Having read The Age of Orphans, the first novel in Laleh Khadivi’s trilogy, published in 2009, I vividly remember the author’s haunting style and musical, even psalm-like cadences, along with the power and passion with which she creates that novel’s memorable main character, seven-year-old Reza Khourdi, who grows up under the Shah. This book, though similar in the best aspects of its style, is truly different, and in its differences, it hits heights rarely seen in a second novel, especially by such a young novelist. Beginning in the earliest days of the Iranian Revolution under Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, The Walking is simultaneously much narrower in focus and much more universal in its themes. The author says almost nothing about the revolutionary events themselves, concentrating instead on the lives and innermost questions, thoughts, and fears, of two Khourdi brothers, ages nineteen and seventeen, who leave Iran secretly after a bloody incident involving their father, Reza from The Age of Orphans. They become part of the Iranian diaspora – young men and families who leave to create new lives in another world while they still have a chance to escape. A novel which stuns with its insights, hitting all the right notes.
Category Archive for 'Iran'
In this complex, challenging, and unconventional novel, Iraqi author Ali Bader takes on the ethnic and political history of the Middle East from 1926 – 2006 for his scope. An unnamed Iraqi writer has been asked by USA Today News to write an article about the murder of Kamal Medhat, an eighty-year-old Iraqi violinist whose body has recently been found. Kamal Medhat is one of three completely different identities and separate cultural backgrounds used by the same man, however, and the writer is hard pressed to follow the violinist’s trail as he moves through Iraq, Iran, Syria, Russia, and even Czechoslovakia. Author Ali Bader has long been fascinated with metaphysics and views of identity, and he uses the violinist’s three personas in direct parallel with the three personas used by Fernando Pessoa in his poetry book The Tobacco Shop, selections of which begin the novel and echo throughout. Carefully organized thematically, the novel is unconventional in style, and some confusion also results from the fact that the journalist “reports about,” instead of bringing a character to life the way one expects of fiction. Ultimately, the author writes a novel of broad import from a unique point of view. Different from the typical novel in style, this is very challenging but very rewarding.
The emotional intensity of the ancient hatreds and violence between Turks and Kurds, the origins of which may not even be clear to the participants, is vividly illuminated by this novel by Yasar Kemal, a Turk with Kurdish origins. Set in the 20th century, a fact made clear only because cars and tractors are mentioned once or twice, this novel feels as if it could have been set almost any time over the past 2000 years. Kurds, Armenians, Yedizis, Turkomans, and even Bedouins inhabit the area between Turkey and Iraq, just after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Time here is not linear, nor is the novel itself, spiraling instead through generations, forced exilings, attempts to settle down, unconscionable atrocities, and rises and falls in fortune.
When I picked up this book, written by a popular Iranian author, my only expectation was that it would be an interesting view of life in Iran today, and, in particular, the life of a writer trying to avoid the “thought police.” What I never expected was that the book would be so funny! Witty, cleverly constructed, satiric, and full of the absurdities that always underlie great satire, Censoring an Iranian Love Story is a unique metafiction that draws in the reader, sits him down in the company of an immensely talented and very charming author, and completely enthralls him. The author, having reached the “threshold of fifty,” tells us at the outset that he intends to write a love story, one that is “a gateway to light. A story that, although it does not have a happy ending like romantic Hollywood movies, still has an ending that will not make my reader afraid of falling in love. And, of course, a story that cannot be political.” Most importantly, he says, “I want to publish my love story in my homeland.” (High on my Favorites List for 2009)
A young Kurdish boy, living in the Zagros Mountains in 1921, has always felt loved and protected, despite his family’s “poverty.” He enjoys “flying” from the roof of the family’s hut, experiencing the soaring feelings of earth and heaven at the same time, and identifying with the falcons. In gorgeous and poetic language, author Laleh Khadivi, recreates the “gloried ground” to which the boy is connected by birth and culture. Soon after his initiation into manhood, at age seven, he accompanies the village men to a mountain lookout, where they wait for the shah’s troops. In the ensuing massacre, the boy is orphaned, and he leaves the battlefield with the shah’s army, without a backward glance, ultimately consoled by the fact that he will be getting boots, a whole new “family,” and a new way of life. His eventual assignment to Kermanshah, a Kurdish city, in 1940, and his long residence there, bring his personal conflicts to a head.