly, in this case, the US, UK and Belgium. We also follow the story of one of the family members more than thirty years after the revolution, who is now in exile in Paris and struggling to get by. Ghaffari tells her story very well, enhanced by the story of the Shazdehpoor, the man in exile in Paris, as he seems unable to fit in anywhere.

Shahriar Mandanipour:ابرو هلالیز (Moonbrow)

The latest addition to my website is Shahriar Mandanipour‘s ابرو هلالیز (Moonbrow). This novel tells the story of Amir, a man from a wealthy family, who enjoys drinking, partying and sex. One time he goes too far, getting seriously drunk, and is arrested and flogged. On recovery, without telling his family, he joins the Iranian army during the Iran-Iraq. After a grim time in the war, he is wounded, losing an arm, and suffers post-traumatic stress disorder. His family do not know where he is and spend five years tracking him down. Back home he dreams of Moonbrow, the woman he thinks he love, though she may not even be real, and tries to track her down. Mandanipour gives us a portrait of Iran both under the Shah and after the Revolution as well as of the Iran-Iraq War, while telling us Amir’s search for his love.

Esmail Fassih: ثريا در اغما (Sorraya in a Coma)


The latest addition to my website is Esmail Fassih‘s ثريا در اغما (Sorraya in a Coma). The eponymous heroine of this noel, Sorraya, spends the whole of the book in a coma. It is narrated by her uncle, Jalal Aryan. He is an employee of the Iranian National Oil Company. He had been based in Abadan and was in hospital, recovering from a stroke, when Iraqi forces invade in 1980. When he hears of his niece’s accident, he manages to get out of Abadan and, after a difficult journey, gets to Paris. There he finds Sorraya in a coma and will visit her throughout the novel, talking to the nurses and doctors in his bad French, reporting back to his sister, Farangi, Sorraya’s mother, and wondering how he is going to pay the hospital bill, as Sorraya is no longer covered by medical insurance. He will also go to the Café de la Sanction, where he meets a group of Iranian exiles who are struggling both with financial issues but also with their increasing irrelevance in the world. He tries to keep some distance from them but does not always succeed, particularly not with Leila Azadeh, his former lover who, after several husbands, is again single. Leila and Jalal comfort one another, without getting too close. Sorraya will end up as a symbol of Iran – dissociated from the world, unresponsive to outside stimuli, with many concerned for her but none having any influence on her. It is an excellent novel about exile, death and struggling with one’s own relevance.

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