Friday, September 07, 2007

"What an illusion, the idea of an ordered, ordinary life"

Multiple points of view (the omniscient third person, mainly) seem to be the current wave of narration~not that i'm complaining, mind you (or maybe it just so happens that i have read a string of them entirely co-incidentally...but i was reading in a writers' mag that it was a great way to get your story across. Such is the story told in Dalia Sofer's debut novel The Septembers of Shiraz which covers a year in the life of Isaac Amin's family (from September 1981 to September 1982~how appropriate then that i just happened to finish it in September, aye?)
Isaac is a rare gem dealer who is taken prisoner by the revolutionary guard in the days closely following the Iranian revolution. He is found suspicious by the new, devoutly Muslim, government by virtue of his Jewishness, his extensive travels (with frequent trips to Israel), his loose ties to the former Shah, but, perhaps mostly for his wealth and success. While he undergoes interrogations, torture, and solitary confinement in prison his wife, daughter, and son face their own fears and doubts about a possible future without him.
The theme of isolation is a constant in this novel, and everyone of its characters feels it, whether they be truly confined or merely unable to express their feelings to those around them. Isaac's son Parviz is in college in New York feeling no direction and disconnected, floating in the culture of Hasidic Jews he is unfamiliar with but that offers his only familial ties in a strange city. Isaac's nine year old daughter feels lost. She is first told her father is on extended business trip but she knows that something is wrong and begins to feel uncomfortable with her former circle of friends, resorting to her own (childhood logical) methods of bringing safety to her world. Both Isaac and his wife Farnaz struggle to navigate the new territory while remembering the more magical, happier times at the beginning of their courtship and marriage. When things begin to fall apart you realize that what you have is worth more than you knew. Perhaps not an original thought, and perhaps this story has been told before in a different setting and yet at the same time it is a beautiful, well-written novel.

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