Hello, readers! Welcome to another #5OnMyTBR update. The rule is relatively simple. I just have to pick five books from my to-be-read pile that fit the week’s theme.
As there is still no fresh prompt until now, I am taking the liberty to do my own topics. For August, I have decided to embark on a journey across Asia through the works of Asian literature. As such, I have been featuring works of Asian literature I have added to my growing reading list. For this week, I am featuring works of Persian/Iranian literature. I have, so far, read only two works of Iranian writers. However, both of these books left a deep impression on me and I resolved to read more works of Iranian writers. Here are some works of Perian/Iranian literature I can’t wait to immerse myself in. Happy Monday and happy reading!
Title: Out of Mesopotamia (Turkish: Kürk Mantolu Madonna)
Author: Sabahattin Ali
Informed by firsthand experience on the battlefronts of Iraq and Syria, Abdoh captures the horror, confusion, and absurdity of combat from a seldom-glimpsed perspective that expands our understanding of the war novel.
Saleh, the narrator of Out of Mesopotamia, is a middle-aged Iranian journalist who moonlights as a writer for one of Iran’s most popular TV shows but cannot keep himself away from the front lines in neighboring Iraq and Syria. There, the fight against the Islamic State is a proxy war, an existential battle, a declaration of faith, and, for some, a passing weekend affair.
After weeks spent dodging RPGs, witnessing acts of savagery and stupidity, Saleh returns to civilian life in Tehran but finds it to be an unbearably dislocating experience. Pursued by his official handler from state security, opportunistic colleagues, and the woman who broke his heart, Saleh has reason to again flee from everyday life. Surrounded by men whose willingness to achieve martyrdom both fascinates and appalls him, Saleh struggles to make sense of himself and the turmoil in his midst.
An unprecedented glimpse into “endless war” from a Middle Eastern perspective, Out of Mesopotamia follows in the tradition of the Western canon of martial writers–from Hemingway and Orwell to Tim O’Brien and Philip Caputo–but then subverts and expands upon the genre before completely blowing it apart. Drawing from his firsthand experience of being embedded with Shia militias on the ground in Iraq and Syria, Abdoh gives agency to the voiceless while offering a meditation on war that is moving, humane, darkly funny, and resonantly true. (Source: Goodreads)
Author: Négar Djavadi
Synopsis: Kimiâ Sadr fled Iran at the age of ten in the company of her mother and sisters to join her father in France. Now twenty-five, with a new life and the prospect of a child, Kimiâ is inundated by her own memories and the stories of her ancestors, which reach her in unstoppable, uncontainable waves. In the waiting room of a Parisian fertility clinic, generations of flamboyant Sadrs return to her, including her formidable great-grandfather Montazemolmolk, with his harem of fifty-two wives, and her parents, Darius and Sara, stalwart opponents of each regime that befalls them.
In this high-spirited, kaleidoscopic story, key moments of Iranian history, politics, and culture punctuate stories of family drama and triumph. Yet it is Kimiâ herself—punk-rock aficionado, storyteller extraordinaire, a Scheherazade of our time, and above all a modern woman divided between family traditions and her own “disorientalization”—who forms the heart of this bestselling and beloved novel.(Source: Goodreads)
Title: Savushun: A Novel About Modern Iran
Author: Simin Daneshvar
Synopsis: Savushun chronicles the life of a Persian family during the Allied occupation of Iran during World War II. It is set in Shiraz, a town which evokes images of Persepolis and pre-Islamic monuments, the great poets, the shrines, Sufis, and nomadic tribes within a historical web of the interests, privilege and influence of foreign powers; corruption, incompetence and arrogance of persons in authority; the paternalistic landowner-peasant relationship; tribalism; and the fear of famine. The story is seen through the eyes of Zari, a young wife and mother, who copes with her idealistic and uncompromising husband while struggling with her desire for traditional family life and her need for individual identity.
Daneshvar’s style is both sensitive and imaginative, while following cultural themes and metaphors. Within basic Iranian paradigms, the characters play out the roles inherent in their personalities. While Savushun is a unique piece of literature that transcends the boundaries of the historical community in which it was written, it is also the best single work for understanding modern Iran. Although written prior to the Islamic Revolution, it brilliantly portrays the social and historical forces that gave pre-revolutionary Iran its characteristic hopelessness and emerging desperation so inadequately understood by outsiders (Source: Goodreads)
Title: The Neighbors
Author: Ahmad Mahmoud
Synopsis: Ahmad Mahmoud sets The Neighbors against the backdrop of the oil nationalization crisis that gripped Iran in the early 1950s. His protagonist, Khaled, a young man from a rundown neighborhood in Ahvaz, a city in southern Iran, becomes involved in the struggle to wrest Iran’s oil industry from the British and, as the result of his political activities, comes to realize that there is more to life than the drudgery and poverty his parents and neighbors have experienced.
The Neighbors, published in 1974, cemented Mahmoud’s reputation as a novelist and captured the ethos of a generation–the generation that laid the groundwork for those who continue to struggle for democracy in Iran today. Though the novel received considerable praise and was read widely, its political nature earned the ire of Mohammad Reza Shah’s regime, and the Islamic Republic has objected to its sexually explicit content. This is the first time one of Ahmad Mahmoud’s novels has appeared in English translation. (Source: Goodreads)
Title: The Colonel
Author: Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
Synopsis: A pitch black, rainy night in a small Iranian town. Inside his house, the colonel stared at the portrait of the famous military hero –The Colonel, long executed. He thinks of his own children, one of whom died supporting the Shah, another of whom fought for the Ayatollah, another of whom -his fourteen-year old daughter- has been captured handing out leaflets against the regime. The Colonel has fought against the British…he fought for the Shah… he fought for the Ayatollah…he’s dedicated his life to his country…the house is quiet.
Could they really be coming…for him? (Source: Goodreads)
Title: My Uncle Napoleon
Author: Iraj Pezeshkzad
Synopsis: A teenage boy makes the mistake of falling in love with the much-protected daughter of his uncle, mischievously nicknamed after his hero Napoleon Bonaparte, the curmudgeonly self-appointed patriarch of a large and extended Iranian family in 1940s Tehran. This edition features an introduction by author and literature professor Azar Nafisi, an informative preface by the translator, a list of characters, a map of Iran, a glossary of terms, an afterward by the author, and questions for reading group discussion. Reprint. 10,000 first printing. (Source: Goodreads)