Iranian Authors On Iran

June 24, 2009 // Filed under Uncategorized

Published in 2008, The Ayatollah Begs To Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran was written by Hooman Majd who, as coincidence would have it, is the grandson of a noted ayatollah. Born in Tehran but now living in the United States, Majd tries to explain the multi-faceted, conflicting nature of Persian life to westerners. In a review, The Financial Times states, “Hooman Majd offers a more conversational way into the history of Iran in The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, with anecdote, colour and paradox splashed over a contemporary canvas. His is a genial and companionable book.” Yet Majd’s book jacket also proclaims, “He points to the importance of the Persian view of privacy, arguing that the stability of the current regime owes much to the freedom Iranians have to behave as they wish behind “Persian walls.”
Well, I haven’t read the book, but that is an interesting statement in light of the current political situation in post-election Iran.

Censoring An Iranian Love Story: A Novel is fiction from a contemporary Iranian author, Shahriar Mandanipour, born in Shiraz in 1956. He has written numerous articles, short stories and several novels; this is his first book in English translation. Using the premise of a Persian author who edits and crosses out the very love story he is writing, Mandanipour illuminates the repressive forces working against literary expression in Iran. The young lovers in his book are hounded by the Campaign Against Social Corruption, and the writer character believes he must cross out much of what he has written about their love story because he knows that heavy-handed government censorship will ultimately make it impossible for his story to be printed.

Two new memoirs recount their authors’ upbringing and family lives in Iran during the downfall of the shah and the rise of the Iranian Revolution. Afschineh Latifi’s Even After All This Time: A Story of Love, Revolution and Leaving Iran tells the story of her family’s survival after her father, a colonel in the shah’s army, was killed following the shah’s overthrow. The family apparently had been a happy one, mother and father loved each other, and they all enjoyed a cultured, comfortable lifestyle until things changed so dramatically. Latifi was sent abroad once her mother realized what kind of danger her daughter could face under the repressive dictates of the Islamic Cultural Revolution. The author credits her mother with a remarkable show of courage and strength in saving all her children and reuniting them as a family outside of Iran.

In contrast, Azar Nafisi’s memoir, Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories, shows the author of Reading Lolita inTehran grappling with unpleasant memories of her mother, her own childhood, and of her parent’s unhappy marriage. Like Afschineh Latifi, Azar Nafisi also grew up in a well-to-do, highly educated family in pre-revolutionary Iran, but family life was crippled by detrimental silences she says are too often nurtured in her home country. Her relationship with her difficult mother dominates the story as does her admiration for her father even though he had his failings, too. Collateral damage such as sexual abuse by trusted friends of the family, disillusionment with the revolution, and a dreadful first marriage all add a serious tone to this memoir of her early life in Iran.
Evelyn Fischel

These four books may be found in the collection of Bernardsville Public Library.

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