Tag Archives: Persia

A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini (post no. 2)

 

In our first post concerning A Thousand Splendid Suns, we discussed the story in A Thousand Splendid Suns. This time we want to consider some of the stylistic techniques that contribute to the popularity of Hosseini’s works.

Hosseini’s books are not adventure novels, but the action rarely flags. We are introduced to the main character (Mariam) and one of the central conflicts (her perceived rejection by the world) in the opening pages, and Hosseini rarely stops for sensory details or historical background. But that is not to say that Hosseini skimps on descriptions. He identifies salient points with such skill that he conjures up images and evokes character traits in a few powerful words, without slacking the pace of the plot. And rather than moving back and forth between narrative and description, he interweaves the two, so that the action only breaks off when Hosseini shifts the scene to heighten suspense. (Daniel Mason uses a similar technique in The Piano Tuner, when he relays historical background to the reader in the form of letters and articles read by the main character, so that reader and protagonist learn together.) (Warning: Plot revelations ahead) Continue reading

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A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini (post no. 1)

We read A Thousand Splendid Suns in two days while on a mini vacation. We had anticipated a grim story, and our expectations were fulfilled. But we stayed glued to the book, in part because of Hosseini’s gripping story telling and in part because, judging from the conclusion of The Kite Runner, we anticipated a glimmer of light at some point. It finally dawned, but it was a long time coming.

Due to the length of our review, we thought it best to avoid overtaxing our readers and discuss Hosseini’s latest release in two separate posts. This post is concerned primarily with the content and story of A Thousand Splendid Suns, while the next one will address stylistic matters. (Warning: plot revelations ahead.) Continue reading

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Central Asia Books

We frequently regret that the number of books in the world exceeds the time available for reading them. Even the count of volumes in English that we want to read is formidable, though significantly less. And, unlikely as it might seem considering their relative sparsity, we probably won’t even get around to reading all the good books in English on Central Asia. We recently discovered the four books below, each of which was, interestingly though perhaps irrelevantly, originally penned in a different language. Even though, for various reasons, we probably won’t read them anytime soon, we thought they might likewise have escaped the attention of others who share our interest in Central Asia and could profit from them. Continue reading

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Sadriddin Aini and The Sands of Oxus

Sadriddin Aini

It could be said that prior to Sadriddin Aini (1878-1954), the history of Tajik literature and the rich history of Persian literature, encompassing famous poets such as Firdawsi, Rumi, and Omar Khayyam, were one and the same. Mutually intelligible regional dialects of Persian existed alongside various minority languages throughout much of present-day Tajikistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and parts of Uzbekistan. But dramatic developments were about to give birth to a distinctive modern Tajik literature, of which Aini, a Tajik from a village in present-day Uzbekistan, is considered the father (Perry and Lehr 3). Continue reading

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Persepolis Film

We recently learned from PowellsBooks.Blog that Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis has been made into a feature-length animated French film. An English version is purported to be on the way. Variety has a review here: Variety review of Persepolis film

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Iran and America

This post isn’t about a book, but it does include some articles. Brian’s recent post on our Birds’ Words blog concerns ties between Portland, OR, (where we used to live) and Iran. At the bottom are links to two articles I wrote following our 2003 trip to Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz. Click here to view Brian’s post: Iranian-American friendship

I should note that an Iranian friend I met with today reported that in the past few months the political climate has become much less tolerant than the situation I describe in “Americans in Persia.”

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Everyday Islam–Soviet Anthropologist on Central Asia

Our principal reading material is fiction, with some creative (or occasionally uncreative) nonfiction thrown in to keep us feeling responsible and informed. Everday Islam is more of a reference book than “literature,” but we read it (individually) because it concerns one of our other significant interests–Central Asia, and more specifically, Tajikistan.

Everyday Islam is of interest in part because it represents the very Soviet views of a Communist Party member writing just after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Most books that get translated into English seem to reinforce our own perspective; it is from the dissidents of, for example, China, the former USSR, or Iran that we hear most often in the English-speaking world. Continue reading

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Tajik Folklorist’s Memoirs–Translation in Progress

Stories from the Land of Springs (Dushanbe, 1996) is the memoir of one of Tajikistan’s most prominent 20th-century folklorists. Rajab Amonov (1923-2002) describes his boyhood in the northern Tajikistan city of Uro Teppa. The book’s attraction lies in its both cultural and historic value. As a folklorist, Amonov details cultural practices still observable in many parts of Tajikistan. Written in the late 20th century, the account also discloses Amonov’s perspective on the changes that took place during the early years of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, Amonov knew the value of story, so his descriptions are couched in engaging narratives.

Click here to read the rest on the Birds’ Words blog: Translation in Progress

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Kite Runner and Persian Folklore

This novel by Khaled Hosseini is among my all-time favorites, for its engaging story line, heroic characters, failure and redemption, suspense, drama … Beyond that, my experience in the Persian-speaking world (I spent two years teaching English to Afghans in Pakistan in the mid-’90s, and the two of us spent two years in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan in the early ’00s) made this book a given on our reading list.

Much has been said elsewhere about the themes of redemption and race/Afghan culture that appear in Hosseini’s novel, so I won’t dwell on those here. This post is limited to a summary of my research findings on aspects of Persian folklore in The Kite Runner, described in “Heroism and Tale-Telling in The Kite Runner.” Those interested in the in-depth discussion can read the full paper here: Heroism and Tale-Telling in The Kite Runner Continue reading

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