Buy the House of the Mosque at the Book Depository, free shipping worldwide Looking at the pictures broadcast, of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his supporters, one could be forgiven for thinking that the population of Iran consists solely of bearded men, sharing single-mindedly one monotheistic culture. A revolution dominated by men, for the benefit of men. Does the world really need yet another big male-written sweeping epic? Sweeping up, in this case the period before and after the revolution, and doing so in a fairly traditional narrative voice — using the trials and tribulations of one family to cast light on the society around them. Both of which not only tell a story about Iran, but do so in a clever and innovative way.
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Share via Email Kader Abdolah is the nom de plume of an Iranian man who quit his native land in , first for Turkey and then the Netherlands, and has since written novels and other works in Dutch. The original of this novel has sold in its hundreds of thousands in the Netherlands, while an Italian critic has compared Abdolah, in his mastery of an alien literary language, to Nabokov and Conrad. They include Aqa Jan "Dear Master", a title often given to the paterfamilias in Iran ; his cousin Alsaberi, the unworldly imam of the mosque; Muezzin, the muezzin; troubled or rebellious children; colourful domestics; an occasional clairvoyant; a crippled child; and various half-fabulous fauna.
In the revolution of , Aqa Jan and his family come painfully to grief. Ingenious, but complacent in their habits and religion, they are no match for the rough customers of the revolution.
The story, rather like the Islamic republic itself, then meanders towards an inevitable but indistinct end. The interplay of history and fiction has been a rich source of literary masterpieces, but here fable and history are often at sixes and sevens.
The first, and least objectionable, is where a historical figure passes in silence through the story, as when the Empress Farah comes to Senejan to open a clinic and a cinema, and is met with a demonstration. The second is when a champion of Iranian history is turned for no good reason on his head: Khomeini spends his evenings watching nature films while his wife, Batul, poses for the camera. In the third, a historical figure appears in the story but as a mere shade or wan caricature.
The fourth type is where Abdolah takes some fable peddled by the Islamic republic and then, inexplicably, treats it as history. Take the sentence that begins: "On the night that everybody was glued to the television. Likewise Abdolah takes the propaganda version of the so-called Black Friday massacre of September 8, , moves it for no evident reason to the wrong square in Tehran, puts in a figure for casualties that no impartial observer accepts, and adds other implausible detail.
I hate to think of half a million Dutch readers mistaking all that for history. Yet in Iran, where the government insists, for example, that protester Neda Agha Soltan was shot by her friends, there is already more than enough fable.
The House of the Mosque – Kader Abdolah
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The House of the Mosque by Kader Abdolah