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  • Date :
  • 4/4/2005

Daneshvar's Playhouse: A Collection of Stories

by Simin Danishvar, Maryam Mafi (Translator)

In five intriguing stories, the formal detachment of Daneshvar's prose reinforces her subtle revelation of repressive features in Iranian society. The author, one of the few well-known women writers in Iran, is a feminist opposed to both political tyranny and religious fanaticism, themes obliquely indicated here. These seemingly simple stories disclose a rich culture in a time of ferment and change, of women in chadors, held in contempt by the men who control their lives. "Vakil Bazaar" seems innocent enough, an everyday tale of an upper-class child let loose in the bazaar while her nanny flirts with a shopkeeper. By the end, with the little girl lost and the nanny passively peering around, the reader is sure that the child will never be found, and nobody will care. In "To Whom Can I Say Hello?," a woman alternates between mourning the loss of her lover and her job and worrying over her daughter, whose brutish husband has denied his mother-in-law access to his house. The moving "Loss of Jalal" is a nonfiction account of the death of the author's husband, a noted writer. This volume is a valuable addition to our knowledge of Persian culture and the political complexities of modernIran.


by Simin Danishvar, M. R. Ghanoonparvar (Translator)

This innovative introduction to the music and culture of Iran combines text, illustrations, and a sampler disk in a single package. Important terms, instruments, repertories, and personalities are cataloged and thoroughly explained, making it accessible to anyone interested. The high price tag is the only drawback. However, the distressing increase in oversimplified, popular accounts of Middle Eastern culture makes this serious study all the more valuable for large music collections.

Savushun chronicles the life of a Persian family during the Allied occupation of Iran during World War II. It is set in Shiraz, a town which evokes images of Persepolis and pre-Islamic monuments, the great poets, the shrines, Sufis, and nomadic tribes within a historical web of the interests, privilege and influence of foreign powers; corruption, incompetence and arrogance of persons in authority; the paternalistic landowner-peasant relationship; tribalism; and the fear of famine. The story is seen through the eyes of Zari, a young wife and mother, who copes with her idealistic and uncompromising husband while struggling with her desire for traditional family life and her need for individual identity.

Daneshvar's style is both sensitive and imaginative, while following cultural themes and metaphors. Within basic Iranian paradigms, the characters play out the roles inherent in their personalities. While Savushun is a unique piece of literature that transcends the boundaries of the historical community in which it was written, it is also the best single work for understanding modernIran. Although written prior to the Islamic Revolution, it brilliantly portrays the social and historical forces that gave pre-revolutionary Iran its characteristic hopelessness and emerging desperation so inadequately understood by outsiders.

The original Persian edition of Savushun has sold over half a million copies.

"An engrossing chronicle of life in Persia-just-turned-Iran by Simin Daneshvar. Her compassionate vision of traditional folk ways surviving amid the threats of modernity (including Allied occupation) give her work a resonant universality. Recent events only strengthen her position as a writer deserving a wider audience." (USA Today)

"Daneshvar lovingly details the old Persian customs and way of life. And the conflict between an understandable yearning for peace and tranquillity in the face of change and tragedy is movingly evoked. It is a sympathetic but never sentimental account of one woman's rite of passage." (Kirkus Reviews)

"For Western readers the novel not only offers an example of contemporary Iranian fiction; it also provides a rare glimpse of the inner workings of an Iranian family." (Washington Post)

"Folklore and myth are expertly woven into a modern setting in this powerfully resonant work." (Publishers Weekly)

Sutra & Other Stories
by Simin Daneshvar, Hasan Javadi, Simin Daneshvar, Amin Neshati (Translator)

These six vibrant stories by Iranian novelist Daneshvar (Savushun) chronicle the vicissitudes of life-its horror, unfairness, humor and fleeting beauty. There is the domestic tragedy of "A City Like Paradise," which tells of a black servant cudgeled and thrown out by her employer, who is jealous of her bonds with household members; the tart comedy of "Anis," about a woman who, as she shuttles from one husband to the next, swings from subservience to fervid religiosity to urbane sophistication; the social commentary of "Potshards," describing a patronizing, elderly white woman's impromptu attempt to adopt a village orphan. Born in 1921, Daneshvar portrays a world full of injustices and cruel surprises redeemed by hope and acts of kindness, such as a midwife's clandestine visit to save the life of an ungrateful pregnant woman ("Childbirth"). In the exuberant, virtuoso title story, a sea captain born in Madras, shipwrecked off Africa, recalls his smuggling exploits, his life in the Persian Gulf and the wife and daughter he forced into prostitution and then abandoned; half-delirious, he undergoes an exorcism to free himself of possession by a mermaid and then dictates his vision of a world free from tyranny and sorrow.

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