Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 27, 2011

The Colonel, by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, translated by Tom Patterdale


I read The Colonel because it’s longlisted for the Shadow Man Asian Literary Prize.  It’s the work of a distinguished Iranian author, and because it’s dissident literature subject to censorship, it’s been published only outside Iran, perhaps at some risk to its author. However I’m going to be upfront about this book: as regular readers of this blog know, I enjoy reading challenging books and books that introduce me to other cultures, but this one took me a long way out of my comfort zone.  The Colonel is hard work to read.

It’s not the language: the translator Tom Patterdale has done a good job of rendering the book into palatable English from the Persian, and wisely, he has explained in a note at the beginning that because the original uses rough-and-ready street language which ‘shatters Persian literary conventions‘ he has rendered this style with English words of Anglo-Saxon etymology rather than Latin.

So there’s none of that flowery rambling that I was expecting after hearing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the media. What a pity it is that his is the only Iranian voice most of us know!  (I found this one at random, what a classic!)

Woman is a reflection of God’s beauty and is the source of love and caring. She is the guardian of purity and exquisiteness of the society. The tendency to toughen the souls and behaviors of women deprives them from their very basic right of being a loving mother and a caring wife. It would result in a more violent society with irreversible defects. Freedom is a divine right that should serve peace and human perfection. Pure thoughts and the will of the righteous are keys to the gates of a pure life full of hope, liveliness and beauty.
Address to the UN, 23 Sep 2010, at Educate Yourself

But I digress.  (Though not entirely, because this attitude to women impacts on the what happens to two females in the plot).

The Colonel is difficult because this story is a fable of the Iranian Revolution and it’s full of allusions to historical events that readers won’t recognise if like me they know next-to-nothing about Iran. (Other than the drip-feed of demonizing aspects that come from the mainstream media, that is, and an awareness that Iran was once the Persian Empire with a cultural heritage we should know more about).

As with the dissident literature emanating from China, the mere act of reading this novel is a political act, which means care must be taken when interpreting it.  Most of us reading this book in this English translation will be reading political criticism of a place we know very little about. I spent a long time fossicking around on Wikipedia trying to make sense of things, and I’m still not much the wiser.   Iranian history is rather complex.  What’s more, we have no way of knowing anything much about what kind of dissident the author is, except for what we are told by his translator.   The book is recommended by PEN, and it’s shortlisted for an impressive prize, but still, as the ‘Arab Spring’ rolls onward and we do not know what kind of reforms might evolve in Iran with its nuclear ambitions, I feel on my guard.  Because the author is so pessimistic, I am not sure whether he is pining for an unattainable past or hoping for a restoration of some aspects of it.

On top of that, the structure is confusing.  It is deliberately fractured, like Picasso’s Guernica.  Shards of plot lie scattered around, easy to miss, easy to crumble under the weight of my ignorance about Iranian history and culture, even though there are footnotes and a useful glossary at the back.   There are no chapters.  The past and the present are intertwined, signalled sometimes but not always by the use of italics.  And there are multiple pasts signifying Iran’s revolutionary history, which is not just the one that I knew about i.e. the deposition of the last Shah in 1979.

Add to that, the confusing characters.  All of them are symbols, sometimes of an -ism, sometimes of a significant person in Iranian political or military history, and sometimes from Iran’s epic poem, the Shahnameh.  Sometimes a character is referred to by another name and it’s not clear who it is until the full name is eventually used. There’s the lower-case ‘c’ colonel, who we get to know well, and an obviously symbolic upper-case one who lives mostly in a photo on the mantelpiece but sometimes wanders around bleeding from the neck and occasionally headless.  The dead don’t just make an appearance in the past; they turn up in the present too, sometimes obviously as ghostly figures and at other times as if they were still alive.  All these strange characterisations are manifestations of the colonel’s disorientated and distressed state, and that symbolises the political mess of the body politic in Iran.  (Perhaps my confused reaction to it all symbolises the West trying to make sense of Iran’s role in international politics!)

(There’s also idiosyncratic punctuation: whenever the lower case colonel makes an entry at the beginning of a paragraph, the definite article is also not capitalised, (i.e. the colonel, instead of The colonel) as if a non-English speaking typesetter didn’t understand that ‘the’ is a separate word and should be capitalised at the beginning of a sentence, even though he’s been instructed to capitalise one colonel and not the other).

The story begins with the old colonel roused in the middle of the night to come and deal with his fourteen-year-old daughter’s body.  As he stumbles around in confusion, guilt and dismay, his actions and interpretations of events show that the ordinary has become extraordinary in Iran, and vice versa.  This death of his youngest daughter has taken place under a fundamentalist Islamic regime and yet he is being told by the authorities to bury her in the middle of the night, something we learn much later in the book is against Islamic law.  The body should be laid out by women, but this can’t be done either.  Piecing these elements together, and discovering the betrayal that lies behind her death, however, is no easy task because past and present are muddled in the colonel’s thoughts and actions, and the dead from his past come back to life and not (it seems) just in the old man’s memories.   His ramblings reveal that he himself doubts his sanity, and so do we.

Colonel Pesyan, Source Wikipedia Commons

This (small ‘c’) colonel, the central character, was an army officer under the Shah, the last one, that was deposed by Islamic Fundamentalists led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to the dismay of the West in 1979.   Father of five children, the fictional colonel hero-worships an historical figure, Colonel Mohammed Taqi Khan Pesyan, a patriot from the first world war who (the translator tells us in the glossary) resisted the corrupt central government under the last of the Qajar dynasty, Soltan Ahmad Shah. Because Peysan was educated overseas, he was known popularly as Kolonel instead of by its Persian language equivalent, Sarhang.  And because the central character admires this man so much, naming his second son after him and trying to emulate  him, he is nicknamed ‘colonel’ (with the lower-case c).

This unbridled admiration for Peysan was politically unwise under any regime.  Colonel Peysan led a coup against a mate of Reza Khan, who was eventually propelled by British interests into deposing the Qajar dynasty in 1921 and founding the Pahlavi dynasty when he became the Shah 1925.  (Reza Khan was the father of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the one who was deposed by the 1979 Revolution, so it wasn’t much of a dynasty).  Prior to his elevation to royalty, Reza Khan suppressed the coup, and as Minister for War, ordered the beheading of Peysan.  Kurdish tribesmen obliged, bringing the head to Tehran to prove it. Mourning for Peysan was officially proscribed under Reza Khan, and (I think) we can assume that his son was no fan of Peysan either although he did much to modernise the country.  But the change of regime to a virulently anti-Western one was no better. Under the Islamic Fundamentalist theocracy, admiring someone with a Western nickname implies liberalism, secularism and a predisposition to be open to Western influence.  In a country where the wearing of a tie is a political act because it symbolises ‘Western corruption’, having the Colonel’s photograph on the mantelpiece is risky.

As the colonel struggles to come to terms with his daughter’s fate, (his part in it not at this stage revealed to the reader) he begins to think that

the strangest things could happen in life, and that mankind had been created to go through life in a string of bizarre experiences, then to die with his eyes wide open in amazement, proud of never having been shocked by anything. (p50)

Well, try as he might, he can’t help but be shocked by what happens to his five children.  He is a liberal, so he tells us, (though he didn’t hesitate to murder his wife because she betrayed his Islamic honour by being unfaithful), and he has brought his children up to follow their own path.  Each of them has in different ways followed a different -ism representing Islamic history from the overthrow of the Shah, the Shah’s reinstatement, and the Fundamentalist Revolution in 1979 up to (I think) the present.  The entire family, representing the nation, has been subjected to the waves of repression that accompanied these tumultuous events.

  • Amir, the eldest son, supports Tudeh, the party aligned with the Moscow Politboro who in 1941 supported Prime Minister Mosaddeq’s campaign to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.  (This led to the 1953 coup (engineered by the US) replacing Mosaddeq which in turn provoked Mohammed Reza Shah (the last one) into the repressive and dictatorial actions which eventually led to his overthrow).
  • Farzaneh, his eldest daughter, married to Qorbani Hajjaj, a nasty piece of work who’s in cahoots with the current authorities i.e. the Islamic Fundamentalist theocracy
  • Mohammed Taqi, his second son, who supports the People’s Fedayan*, i.e. the Communists
  • Kuchik Masooud, his youngest son, who supports Khomeini, and dies a ‘martyr’ in the Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988), and
  • Parvaneh, only fourteen, who develops what seems to be a teenage crush on the leader of the People’s Mujahedin*, and is hanged.

(*Both the People’s Fedayan and the People’s Mujahedin were underground groups that supported the Islamic Fundamentalists who overthrew the Shah in 1979, but were then repressed by Khomeini who tried to eradicate them.  Like the Tudeh Party these groups still exist but are politically very weak).

Weaving his evil throughout the affairs of this family is Khezr Javid, a secret policeman with no principles, and a survivor under any regime.  Having tortured Amir and his wife on behalf of the Shah’s regime, he skulks into their home for refuge when the Shah is overthrown and hides out there while he sorts out his strategy for making do under the Islamic Revolution.  (In a rare moment of humour in the book, he has a little rant about having to grow a shaggy beard and give up his Johnny Walker.)  Amir, still traumatized by the torture, is almost too damaged by his experiences to take advantage of Khezr’s temporary position of weakness, to ask what became of his wife who was not released from interrogation when he was.

None of the characters are able to communicate properly with each other.  The fear of being denounced, of revealing hidden actions, of remembering traumatic events, of creating more hurt, or of provoking political diatribes exacerbates a culture of secrecy and distortion.  It leads to madness in the family (and, the author seems to be saying, in the body politic).

So why should [the colonel] now be shocked to see his son reduced to this state – his eldest son, who had witnessed his mother’s murder so manfully that he had become almost an accomplice in the deed?  Just for a moment it crossed his mind that he should take Amir to hospital, but he dismissed it immediately as pointless.  He remembered that the city hospital was overflowing and that the only psychiatrist had gone mad and had been locked up in of the cells of the Tehran mental asylum accused of being a spy, and was undergoing ‘re-education’. (p50)

The central theme of this work seems to be that Iran is beyond hope.  The rain pours down incessantly, symbolising tears of unquenchable grief, and the (male) characters smoke incessantly, representing self-destructive behaviour.  Everyone is at cross-purposes, and families are riven by political conflict.  A rare moment when she isn’t weeping allows Amir (on the verge of suicide) to confront his sister Farzaneh with her alienation from the family (because her husband is on the political Right, while the other siblings are on variations of the Left):

The tragedy of our whole country is…we are all alienated, strangers in our own land.  It’s tragic. The odd thing is that we’ve never got used to it.  Yet, woe betide us if we do.   The irony is that, if you really want to be seen as a good Iranian, and especially if you aspire to high office in this country, you first have to be a foreigner, someone who wasn’t born here at all.  On the other hand, if you were born and bred here and try to remain true to yourself, your country and your people, then alienation is the most lenient punishment you can expect. (p91)

This is a reference to foreign interference in Iranian affairs, which has been a constant in their history, especially since the discovery of oil but also because the ‘Persian Corridor’ facilitated the strategic movement of arms from the Soviet Union to the Middle East, which suited the US and UK during World War II but not during the rise of the Bolsheviks and not during the Cold War.  I think (but am not sure) that it might also be a reference to a phenomenon caused by internal repression.  If those who would reform a state have to leave it and take refuge elsewhere until conditions favour a return, then the reformer is, by definition, changed by the experience of living in a more liberal country and becomes a ‘foreigner’ on return, bringing ‘corruption’ with him.

It is a profoundly pessimistic work.  As the colonel takes a rest from digging his daughter’s grave in the rain, he muses:

Who am I trying to fool?  I’m well aware that at every stage of history there have been crimes against humanity, and they couldn’t have happened without humans to commit them.  The crimes that have been visited on my children have been committed, and still are being committed, by young people just like them, by people stirring up their delusions, giving them delusions of grandeur.  So why do I imagine that people might improve?  Everything going on around us seems to indicate that the values our forebears passed down to us no longer apply.  Instead, we have sown the seeds of mistrust, scepticism and resignation, which will grow into a jungle of nihilism and cynicism, a jungle in which you will never find the courage to even mention the names of goodness, truth and common humanity. (p99)

A  while ago, round about the time that Iran was labelled part of the ‘axis of evil’ I saw a documentary about Iran which featured interviews with young people in their twenties.  Although necessarily guarded as they spoke to journalists from the West, these English-speaking and well-travelled young people were acutely aware that reforms were needed, but they seemed optimistic.  I hope they were right, and that Dowlatabadi is wrong.

Andrú Naffis-Sahely at The Independent found it a ‘passionate and informative fable of the Islamic revolution’ and there is also a helpful review at Damien Keller’s review.

(Update 15.12.2011: see also Mark’s thoughtful review at Eleutherophobia).

PS As it happens, I learned a little bit about the Shahnameh at the recent annual State Library of Victoria Foundation dinner.  Next year the SLV is mounting a very special exhibition called Love and Devotion from Persia and Beyond with ancient Persian manuscripts from the SLV’s collection and others on loan from the Bodleian Library.  The guest speaker at the dinner was Susan Scollay, who is co-curator of the exhibition and an expert on Persian poetry.  Follow this link to see a preview with her entertaining video presentation  

Author: Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
Title: The Colonel
Translated by Tom Patterdale
Publisher: Haus Publishing, London, 2011
ISBN: 9781906598891
Source: Personal library

PS I have just discovered a really interesting blog post by an Iranian expat: she thinks Dowlatabadi should win the Nobel Prize!


Responses

  1. Sounds good but hard going and will look for it at the library.
    Meg

  2. Thank you Lisa! Whew…! The only Persian (I prefer Persian to Iranian) I know a little about is from Ancient History in matriculation 50 years ago.
    Yes, I remember 1979 and the events about The Shah….but nothing
    before or since. Of course the country hasn’t made it easy to find out
    anything much, unless one is on The Inside… I enjoyed reading the sense you made of the convoluted, and translated, ‘plot’, and once again, I thank you for it. I will certainly look at the other reviews you have linked. This has certainly stirred a latent interest in this country, and where she stands in today’s disintegrating ‘Western’ civilisation…..

    • Hello Lesley and welcome to chatting about books at ANZ Litlovers! Thank you so much for your kind comments, it’s very encouraging when tackling something difficult like this *warm smile*.

  3. Sounds fascinating Lisa … I hope I manage to find time to read it after the others on my plate. Like you, my knowledge of Iranian history is pretty scattered.

    • Have you got this one, Sue? Do you want me to send it up?
      Which one are you reading at the moment?

      • Thanks Lisa … I’m reading Folded earth, and then I have The lake and Wandering falcon also. However, I had to put aside the Folded earth for my reading group book (due tomorrow) … hope to finish Folded earth by the end of the week though.

        Does Matt have The colonel? If he doesn’t perhaps try him first, but otherwise yes, thanks, I could add it to my pile.

  4. Hi Lisa, thanks for your note and pointing me to your review.

    i agree with you that this is a difficult book to read; in fact it literally depressed me in the middle and i had to take a break.

    because i have not yet finished the book i cannot comment on your review–but i think you have perhaps read the book from a slightly off angle: political one.

    i add a few corrections:
    Dolatabadi is not a politically dissident writer. his books are continuously published and devoured in iran. this book has not been granted a permit-yet. but dolatabadi hopes it will one day.

    like all good writers, dolatabadi doesn’t take sides. but what he does, in all his books, is a portrayal of the human condition, the tragedies that can be farcical at times.

    dolatabadi knows the art of story telling. the guernica-like elipses and cuts are part of the rhythm of the book-and of our jumbled up past and present.

    i think if anyone wants to learn about Iran, this is not a good start; nor an end. although the iranian history of the past hundred years anchors the story; it is the poignance of a father buryi g his feather weighed executed daughter, the strengh of conveying such heart breaking deed without “flowery drama” that give this its literary merits.

    in iran, anyone who writes, can end up being called a dissident. dolatabadi, as an observer of humans in society, as a critic of it, is ultimaty political- but he has been this way even before the revolution.

    also, i wish to correct/moderate your assessment of irans ruling system as a fundamentalist theocracy. this is inaccurate and conflates the shiite regime of iran with the fundamentalists of the sunni/arab world. in the fundamentalists view, shiism is dissidence so iranian regime, a dictatorship under a religious cloak, is hardly a fundamentalist one- ideological yes, fundamentalist no.

    • Hello Naj, welcome to chatting about books at ANZ LitLovers!
      It’s great to have your point-of-view here, I must admit that I have never understood the distinctions between Shiite and Sunni (except that they don’t get on with each other), and I have relied heavily on Wikipedia e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_Revolution.
      So thank-you!
      Lisa

      • “Like all good writers, dolatabadi doesn’t take sides.” I am trying, with difficulty, to think of a good writer who does not take sides. – Fay

  5. Lisa, you are apparently thinking about some of the same issues I am considering in reading the Man Asian longlist. For example, who is the intended audience for some of the novels? Is it international? Is it strictly domestic? More importantly, if I cannot relate to something in a book, is that because my knowledge of the culture is insufficient? Or has the writer not been able to communicate beyond borders? These are thorny questions, always on my mind when encountering a problem spot in a novel. Have not read this one yet. It sounds like a tough one.

    • Oh yes, indeed, I’ve read three now, each so different, and I’m mulling over these questions, as you say. I think (but may change my mind LOL) that my No 1 criteria is that the author has to have something of significance to say about the human condition, and that the something ought to be universal. Despite their different contexts and styles, so far I think all three achieve this.
      But as to how accessible the book is beyond its own culture: well, that’s problematic. I remember floundering around in an Annie Proux book which kept referring to The Panhandle and not having a clue what it was until I Googled it. In a global world I think it’s up to us as readers to make the effort, and that’s certainly easier than it’s ever been before. For me, it’s more of a question of ‘does the book ‘work’ as a piece of literature. If it does that then I’m not going to mind making that effort.

  6. What an excellent review of a very challenging book. It sounds like a long and difficult read – did you feel you were being dissident in reading it? The only Iranian book I read was Censoring an Iranian Love Story which is also banned in Iran but was a fantastic read.

    You attracted an interesting comment from Naj – the difference between fundamentalist and ideological is one I wouldn’t have thought about in the context of Iran.

    Wouldn’t it be marvellous if the regime was no longer there and we could appreciate the artistic and cultural riches of Persia once again

    • Thank you, Tom, that’s very kind of you *blush*
      I should say that the book is not very long at all, only 243 pages. And I am very glad I read it, because the message is universal – when any society messes up and turns on itself, whether it’s a religious revolution, or apartheid, or the Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen Square or a Civil War, it damages the body politic, winners as well as losers, for a very long time.
      One of my friends has been to Iran. They made her wear a hijab (which I refuse to do) but she said it was a wonderful trip.

  7. [...] Dowlatabadi’s The colonel (Iran) from Lisa of ANZLItLovers. This sounds quite different in style and structure, but worth [...]

  8. [...] Sly Company of People Who Care – Rahul BHATTACHARYA The Colonel – Mahmoud DOWLATABADI (Lisa) River of Smoke – Amitav GHOSH (Lisa) 1Q84 – Haruki MURAKAMI The Folded Earth – [...]

  9. I loved The Colonel, a superb book, but definitely one for people who know something about Iran. Its a harrowing story primarily set during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, but cuts over several time periods prior. I love the structure and the way it switches not only between third person and first person, but also between different first person narrators.
    Whilst on one level the book deals with the impact on Iranians, both individually and on families, of the revolution, it also poignantly captures the bitter arc of Iranian history from the brief flowering of democracy under Mossadeq, cruelly crushed by the CIA in collaboration with the British in 1953, through the installation of a Western friendly dictator, the Shah, through to the revolution and the implementation of a theocracy.
    In the survival of the secret police character (Khezr Javid) from the era of SAVAK into the post revolution era, we are reminded that oppressive regimes need a secret security apparatus to ensure survival.
    For me, the major theme of the book is a lament, often expressed by Iranians, for freedom and democracy. For 18 months or so (1952-3), it looked as if it would be realised under the leadership of Prime Minister Mossadeq (the Shah had left Iran at this time). However, since the CIA’s intervention, all Iran has known is the opposite.
    The revolution of 1979 that swept away the dictatorship of the Shah inspired hope in Iranians that they could once more move down the path of freedom and democracy. Sadly, the clerics, and in particular, Khomeini, had other ideas. The clerics had for many decades believed in the centrality of religion in the affairs of State. This belief was compounded by the desire for revenge long harboured since the 1920s when clerics were humiliated by the Shah’s father. The various groups in the revolution believed that Khomeini would only be a figurehead and that once the Shah was gone, a democratic state could be established. But, a brutal period of blood letting saw the eventual near eradication of all the other revolutionary groups with the eventual result being a theocracy with the clergy firmly in control of all the institutions of the state.
    All of this background is captured in the book together with references to other icons of Iranian history and culture. Iranians believe that had the West not thrown out their elected government in 1953, Iran would today be a fully functioning democracy and they would be a free people. By installing and supporting a vile dictator, the West sowed the seeds for rise of theocracy.
    At 220 pages, The Colonel, is not a long book, but it does require constant attention. Narrators change, time periods change and ghosts appear. Persian literature has a tradition of a kind of magic realism, so it comes as no surprise that Dowlatabadi blends reality and fantasy at certain points. This also heightens the need for careful reading, but if the time is invested, the rewards of this outstanding book will be fully appreciated.

    • Wow, David, thank you so much for your generosity in sharing your thoughts in this way. I did find it a difficult book, but well worth reading because it engaged me in a learning experience about this complex country. I feel that you have contributed a great deal to anyone who stumbles on this blog wanting to know more about this book than I can offer. Thank you!
      Lisa

      • Thanks for that. If you want to read the work of another well known Iranian writer (although now, an expat), you should look out for Shahrnush Parsipur. I’ve read two of her books, the brilliant Women Without Men (recently made into a film of the same name) and Touba and the Meaning of Night.

        **Snip**
        RLH edited to remove ad links to a certain online mega-bookseller whose tactics I do not like.

        • Thanks, David, I’ve done that. (I bought Touba, it sounds fascinating).
          Though what I found best about The Colonel was that it was a rare view of Iran unfiltered by the expat experience.

          • Sorry, I’ve mislead you as both the books I’ve mentioned were written whilst she lived in Iran. Both were published in Farsi in the 1980′s. The publication of Women Without Men lead to her arrest in Iran (she had been arrested during the time of the Shah too). I think she left Iran only in the last ten years or so. Their publication into English is more recent.
            The point I was making she has left Iran, unlike Dowlatabadi. I certainly did not wish to infer that hers is an expat voice. You are right to be wary of the expat voice as these are often people who had links with the Shah’s regime.

            • Thanks for the clarification, David.
              Which raises another interesting issue: IMO it’s not just that an expat may have links with one regime or another, it’s that living with the freedoms of a western democratic country necessarily influences the way one sees the world. Many migrants from oppressive regimes, especially if they can’t ever go home, sometimes view their new home with a mixture of grateful political idealism and guilty distaste for Western excess, yet at the same time may feel nostalgia about home, family and traditions while also feeling angry about the reasons they had to leave.

  10. [...] I’ve been wanting to dive into Melville House’s catalog for ages.  And after reading Lisa’s review over at ANZ Litlovers I knew I had to read it.  Challenging and intriguing – that’s a [...]

    • It was a difficult book, but I am starting to think it was a pity it didn’t make the Man Asian shortlist: it has stayed with me, and I keep thinking about it and the issues it raises. I hope you find it rewarding – I’ll watch out for your review:)

  11. Hello,

    Does anyone have a contact number or email address from this book translator? I am writing an article and need to discuss a few points with the author and translator.

    I really appreciate anyone who would be able to send me any contact details from the author or translator to msfiveninesixatkentdotacdotuk

    Thanks

    • Hello Mahdi, I think the best way to locate the translator would be to send an email or letter to the publisher or the translator’s agent who can forward it on. It is unlikely anyone would give it to you direct for privacy and/or security reasons, especially since you haven’t identified where you are from.
      BTW I have doctored the email address you have supplied to reduce spam, anyone using it needs to substitute numerals & symbols where they apply.

      • Dear Lisa,

        Thanks for your reply and I am sorry didn’t introduced myself in full

        I am doing my PhD in English Literature at the University of Kent. Also, as a researcher I am working with the department of philosophy in Gent University, Belgium. I am originally Persian.

        I aim to write an article about this book and surely having contact with translator or writer will be really helpful for my purpose.

        Thanks Mahdi ________________________________

        • Hello Mahdi, that sounds like a very interesting PhD, much more original than anything about dear old Shakespeare or Tennysonian poets!
          Good luck with it, as I say, I think your best bet would be to contact the publisher… you probably know better than I do whether Dowlatabadi is at any risk with the Iranian authorities for having written this book, but I expect the publishers take care with who they pass his contact details on to. But they will usually forward requests on to the author or his agent and then he could get in touch with you that way.
          I think it would be fantastic to read an interpretation of his book from someone Persian who understands all the allusions and history. All the best, Lisa

  12. Thank you for your comments and the 360 degrees view of the Dowlatabadi horizon. I read THE COLONEL then I read your comments; the latter amplified my enjoyment/appreciation of the former. I have earmarked your blog and will return to mine your “reads” for my own book club.
    I much appreciate your thoroughness and obvious enthusiasm. Thanks.
    Robert

    • Hello Robert, and welcome:)
      Thank you for your kind comments, I am so pleased that this book is still garnering readers away from the glare of the book prize shortlist. I think that the more books like this are read and talked about, the more we will all come to understand and care about the ‘pariah’ nations instead of merely judging them by the leaders we see in the media.
      All the best, Lisa


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