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After the Iranian Revolution - Septembers of Shiraz

  • Feb 4, 2011


The Septembers of Shiraz

TheSeptembersofShirazbyDaliaSofer thumb Two books set in Iran World Party Reading ChallengeI loved this book, despite its dark subject matter. It is Tehran in 1981, a couple of years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and Isaac Amin is not popular with the new powers. Not only is he a successful businessman, he is also a Jew. From page one we know Isaac is in trouble, when he is arrested by the Revolutionary Guard. For the rest of the novel we follow Isaac and the members of his family as they attempt to deal with his imprisonment and decide what they must do to protect themselves.

Sofer has a beautiful light touch which immediately drew me in. From the opening scene I delighted in the detail. As Isaac is being arrested he “looks down at his desk, at the indifferent items witnessing this event – the scattered files, a metal paperweight, a box of Dunhill cigarettes, a crystal ashtray, and a cup of tea, freshly brewed, two mint leaves floating inside. And as the story continues, I became increasingly fascinated by the world Sofer presents.

This novel does not focus on the Revolution itself, but on the aftermath – and the chaos and confusion that takes place in uncertain times. Given that we know what lies ahead it is easy for us to look in from the outside and silently beg the characters to just get up and leave the country, but at the same time we can understand their unwillingness to leave everything they have worked for over a lifetime. And would you go if it meant leaving someone behind? An ageing parent? An imprisoned spouse?

There are many times in Septembers of Shiraz in which we are taken back to times before the Revolution, giving us a glimpse of what life in Iran was like then, for those with money. This was a ‘Westernized’ Iran in which women had far greater freedoms and religion was a choice, quite different from the country it is today.

We get some idea of the landscape around Tehran “…when the snow-covered Elburz Mountains slowly unveiled themselves in the red-orange light” as well as some brief visits to other places such as Isfahan, Shiraz and Persepolis. But this is a novel which concentrates more on Iran’s history than giving specifics about the locations themselves. And Sofer manages to bring the history alive with detail such as “Farnaz walks through the narrow street, framed on both sides by short brick walls, along which is a row of bloody handprints – a common site, nowadays – the stamp of revolutionaries displaying their sacrifice and their willingness to die.”

My only disappointment with this novel was the ending. It felt rushed after the gentle flow of the rest of the book, and did not hold the tension it needed. But other than that I would highly recommend Septembers of Shiraz for anyone wanting to know a little more about the changing face of Iran. 

If this has whet your appetite, more books set in Iran are available at Packabook.

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review by . July 25, 2007
This novel is a poignant tale of a family caught in the changing of the guard, transported into a world where their every move is suspect. On one uneventful day in 1981, after the Iranian revolution, gem trader Isaac Amin is arrested by the Revolutionary Guards in his Tehran office and transported to prison, where he is interrogated. As a Jew, Amin is immediately suspect, especially since his lucrative business takes him frequently to Israel. Now his entire world is threatened, the government suspicious …
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Sofer's family escaped from Iran in 1982 when she was 10, an experience that may explain the intense detail of this unnerving debut. On a September day in 1981, gem trader Isaac Amin is accosted by Revolutionary Guards at his Tehran office and imprisoned for no other crime than being Jewish in a country where Muslim fanaticism is growing daily. Being rich and having had slender ties to the Shah's regime magnify his peril. In anguish over what might be happening to his family, Isaac watches the brutal mutilation and executions of prisoners around him. His wife, Farnaz, struggles to keep from slipping into despair, while his young daughter, Shirin, steals files from the home of a playmate whose father is in charge of the prison that holds her father. Far away in Brooklyn, Isaac's nonreligious son, Parviz, struggles without his family's money and falls for the pious daughter of his Hasidic landlord. Nicely layered, the story shimmers with past secrets and hidden motivations. The dialogue, while stiff, allows the various characters to come through. Sofer's dramatization of just-post-revolutionary Iran captures its small tensions and larger brutalities, which play vividly upon a family that cannot, even if it wishes to, conform.(Aug.)
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ISBN-10: 0061130400
ISBN-13: 978-0061130403
Author: Dalia Sofer
Publisher: Ecco

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