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Here is someone who has come to a provincial Persian town to work under primitive conditions for humanitarian goals, has delivered both the narrator's son and twin daughters under difficult Caesarean section conditions that might have meant death otherwise, and yet all we know of her is that she cannot conjugate the verb "to be" in Farsi and therefore she is somehow a creature of mockery. In fact she exemplifies Zari's own shortcomings in cross-cultural human understanding. The author is best in her heroine's description of daily life in a traditional home of considerable wealth and privilege-her household routine, her dealings with servants and supplicants, her charitable visits to the prison and insane asylum the description of the latter is moving and vividly evocative.


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Also well portrayed are her relationship with her husband's widowed sister Arneb, whose life has been reduced to a ritual of prayer and opium since the death of her husband and young son, and her attempts to keep peace between her idealistic husband, whom she loves but cannot quite understand, and his brother, whom she doesn't like but whose traditional ideas are much closer to those she was raised with.

The finest characterization of the book is that of the town's aging social dragon, Khanom Ezzat ud-Dawish, a woman whose "cobra-like face framed by She has it in for Zari because the latter rejected her unpleasant, spoiled son in favor of the d shing, fair-haired Yusef.


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  4. She finds ways to take her revenge from the beginning of the book, where she engineers the unwilling "gift" of Zari's emerald earrings to the governor's daughter at her wedding feast, to the end, where she commandeers the lady mourners at Yusef's wake with the energy of someone leading a cheering section-which in her own vicious mind she is. The episode where Zari and Ameh spend an interminable afternoon in the dragon lady's garden trying to eke out what sort of favor she obviously intends to require of them is the finest bit of writing in the book-utterly believable and deviously charming.

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    Likewise the expropriation of Zari's son's favorite pony by the same greedy governor's daughter and its subsequent recovery is a charming vignette that would make a superb children's story on its own. The surrealist chapter which follows the death of Yusef in which Zari confronts the prospect of madness brought on by sorrow is less successful.

    It is an attempt to describe incipient insanity through the grieving mind of someone who has confronted it on a regular basis by virtue of her charitable visitations to the local asylum, but it reads like the ramblings of someone on an LSD trip-probably profoundly meaningful and horrific to that person at the time but a discordant stream of semi-conscious ranting to anyone else.

    In the end, Zari faces her future with hope-she is carrying a fourth child of her husband and has ample wealth to support her and her children without having to consider a second marriage unless she chooses to. Her sister-in-law gives up her desire to spend her final days in Kerbala since her "martyr is lying right here" in Shiraz p. But the corruption engendered by occupation is pervasive - some try to profit as much as possible from it, others look towards communism for hope, whilst yet others resort to opium.

    Finally even Zari's attempts to maintain normal family life are shattered as disaster strikes. An immensely moving story, A Persian Requiem is also a powerful indictment of the corrupting effects of colonization. A Persian Requiem first published in in Iran under the title Savushun , was the first novel written by an Iranian woman and, sixteen reprints and half a million copies later, it remains the most widely read Persian novel.

    In Iran it has helped shape the ideas and attitudes of a generation in its revelation of the factors that contributed to the Islamic Revolution in Simin Daneshvar's A Persian Requiem The central characters adroitly reflect different Persian attitudes of the time, attitudes that were eventually to harden into support for either the Ayatollah and his Islamic fundamentalism or, alternatively, for the corrupting Westernisation of the Shah.

    The value of the book lies in its ability to present these emergent struggles in human terms, in the day-to-day realities of small-town life Complex and delicately crafted, this subtle and ironic book unites reader and writer in the knowledge that human weakness, fanaticism, love and terror are not confined to any one creed. The Independent on Sunday See our disclaimer. Specifications ISBN Customer Reviews.

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