The Enlightenment of the Greengage tree by Shokoofeh Azar

The enlightenment of the Greengage Tree  by Shokoofeh Azar

Iranian fiction(Australia)

Original title –  اشراق درخت گوجه سبز

Translator – was named in the Orignal Australian copy but has since been removed from the UK and US editions for their safety

Source – Review copy

Shokoofeh Azar left Iran as a Refugee in 2011 and settled in Australia. She had written many articles and children’s books and was the first Iranian female to walk the SIlk road (I hope we read a description of this journey at some point). This is her first novel since arriving in Australia it was on the shortlist for the Australian version of the old Orange prize the Stella prize and was her first work to be translated to English. This is the latest on the Booker longlist this year.

Around five O’clock the next morning , dad, Beeta and I woke up n the thick morning fog to see the last foxes returning to their dens after hunting Razan’s  chickens and roosters and to feel the wings of the hoopoe just inches away. Mom had once again returned to the highest bough from her peregination among the planets and cities villages, islands, and tribes in time to hear ghd song of thousands and thousands of sparrows, and to see a hedgehog curl up and roll down the forest slope because dad had moved.

The magic realim in this one pasaage grabbed me early on

Shokoofeh was born the same year as I was and the narrator of her book is a few years younger than we are as she is thirteen and narrating the book and the events in the book after she has died Bahar tells the story of her family and the events that followed the Iranian revolution the violence and fervent religious zealots that run the country and the knock-on effect on one family. The family is an academic famil there is much talk early on of the books she loved to read from her father’s precious library. He had already been expelled for the university early on for his socialist views. They lead Tehran thinking that this will save them from the madness of the capital but as they settle in the village of Razan the revolutionary guards reach even reaches there as the country turns mad as this place that was until recently so remote it was years behind the rest of the country also adds a sense of Persian storytelling to the story. as the lines between the real the living and the dead blur, there is a dash of magic realism at play but there is a sense of a young girl using those great stories as a way of avoiding the worst of the violence. the mother disappears, then her brother dies. As the books they loved are burnt music is banned as the regime cracks down this is the portrait of one family’s implosion during the Revolution.

We counldn’t bear the wailing of Shakespeare and Rumi, Hafez and Confucius, Zoroaster, Budha and Khayyam any longer, so we set off towards the house. En route from the village square, towards te alley and up the slope to our grove. I sa with my own eyes how clumps of dad’s hair had turned grey. For seven days after that, no one in the house said a word. Standing in the porch as the fire and smoke from the books filled the valle, and the breeze spread far and wide the burnt smell of the feather by Matheson, even Mom cried meanwhile, Sohrab was keeping watch from atop a distant tree. The house had abruptly become devoid of cheer. It became silent, Empty. Hollow

The shock of losing there books as they are burnt.

I admit this had passed me by before the longlist although my fellow Blogger Lisa at Anzlitlover was a huge fan of the book when it came out. It came out a few years earlier via the greatly named WIld dingo press I even missed her enthusiasm which I should have noted she is someone whose opinion I value. Anyway, this is one of my favorites from the longlist so far it mixes a bit of Salman Rushdie, a dash of Marquez  and maybe a dash of Mo Yan and moves it too Iranian. A brave book that could only be written from the distance of Australia now more than forty years after the regime still isn’t willing to have a novel written that questions what happen to people those educated ok Western but still through there love of books very much in touch with there Persian world. This is what I love about the booker it always brings a couple of books that Had passed me by completely.

The space between us by Zoya Pirzad

the space between us

The space between us by Zoya Pirzad

Persian fiction

Original title – Yek Ruz Mande be Eid Pak

Translator – Amy Motlagh

Source – review copy

When Henry who works for me contact one world saying they have a couple of new novels from Iran coming out I jumped at the chance as it is one of the few countries I haven’t read a lot from ,I only have one book under review so this is the first of two books forthcoming from One World .Zoya Pirzad is described as a rising star of Iranian fiction .She is of Iranian / Armenian descent ,she is known for using the everyday life of m Iran in her novels and lifting the lid on everyday lives of ordinary people .

That year I turned twelve .

Early one morning ,a few days before easter ,I stood on the balcony at the top of the stairs that ran down to the courtyard and ran my hand over the banister .No sliding down today .

Early on in his life easter mentioned and Edmond is just about to meet Tahereh at school

This book is called the space between us in English but the orginal title when translated is One day before easter which maybe gives you a slight Clue to the story .As the main character in this story is a Christian of Armenian descent ,his name is Edmond Lazarian .The story is of Edmond daughter  who falls in love with a man who lives in the same town .Now this would be a love story  ,but the man Edmond’s daughter falls for is a Muslim this leads to much tension for Edmond but also the local community . Add to this Edmond’s best friend  Tahereh is a Muslim they grew up together she was the daughter of a janitor and his only friend when he grew up .This choice for Edmond  daughter cause him to make a big decision about what to do ,we see later how this decision effect him and the people around him .

The morning of the day after easter ,I sit at the dining room table and look at the garden .The violets lean this way and that in the breeze :it’s as if they’re finally at home in their new place .

On a pice of white paper , in green ink ,I begin a letter : dearest numush 

The closing lines and finally events take place after Easter .

I said the original title had some meaning because a lot of these events seem to take place in the day before Easter in the book .This book was an interesting look into the everyday life of people inside Iran the mix of religions and communities is something we never see in the press .Edmond as the lead character shines a light on the Armenian community in Iran and their interaction with the Muslims .The small town where they live is mostly Armenian so the town is really the opposite to the rest of the country leading to much different views .It shows how close and how far apart to religions can be .Now I making this also sound exotic when actually it isn’t really it is down to earth it is about love ,family and friends and that could be set anywhere ,so as I said earlier Zoya Pirzad is known for her portrayal of everyday and as I have said many times on the blog the everyday in place like where this book is set a small town is very much the everyday anywhere .

Have you a favourite book from Iran ?

tehran lipsticks and loopholes by Nahal Tajadod

 I got this book for my around the world challenge from the lovely Sarah at bookrabbit .It follows Nahal who lives in france but still had iranian citizenship as she has to return to her homeland to renew her passport staying with her family in Tehran .The main thing she has to do for her passport is get a islamic approved picture from a photographer this is hard than it seems as they don t advertise as they can t put pictures in the window .after a few false starts and constantly being asked by people to help out family members or fill in forms from aboard .she has the photo now to tackle Iranian bureaucracy where she has to remove make up dress modestly and hoping she is lucky with the time she has on her hands she spends time with her family .Nahal ‘s work is funny and highlights the differing standards and lunacy in iran ,a cast of oddball characters,the humour makes this book come alive  make this a real page turner .i feels this book would work well as a book group book it certainly makes you think loads .

The salesman open a drawer and takes out a press cutting with a photograph of the commander-in-chief of Tehran’s armed forces posing in front of a blackboard with the following instructions :

  • bright lipstick?>do not lance >remove with tissue
  • heavy make up ?>don’t apply acid>apply rosewater
  • shortened coat?>offer chador
  • tiny scarf ? >avoid saying: either you cover your head or we ll beat you > lower scarf to hide hair or gently trim the hair .

rules ,rules a quote from the book published this week by virago books

tehran lipstick and loopholes by Nahal Tajadod



March 2023


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