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Profile Image for Adina .
889 reviews3,536 followers
April 2, 2020
Now shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2020

“Contrary to what dad believe, culture, knowledge and art retreat in the face of violence, the sword and fire. “

I guess this novel proves that I am not over magic realism in general but only over some authors representing this genre. I say this because this book is drowning in magic realism, it breaths in and breaths out magical creatures, ghosts, Arabic and Persian mythology.

Shokoofeh Azar is an Iranian writer, living in Australia and this is her debut novel. The novel tells the magical and tragic story of a family who loses everything in the times of The Islamic Revolution. The story is narrated by a 13 year old girl who happens to be a ghost. Most reviews mention this detail which is revealed fairly early so I do not consider that a major spoiler. I am not going to say more about the plot because I think it is better to be discovered by the reader.

The writing is part inspired by the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (mentioned twice in the novel) and his friends, part influenced by the Iranian storytelling. The novel is also a tribute to literature in general as countless works by Iranian and international authors are devoured by the characters.
Profile Image for Alan.
470 reviews212 followers
September 22, 2022
I don’t have much of a platform anywhere, but I wanted to revisit my review of this book and break “bookish” character to reiterate an important message now in the latter half of September 2022:

FUCK the virus that is the Islamic Republic of Iran and the cunts that run it.

My heart goes out to the brave Persian women trying to live their lives freely. Here is to the sun rising in support of you beautiful lionesses.

Don’t be fooled by the cover.

Let me start by explaining what greengages are, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of trying them.


These are greengages. They are Persian through and through, right down to their core. We call them “گوجه سبز” (goje sabz), and they are about the most delicious variety of plums that you will ever eat. They have a tart, rich flavour. Sprinkle some salt on them and they are so juicy and refreshing that they will drive you to throw back one after another (they are quite small) until your stomach bloats and you are in the fetal position, rocking back and forth, holding your tummy, while your mother stands there and you have to explain to her why you didn’t stop at a few, but rather decided to have about a half pound of these bad boys. Then you are back to do it again the next day, with no respect paid to moderation. They are in season and really at their peak towards the end of July and beginning of August – so, right now. If you have a Persian district where you live, you know what to do. Ah, the tastes of Iran.

Don’t be fooled by the serene image of the greengages.

It is fair to say that the usual “anecdotal” disclaimer is almost redundant with the people of Iran. Obviously, our experiences have been unique. Some still live in the country, fighting a dictatorial regime that pushes them to breaking point every single day. These may be the same people that will pop up and beg me to stop discussing the atrocities of the country, so that it can save face with the Western world. God forbid that the citizens of other nations realize that Iran is no longer the Persian empire that it used to be – as if this wasn’t blatantly obvious. God forbid that they look down on the rape and pillage that happens on the streets – whether by the regime on the people, or by the people on the people. Some live at a farcical divide from the realities of the “everyman” Persian, residing in mansions in gated communities and earning more than 99% of workers who can barely afford to put the smallest portion of chicken on the family table. Others, like myself, are no longer there – the memory of a hell hole constantly flooding my parents’ daily existence and making for melancholy topics of conversation on war, the 1979 revolution, rations, censorship, George Orwell, and attaining enlightenment from it all. I am certain, however, that if a Persian family is intact and honest, if they talk about the experiences of their lives, if they get down to brass tacks, and if they haven’t been bought out as informers for the regime, they will tell you variations of the same story of the downfall of freedom – a paradise lost to schemes and religious fanaticism.

I can write for a lifetime and still fail to capture the feeling in me, what to say about such a nation. I admit that my conversations about Iran swirl down to doom and gloom rather quickly. My Canadian and American friends listen eagerly at first, wanting to reassure me that they find the beauty of certain buildings in the country (the images of which they have seen) mesmerizing, or that the koobideh within the 31 provinces must be even better in person. I understand. No one in his/her right mind wants to constantly think about the fact that playing certain music may get you arrested, that normal teenage flirtatious behaviour may get you whipped, or that admitting to having read certain books (I am thinking of a certain Salman Rushdie classic) may get you to… disappear. Just like that. One day you see him, the next? Who?

Despite the unsavory nature of the topic, it is one that I believe needs to be discussed, no matter how difficult the undertaking is. God bless Shokoofeh Azar for putting a real voice out there, one not tainted by the fear of being shot or stoned upon publication. She is a political refugee living in Australia – freedom of speech! Was the translator so lucky? Unfortunately not. The author mentioned in an interview that the translator travels to and from Iran quite frequently, and so all you see on the back cover of this book is the following short sentence: “The translator’s name has not been included here for reasons of safety and at the translator’s request.” That’s a sign of current Iran, and an Iran of the last 40 years.

To say that the great work of Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, has influenced the writing of this book would be an understatement. The author is quick to call Márquez’s work one of her favourites and one that has had a lasting impact. Of course, you would be hard pressed to find a book with as grand a scope as the former, but we can at least appreciate Azar for her vision and efforts. The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is Iran’s very own modern masterpiece of magical realism – a gift from an author who has fled its shores to be able to breathe freedom and envision a past full of wisdom, wine, and wisterias more purely and honestly. The use of magical realism is important. It’s a symbol of all that cannot be expressed within the walls of Iran and all that the current generation of Iranians may be immune to. These readers may chalk up the magical realism to a vain attempt on Azar’s part to “emulate the greats” with no substance. It’s considered chic in Iran (and indeed, across the world) to discuss the merits of a piece of art while the conversation carries no weight, no analysis, no reason for being. These folks may have to take my word for it, that leaving your birthplace is necessary for you to appreciate what is happening within the novel and to understand the significance of its techniques. The only reason that mermaids, ghosts, and jinns haunt the pages of this book is that they could not do so if it was published in Iran. Here comes censorship. Here comes banishment. Here comes death.

Azar touches on many topics that speak to me – I have to apologize that I cannot have an “objective” view of this novel. Deep in my soul, I understand and embody everything that she is trying to express, because I have been trying to do so for my whole life. She talks about the deep Persian affinity for literature and books, its brutal destruction by the invading Arabs and the end of the Sasanian Empire, the fleeing of the beloved Zoroastrians, and a variety of other ancient themes. Alongside these, she discusses more modern topics – the repression of music and movies made in the West by the government, the continuing soul of the young and old as they reach out and try to feel one another, the fact that discussion of sexuality is anathema, and what Azar smartly calls “the Second Arab invasion” – the takeover of Iran by dictatorial forces that crave nothing but power within a hierarchy.

You may read this book and think that 80-90% of it falls under the fantasy of magical realism, but I can tell you that, with the exception of the overtly “magical” elements, only about 10-20% does so. Most of it is real. The sentiments are all real. The feelings are real. True, authentic. A great representation of Iran in 2021 (wait a second, no, I believe that it has actually gotten worse since publication), and one that is ironically never allowed to see the light of day within the country itself. However, I say all of that and realize that there is a deep fear in Iranians living in the country. They are tired of dying, they are tired of fighting. They are scared. They cannot see a way out. They have just elected a bona fide perpetrator of genocide to office, rigged or not – someone who won the “free elections” with 63% of the votes – the same person that Azar and other Iranians know responsible for the 1988 mass genocide of thousands of Iranian citizens due to their affiliations with differing political parties (official estimates say 2-3 thousand, many sources say tens of thousands). Is it any surprise that these feelings lead to this gem from Azar:
“He thought Tehran was also like an addict. A city addicted to smoke, to humiliation, to poverty and torpor whose slightest effort to sober up gave rise to panic. Tehran was an addict that wanted to get clean but lacked the will, and after several days of sobriety would begin using again with even greater intensity. It was an addiction to oppression, an addiction to poverty, and an addiction to inhibition and nostalgia.”

So why the greengage? Why the greengage tree? The colour green has long been associated with the repressed movement of freedom in Iran, for one. But there is also the call to wisdom and humanity – as the Iranians within the story show their erosion and lack of wisdom and humanity as a result of being subject to tyranny, greengage trees wilt and disappear. Hope disappears.

Here in Canada, on this side of the world, I am indebted to my current country, one that I am grateful to call my true home and true nation. One that will remain so for the rest of my life. It is likely that I will never again set foot on the soils of Iran. That hurts only a bit. I may never see the resting place of Cyrus or the beautiful architecture of Isfahan. But I will be able to enjoy my greengages here in Canada, perhaps with a bit of salt to go with them, and the knowledge that the resulting stomachache (I have never learned my lesson) will be well worth my freedom.
Profile Image for Hugh.
1,272 reviews49 followers
April 2, 2020
Shortlisted for the Booker International Prize 2020

Azar is an Iranian (or Persian) exile living in Australia - which gives her a degree of license to describe her country's problems that would not be available to anyone still living there - indeed the translator chose to remain anonymous for his/her own safety.

This is an enjoyable magic realist fable, which is very loosely based on the experience of living through Iran's Islamic revolution, but owes much more to Persian and Arabic myths and legends. I don't think it is much of a spoiler to reveal something that is explained early in the book, i.e. that the narrator of the book is a ghost, who watches over what remains of her family. The story is populated by jinns, mermaids and other fantastic creatures. I am not normally a big fan of such fantasy stories, but in this case it works very well as a way of making the story more palatable to a casual reader, without lessening its outspoken criticism of the excesses of the regime.

This quote seems appropriate: "It's life's failures and deficiencies that make someone a daydreamer. I don't understand why prophets and philosophers didn't see the significance of that. I think imagination is at the heart of reality, or at least, is the immediate meaning and interpretation of life"
Profile Image for Paul Fulcher.
Author 2 books1,304 followers
December 27, 2020
The more she read old books such as The Darab Nama, One Thousand and One Nights, Khayyam’s Nowruz Nama, Hossein Kord Shabestari, The Shahnama, Eskandar Nama, Malek Jamshid, Jame al-Olum, Ajayeb Nama, and Aja’ib va Ghara’ib, the deeper she delved into the magnificent expanse of ocean that was the Iranian people’s real-imaginary beliefs, and became ever more detached from the real, day-to-day world. To deny or forget her past, she read and wrote, submerging herself in the meaning of myth.

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree has been translated from the Farsi original by Shokoofeh Azar and deservedly longlisted for the International Booker, following its Stella Prize shortlisting in Australia. The translator, who does a superb job and worked closely with the author, has chosen to remain anonymous, likely due to one of the book’s more contentious setpieces.

The novel begins with an immediate sense of its potent mixture of mysticism and horror:

Beeta says that Mom attained enlightenment at exactly 2: 35 P.M. on August 18, 1988, atop the grove’s tallest greengage plum tree on a hill overlooking all fifty-three village houses, to the sound of the scrubbing of pots and pans, a ruckus that pulled the grove out of its lethargy every afternoon. At that very moment, blindfolded and hands tied behind his back, Sohrab was hanged. He was hanged without trial, and unaware he would be buried en masse with hundreds of other political prisoners early the next morning in a long pit in the deserts south of Tehran, without any indication or marker lest a relative come years later and tap a pebble on a headstone and murmur there is no god but God.

Our narrator is 13 year-old Bahar, Sohrab her brother and Beeta her sister, and the novel revolves around the story of the three siblings and their parents, her mother Roza and father Hushang
The story is set in Iran, in the decade or so following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The family fled their family home in Tehran in the early days of the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, fleeing to a remote part of the country. But even there, the tentacles of change and upheaval eventually reach them:

And yet, as we laid the first stone for the house near the forest and that ancient fire temple on a hill overlooking Razan, we couldn’t have imagined how useless our flight had been given that just nine years later the road leading to the village would feel the weight of a car carrying a mullah and his bodyguards that then ascended the hill to the grove and arrived at our doorstep.

The distinctive style of the novel blends the beauty of Iranian culture with the horrors of the post-revolution years, Zoroastrian and Islamic religion (Roza still regard the latter as an imposed religion following the 7th century Arab conquest of Persia), and in literary terms, Iranian storytelling with magic realism. In particular we soon learn that our narrator is actually a ghost – she died in a fire in the early days of the Islamic Revolution – but one that interacts with and talks to her relatives.

And while there is a linear thread to the story, it is told via episodic short tales and set-pieces, and with references often made to episodes in the collective memory of the past (“the fire of the First Soothsayer”) that haven’t yet been explained to the reader. So a typical introduction to an incident reads:

In the years of Mom’s waiting in Razan, and Dad’s in Evin Prison and Darband, on a foggy morning of an ordinary day when Mom had long since lost the fortitude and physical strength to tend to the grove and keep the house free of creeping vines, ants, and lizards; and the inhabitants of Razan had become used to war, black snow, and the absence of their sons and mothers; and the whole story of the First Soothsayer, Effat’s black love, and Razan’s holy fire had become mere distant, inconceivable memories; the brazen sound of chainsaws aroused the villagers from their sleep, once and for all.

Literature is as noted a key to the novel. There is a wonderful extended set piece (of which the below is only a fraction) where the family’s extensive library is burnt by zealots, which acknowledges the novel’s many influences, above all One Hundred Years of Solitude:

I vividly remember how Danko’s Burning Heart was engulfed in flames that then licked at Luce’s skirt who, desperately trying to protect herself from the fire in the pages of Romain Rolland’s book, held Pierre tightly to her breast. I watched as the fire spread to the intertwined lovers Pierre and Natasha, Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Abelard and Heloise, Tristan and Isolde, Salaman and Absal, Vis and Ramin, Vamegh and Azra, Zohreh and Manuchehr, Shirin and Farhad, Leyli and Majnun, Arthur and Gemma, the Rose and the Little Prince, before they had the chance to smell or kiss each other again, or whisper, “I love you” one last time.
Oh! . . . Remedios the beauty and her white bedsheets, the fragile yellow wings of Mauricio Babilonia’s butterflies … merging with the flames, burning, and disappearing as if they had never existed.

Indeed one of the novel’s tensions is between the temptation to retreat physically but also into mysticism and literature and physically, and the need to engage. Hushang at one stage returns to Tehran to try to understand what is happening, only to find that this brother Khosrow prefers to take refuge in the seemingly abstract:

The next morning, though, Dad continued studying alone. He still wanted to know how the Iranian culture and civilization, with all its grandeur and creativity, with its belief in good thoughts, good words, and good deeds, had collapsed and reached such depths. Uncle Khosrow, on the other hand, truly did not want to know anything. He just wanted to float like an innocent being in a stream of cosmic consciousness and utter acceptance, and occasionally appear in a library somewhere in the world to read a book.

But Khosrow argues that meditation may be the best path to knowledge:

Most people see the world as a dangerous and threatening place they have to arm themselves against, fight with, protect themselves or run away from. And for these people the world truly becomes a menacing, harmful, aggressive creature. But the world is something one needs a lifetime just to know.

And as the family read classic novels they indeed find:

Nausea showed us what complex political, religious, and philosophical intermediaries the world has—a world we wanted to comprehend directly; The Metamorphosis showed two bereft girls that humankind today is not what classic literature had taught us. We read The Unbearable Lightness of Being with such rapture that before we had realized what had happened, night had fallen, and Scenes from a Marriage made us cry over our naive belief in the purity of lovemaking. Eventually, Dad joined us, too, and together we explored Lovers, Moderato Cantabile, The House of Sleeping Beauties, Ragtime, The Tatar Steppe, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Remains of the Day, then discussed them for days.

What happens with the family, which the reader to an extent has to piece together, defies conventional explanation. At one stage Hushang (by this time alone) is arrested and interrogated, but his confession leaves his captors bemused and angry:

The man yelled even louder, “You’re just making stories up? Your sister turned into a jinn and your daughter into a mermaid, and before going into the sea she gave birth to fish and shells?! There was black snow and Zoroastrian ghosts prayed for you?! A ghost showed you a treasure map?!”

So in a Life of Pi-esque explanation (although in interviews, the author here has been clear the magic realist story is the true one) he offers a more conventional account:

Instead, he wrote that he had been completely opposed to the political system prior to his arrest, that Beeta had lost her sanity and now believed she had been transformed into a mermaid and was in a psychiatric ward; and that his wife, Roza, had Alzheimer’s disease and had gone missing.

I’ve only touched on some of the themes in a wonderful novel.

Highly recommended – 5 stars.
Profile Image for Jola.
184 reviews277 followers
May 18, 2020
Have you ever tried to pour an ocean into a thimble? If yes, you know exactly what I am feeling, trying to write a review of Shokoofeh Azar's novel which I finished tonight. Words fail me. I wish I had a garden - then I would plant a greengage tree instead. It would always remind me of Roza, Hushang, Sohrab, Beeta, Bahar and the book which blew me away.

That's it.

Review to come, provided I will safely return to reality. My heart is still in Razan.
Profile Image for Settare (on hiatus).
259 reviews333 followers
May 10, 2022
I really wanted to like this book, but it didn't let me.
I have a little bit of praise but also many problems with it. It's a sentimental story that brings to life many forgotten local Iranian folk tales, but it's so poorly written and its message is a bit distorted and exaggerated that I can't rate it anything higher than a 1.5.

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a novel by Shokoofeh Azar, an Iranian based in Australia. It uses magical realism and Iranian folklore to tell the story of an upper-class Iranian family whose life is driven to absolute ruin in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution. Like every other work of fiction by Iranian writers in Diaspora, it's very complicated for me, as an Iranian to talk about this book with non-Iranians, especially since such books receive attention in international circles by people who don't exactly understand the complications, nuances and the reality of life in post-revolution Iran. I don't feel safe to write as freely as I'd like to on the subject, so I will leave that for another time, and only mention three main things about the book itself:
1) the use of magical realism and folklore, 2) political message, and 3) writing.

The usage of Iranian folklore to tell the story is the book's only strong asset. Azar has used many elements and imaginary beings of Iranian folk tales (especially those of Mazandaran, a province in Northern Iran) and I praise her for that since those local folks and legends have become so niche and unknown that are on the brink of extinction these days. I knew about some of the legends, and I checked the rest with my mother (whose family is from Mazandaran) and she confirmed that some of the elements are very old, almost forgotten fairy tales that she vaguely recalls having heard about from her elders. I think Azar's attempt to incorporate them in her book is a nice way to breathe some new life into these forgotten legends.
(Personal side story: (if you've read the book you'll find this bit interesting) my maternal family owns an old family property, an orchard with a house in it on top of a hill overlooking a village in the mountains of Mazandaran, just like in the book. Interestingly enough, one of the villages down the hill is called Razan. Even more interestingly, there are some stones at the end of the orchard that the elders in the family are convinced are the remains of an ancient Zoroastrian graveyard. Also, everyone in the village is convinced there are ancient treasures buried deep in neighboring hillsides. Of course, I am skeptical of the truth in any of these claims, but it's interesting to observe the similarities between this place and the book, it only goes to show how realistic Azar's portrayal of Mazandaran's remote villages, legends and beliefs are.)

The book doesn't follow a strictly linear timeline and spends enough time to explore each of the main character's individual stories, which is good. There are some interesting twists, too (ghosts narrating, side stories getting a whole chapter to suspend the main story, etc). The magical realism is alright, but I have heard from fellow GR reviewers that it's an amateur imitation of One Hundred Years of Solitude and since I haven't read that one, I refrain from further commenting on that. (The people who said that are probably right, though.)

Then there's the socio-political content of the book. The thing is, it's not easy to write an honest and non-exaggerated story about the causes and aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. People usually fall on one of the two extreme sides and both groups tend to distort the reality to fit their own agenda. Group one believes life before the revolution was absolute hell and the revolution made the country prosper. That's a ridiculously false claim. The second group likes to think life before 1979 was heaven on earth, that the Shah regime had no problems and everyone was happy, then for some abstract reason a revolution just 'happened' and now life is absolute hell. The second part is perfectly true but the first part of that claim is also ridiculous. Shokoofeh Azar is obviously a member of the second group. The reason why this book is getting such hype is simply that it was published abroad, so the author managed to write freely without censorship and attack the revolution, which is great, but that doesn't erase the lack of literary merit in this book.
Before the 1979 revolution systemic censorship and total violation of freedom of expression in the country had paralyzed writers, journalists, and basically everyone, leaving them unable to publish and create what they wanted. That got much worse the revolution, the only thing that changed was the guideline on what content is considered banned or offensive. Before the revolution, no one could talk about socialism or criticize the Shah, after the revolution it's forbidden to question Islam, Islamic values, the legitimacy of the regime and many more. Iran's post-revolution social situation is abysmal in freedom of expression and everything else, which gives people a false sense of nostalgia that "everything was great before the revolution", but that's not true.
Azar has published her book in Australia. She's written freely, attacking each and every single hegemonic dogma that exists in post-revolution Iran: She's ridiculed everything they hold "holy", she's touched on almost all unspeakable things that are childishly considered taboo. That's quite satisfying to read, I love that part. The issue is that she doesn't have a solid knowledge of Iran's contemporary history, and has written things that a Western audience loves to read about Iran. The problem is, you cannot judge what is distorted and what is not unless you've lived in the country or have read extensively on its history. She mentions book-burnings, brain-washing, rape, mass-executions, etc., which are all perfectly verifiable historic events.
But then, the way she portrays the social dynamics of the country are out of touch with the reality. It's as if her portrayal of Tehran is fixed in the 80s and 90s, but she's describing life in 2010s. Some other atrocities she describes are perfectly realistic, possible, or even certain to have happened (I'm particularly thankful that she's mentioned the mass executions of 1988 that were very real, absolutely catastrophic and no one can talk about them publicly and safely in Iran), but the way she's mixed real events with imaginary, exaggerated one is so problematic. Her mixed-up message makes it difficult for the non-Iranian target audience (or even Iranians with insufficient knowledge in recent history) to judge what is real and what's not. And that's the hardest thing for me to explain on a short Goodreads book review. (I'm saying this as someone who is wholeheartedly opposed to and disgusted by the current situation, I'll make this clearer when I'm in a safer position.)

But now, here comes the huge flaw, the most annoying flaw: language, writing, and grammar.
Before starting the book, I read in some English GR reviews that the translation is lacking something. That's not a translation problem, it's a writing problem. I read the book in the original Persian, and I'm disappointed and even enraged to say that the prose (and I can't even call it that) is flimsy, wacky, inconsistent, flawed and downright abysmal for the most part. There are even grammatical errors that I consider a huge red flag in any published piece of writing, let alone a book shortlisted for the Booker Prize. There are commas in places you absolutely don't need a comma, the definite direct object particle is missing in some cases where sentences get too long, and there are some other syntax and grammar errors and editing inconsistencies that lowered my opinion of the book by many steps.
The other problem with writing is its tone. Farsi (Persian) has many different registers of formality and if you mix them up in a text, it becomes messy, clumsy, and cringe-inducing. Azar has failed to use them correctly. She's used verbs that don't fit in with the tone of the rest of the sentence, she's phrased her thoughts in a way that signals incompetency in writing or lack of mastery over the Farsi language. Some of her phrases even feel translated word by word from English.
She is particularly bad at dialogues. Her characters speak in an unrealistic, formal, and pseudo-philosophical register that doesn't fit the scene or the tone. It's not because of a decision to steer clear of colloquialism: in a few instances where unlikable and inferior characters talk, she uses believable colloquial language for them; which only makes the rest of the so-called elevated dialogues sound more unrealistic. No one, no native Farsi speaker ever speaks the way Azar's characters do.
There are some interesting sentences peeking through, but they never last longer than two lines and she falls back into her amateur, distasteful, and incorrect writing. The English translation has sedated and camouflaged some of the huge shortcomings of the writing, which makes the reading experience slightly more bearable.

My final problem with the book is its internalized and subtle racism and manifestation of problematic ideas.
There are a few cases of fat-shaming (trying to depict a disgusting character, the author insists that this woman is overweight, fat, 120kg, at least 50kg overweight), a few cases of slut-shaming, many cases of racism and problematic ethnicism (using the words "pale" and "crystalline" to describe beautiful people and black/swart/dark-faced for inferior or ugly people, anti-Arab sentiments, etc.), some cases of using rape metaphors where "virginity" is the "purity" and "value" that's being "conquered", elitism (many usages of somewhat derogatory language and tone for villagers and "rural people" in contrast with educated, upper-class people from Tehran), and some other things that I would rather not mention in the review right now.

It could have been a tolerably agreeable book if a) it hadn't exaggerated and distorted so many things and b) if it didn't have such abysmal, messy writing.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,821 reviews1,382 followers
December 13, 2020
Dad wrote everything again. This time he cut out all the parts he had realized were incomprehensible to their stale minds, and embellished here and there to make it thoroughly believable. This time he wrote nothing about the black snow or my ghost, or Aunt Turan joining the jinns, or Beeta and Issa’s circular flames of love-making. In this new version, there was nothing about Homeyra Khatun’s enchanted garden and well or Effat’s black love, the magical sleep or Razan’s holy fire—all of which I had told him about. He wrote nothing about the prayers of the ancient Zoroastrian priests or the mating of the cows and roosters with wild birds and animals during the time of the black snow. This time he wrote neither that Roza was once able to walk through the air above Naser Khosrow Street with The Wayfarer by Sohrab Sepehri, nor that his brother Khosrow could appear and disappear before everyone’s eyes.

Having been chosen with a group of other Goodreads friends to read “Tyll” as part of the Reading Agency’s shadowing of the 2020 International Booker Prize, I decided to read the rest of the shortlist – something I had previously decided not to do and instead concentrate my reading time (severely hampered by COVID-19) on the Women’s Prize longlist.

This book is written by an Iranian exile who claimed political asylum in Australia around ten years ago. It is officially banned in Iran (although something of an underground bestseller) and has been translated from the Farsi under a nom de plume.

The book is effectively the story of a very prosperous Iranian family of 5, and everything that befalls them for the next decade or so. The family flee Tehran (where their wider family had an enormous mansion) to purchase a large plot of land in a village Razan in the remote countryside (located near an old Zoroastrian fire temple – a tradition the mother of the family still follows). But their attempt to flee the chaos, religious extremism and “arbitrary, revolutionary injustice” that engulfs the capital only succeeds for a period as all of those things catch up with them in Razan (although our narrator Bahar – we find out in the 5th Chapter - died at 13 in February 1979, accidentally burnt to death in a revolutionary attack on their house).

Most of all though I think the book is an examination of how people tell stories to make sense of their lives – particularly at troubled and turbulent times. An examination which draws equally on folk legend, the ancient tradition of Persian storytelling and on more recent classic literature from around the world (interestingly these inspirations – Gabriel Garcia Marquez being the most obvious to an English reader – are very explicitly acknowledged in the text as Behar and her family are both Bibliophiles and lovers of literature – particular literature which tells stories, stories of love and death and families, but literature which draws heavily on imagination). It is easy to describe the book as being of the Magic Realism genre – but it draws on a much wider and much older tradition.

“It’s life’s failure and its deficiencies that make someone a daydreamer. I don’t understand why prophets and philosophers didn’t see the significance in that. I think imagination is at the heart of reality, or at least, is the immediate meaning and interpretation of life.”

The book itself can and should be read like one great story – Bahar narrating the tragic and oftentimes terrible fate of her family, via a route which circles around time: very commonly and deliberately, important portentous incidents and their later near legendary status in the life of the family and the village, their reverberations and impacts are discussed well before we actually know what the incident is. Oddly the effect of this is not disorienting but immersive.

But it also consists of many other stories – few (if any) side characters appear in the book without first telling their story – and sometimes these then lead into nested stories of others they have encountered.

And there is also (and one of my favourite parts of the novel) a deliberately varied and again very explicitly signalled examination of different times of storytelling.

The book opens blackly with the mass state sponsored executions of 1988, of which Bahar’s brother Sohrab was one of the many thousands of victims.

Much of the book is told, as alluded to above, in a rather fantastical, mystical, magic realism style – although even there the styles vary. Some that particularly stand out (and reminded me partly of Marquez but also of Kadare) feature the Ayatollah Khomeini and a fantastical and (I think for the author and her characters) redemptive telling of the events before his death, and the way in which he is literally haunted by his victims.

Others though are more standard magic realism fare crossed with Persian myth. Some of these sections to be honest are (like much magic realism) a little tedious – sometimes when the normal rules of fidelity to natural laws and order are abandoned, the storyteller (and novelist voicing them) has a lot more fun than the reader – and during 2-3 lengthy chapters in the middle of the book (while vital to a key early incident in the novel involving fire and fate, and to the eventual fate of Bahar’s sister Beeta) I found myself skipping large sections as well as cringing at two sex scenes.

But there is much more and its in the exceptions and juxtapositions that the real interest of the book lies.

When early on in the novel I read this passage

Briefly Hossein explained that seven years ago people had taken to the streets, chanted death to the Shah and death to America. So, the Shah and his family had fled Iran, His Holiness Ayatollah al-Azmi Imam Ruhollah al-Musavi al-Khomeini returned to Iran from exile in France, the Holy Islamic Republic replaced the tyrannical Pahlavi regime, nighty-eight percent of the people voted for the Islamic Republic of Iran, the leaders of the previous regime were executed, and any remaining opponents of the Islamic Republic were opponents of the Islamic Republic were arrested and sent to prison. Ayatollah Khomeini ordered that housing, water, and electricity would be free for the average Iranian, women had to wear a headscarf, and the Great Leader of the Revolution had ordered all relations with America and all other bourgeois countries cut off. Hossein declared that Iraq had invaded Iran and now all men, young and old, and even children, were on the front fighting to preserve the Holy Islamic State.

I marked it down as representing an understandable (but disappointing) example of using reported narrative to sketch historical background – but as the book developed and I revisited it I saw it as one of the types of stories examined and more so a type which while very common to educated Westerners (and prosperous Iranian City dwellers), is in fact an alien tradition to the villagers and drawing on concepts that are as imaginary and other-worldly to them as ghosts and Djinn’s to us:

In the midst of all of this, just once did one old man ask, “Where is Iraq, anyway? And who is America?”

Later one man, sitting with a group of river ghosts (as well as the long dead Bahar and Beeta - newly saved from a suicide attempt), tries for the first time to tell his story, having previously not known how to tell it. Encouraged he launches into a nearly 8 page and highly convoluted single sentence, very different from the more carefully crafted stories of the others, after which:

The middle-aged man blushed in embarrassment and asked, “I’m sorry, is this how people tell stories?” The old man answered, “Yes, this is one way people do it.”

When Beeta returns from a lengthy time in Tehran, leaving with the innocent face of an anguished girl, returning with “the expression of a stalwart woman, with several gray hairs, a few wrinkles”, she also has “lips that were accustomed to silence” and the biggest sign of her change and the ordeal she has undergone is her unwillingness to tell the kind of lengthy and convoluted story which the family are used to:

Moreover, her account of the events of the last several years was so succinct we didn’t dare ask more. She seemed to have become inexplicably accustomed to keeping silent. I didn’t blame her. When she described how she had joined the first student dissent group upon enrolling at the university as a student of art history, and was arrested at a student protest, banned from studying, and then sent to prison, we realized that life still had yet grimmer things in store for the members of our family. It had taken her less than an hour to recount everything from start to finish;

Two of the most chilling and effective parts of the book are towards the end when the worlds of legend and magic clash terribly with the harshness of modern Iran (and its regime).

The first is when the Father is being tortured after being mistakenly seized at a demonstration as a Shah-sympathiser (perhaps not an unreasonable accusation given the family’s pre-revoutionary wealth and apparent disdain for the people of the City). His confession/family story (effectively his account of the very story we are reading) is rejected for being too fantastical for the elements in the opening quote to my review (which serve as a good summary of the story). Instead he rewrites it to what for the “stale minds” of the authorities is a far more rational explanation but which to him, to our narrator, to (I think from interviews) our author and by this stage of the book us as reader comes across as an unimaginative and frankly inaccurate account of what has actually befallen the family:

Instead, he wrote that he had been completely opposed to the political system prior to his arrest, that Beeta had lost her sanity and now believed she had been transformed into a mermaid and was in a psychiatric ward; and that his wife, Roza, had Alzheimer’s disease and had gone missing. He wrote that I had died in a fire Revolutionaries had lit in our house and they hadn’t seen my body since. He wrote many things. Things that were partly his own dreams. He wrote that for years he suffered from depression and was house-bound until, one day, he set off and travelled through most of the country, teaching and procuring illicit political books for young people. He wrote that he was neither a monarchist nor a communist nor a Mojahedin; that he just wanted democracy and believed that people had the right to choose their religion, dress, and political parties, and that the media should be free. He wrote that he had no living family members and the story of his brother, Khosrow, had merely been a figment of this imagination; and that he had never had a sister by the name of Turan.

And Beeta’s actual transformation to a mermaid (one laced with allusions to legend and literature) and her escape to the sea gives rise to the most disturbing scene of the book as when landing back on water, she is seized by the men who see her, subject to attempted but anatomically impossible rape and then assaulted and shot.

Overall this is a very powerful novel and would I think make a deserved winner of the prize – I have to say it was a lot more enjoyable to reflect on and to write about than it always was to read (I would give the concept 5* and the reading experience 3*).
Profile Image for Katia N.
585 reviews705 followers
April 2, 2020
Literally when I was typing this, the book was shortlisted for International Booker Prize 2020.

In one sentence, if you are a fan of the classic magic realism a-la One Hundred Years of Solitude , you will probably like this book. And it is a harder call, if you like me are not armoured with this work by Marquez. I personally prefer Borges and Cortazar.

For the first two chapters, I really thought i was going to admire this book. For a while now, I've been trying unsuccessfully to find something good from modern Iranian fiction. And for the first two chapters of this novel, I enjoyed the blend of the family's story with Iranian history peppered with traditional Central Asian folklore. It reminded me a book of old Persian and Tadjik fairytales I've read as a child.

But then i realised that the story is being told by a ghost of the 13 year old girl burnt to death, but still pretty much present in the life of the family. And it went downhill for me from there. All the usual magic realist tropes were present there: the ghosts in huge quantities, the rivers of tears, the stopping of the time, the women's exodus to look for their dead children, black snow falling etc., etc. It was very pity as the other mystical elements of traditional Persian storytelling were buried for me in this hotchpotch.

There were two more things which rubbed me in a wrong way. The first was the simplification of the politics. The story is told from the perspective of a well-off cosmopolitan family who became the victims of the Islamic revolution. They endure enormous personal loss. But they still manage to drive an expensive American car and build a huge house in a remote village. And I felt the story was understandably full of angst and bitterness not only for the victims but also for their lost cosmopolitan life style. What was missing for me is why and how so many poor people supported this barbarous regime at the first place. They are represented at the book at best misguided and at worst barbarians with the "calloused hands" murdering alive mermaid.

Another thing I did not like is how Azar re-imagined the last days of Khomeini. I thought it was primitive. I have to admit that I personally do not like when the dictators appear at the novel without good reason and the authors are trying to speculate about their thoughts and characters. It is often happens with Hitler or Stalin. I do not mind when a whole book is devoted to the one of them or when they have just cameo appearance. But trying to re-imaging their thinking in an episode normally does not lead to a good result. Here, I doubt Khomeini was so much afraid that he wet himself or he devoted his last minutes thinking about his first masturbation. Why do we need it in this novel?

And now, the last maybe minor complaint - love scenes! At the middle of it all, all this violence, all this magic and all this realism, we have two scenes which borderline cliches. Here we go:

"The man plunged wildly into her and she grabbed greedily at his hardened loins. Later, when each of them remembered that wild, rebellious night in the recesses of their heart, they could not recall, how many times they climaxed inside each other... three times?" And guess what? "At the end, they found themselves high upon the enlightenment of love". I was so happy for them, but i was glad that they got it over with. That was page 112. I really dreaded that would continue. Fortunately, after one more chapter with another two characters, the torrent of love-making activities described as above have subsided.

Now, to good things. I have to admit, i've exhausted my energy somewhat writing about what i did not like. But I liked the poetic language in many cases. I think the incorporation of Persian folklore was successful, if only it was not mixed with the magic realism that much.

I enjoyed her forays into Zoroastrian traditions. The scene with the fire and the enchanted villagers was really memorable. Though I do not share her excitement with Zoroastrian religion. She seems to juxtapose the Islam and Zoroastrianism. But i think, she herself shows that in extreme the older traditions could be as well self-destructing.

Another element I really appreciated was her intertextuality. She and her characters love books. It shows all the way through the novel. I was not particularly excited by the lengthy lists of books' titles in the text. I did not think they brought much. But I loved the poetry she quoted. And closer to the end, I've discovered the new author, Herve Bazin with: Viper in the fist.

A mixed bag for me, but I can see why people would like this novel.

Profile Image for Antonomasia.
977 reviews1,220 followers
April 15, 2020
The narrative voice is very likeable in this magic-realist ghost story set in post-revolution Iran, but, at least to this reader with zero background in Iranian culture, the novel is often just too similar to the work of Gabriel García Márquez - not quite original enough - for a prize like the International Booker.

Having read Márquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold only last month, I would say that Azar does have a couple of strengths absent from that particular Márquez novel, at least. (She references 100 Years of Solitude several times in The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree and I read that about 25 years ago.) The experiences of both male and female characters are recounted in detail and neither is just a prop to the other - and I never thought the horrors of the regime or general living conditions were minimised by whimsy, sexism or magic realism as I thought they seemed to be in Chronicle. An early scene about the narrator's brother being tortured in prison indicated it wasn't going to shy away from this.

There is rather more magic in The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree; it has some lovely descriptions, and the charm of children's stories in which motley bands of ghosts mingle and lead interesting lives in this world, parallel to the living - from Rentaghost to The Graveyard Book. (The narrator is the ghost of a 13-year old girl who died in a politically-motivated arson, and who can still talk to her living family as well as to other ghosts.) At the same time it is clear that the atrocities and hopelessness of life in Iran for people like the narrator's intelligentsia family is such, that perhaps the only way one can therapeutically reframe things is by using the supernatural. I preferred when this was simply a deduction. In Chapter 15, an alternate bleak, mundane reality is described and this was both too on-the-nose and dispiriting. Some readers will feel, as I did, that we didn't need to know that, be told that: imagining corners of it was enough.

This wasn't a book I wanted to be reading at the moment - though I could always tell from the opening pages that the narrative voice was quite beguiling and it probably wasn't as worthy as one might assume from the blurb, and that to an extent, I might like it despite myself. In the bloggers' shadow panel group, basically everyone loves this book, and that combined with the worthy sounding blurb, and that I don't like Márquez as much as most people, made me really not look forward to that. So I was merely thinking it might be a chore, but at least quite a short one as books go. But the current situation makes me really not want to read books set in currently-existing or futuristic authoritarian regimes. The voice, the folktales of jinns and Zoroastrians, animals doing cute things, and the lovely world of ghosts (which despite a few hints towards its bleakness sounds a lot more fun than life in Iran and plenty of other repressive or severely impoverished places) all provided a lot of relief from that. But this novel is also quite a tough read, especially in the way it keeps pummelling the reader towards the end. Just when you think the horrors might have ended there's another and another and another heartbreaking event, and in those moments I kept remembering that this was not a book I would have chosen to read just now, and that my estimation of that was correct. The rhythm felt different from that of its fellow longlistee (but sadly not shortlistee) The Eighth Life, which seemed carefully constructed to provide a balance of entertainment and drama, horror and endurance with hope and refuge. The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a novel both of politics and art - to tell you about the horrors of the Iranian regime and for the author to express her skill and showcase a beautiful Persian culture millennia older than the current government. It seems to have more to tell the reader for the first time, its culture being less well-known globally, and therefore is relatively relentless.

It feels like a book about processing, and being creatively inspired by, terrible experiences, therefore it doesn't go into the reasons for the revolution and why some Iranians supported it. (It is simply about how people like the narrator's family were robbed of a decent, freer life, in some cases of life, by the post-1979 authorities.) However, I would guess that the folkloric content, and other references not obvious to the average Westerner, might nevertheless make this novel very special to readers with heritage in Iran or nearby cultures.

But there is also plenty to like here. I am not, generally, a fan of books about books and preciousness about books - but for these characters, the stakes are far higher, books are not an overproduced consumer commodity available everywhere; common classic novels and philosophy texts westerners take for granted are dangerous to own and hard to come by, and their long lists of books and paeans to them are deeply meaningful. There was wisdom here, some from the folk tradition like the Wertherian concept of 'black love' which afflicted a neighbouring girl in the village, and some more formal. I really liked the discussion late in the novel between the narrator's Dad and his venerable mystic brother Khosrow. In recent years online, I've often seen a wholesale dismissal of stoicism, acceptance, mysticism and other spiritual ways of coping with difficulty by young - going far beyond the obvious pitfalls of the corporate adoption of mindfulness and happiness studies, or the neglect of living conditions in some areas of psychology - (an attitude similar to the argument the narrator's Dad makes). But one rarely sees someone from the spiritual side getting to reply at length, properly acknowledging the other side's argument, as Khosrow does, and especially not where the argument has real stakes for both parties. Of course, I kind of liked the scene because, in a more elegant and wise way, it echoes my own take on it - that there are some things you just can't change and some people, at least on social media, don't seem to be prepared to admit how common that is and that you need to try and find ways of coping, because the alternative is like a bird that keeps on flying at windows - and there are probably damn good reasons some of these approaches have survived for thousands of years. I only say "kind of" because it was horrible seeing what happened in the novel afterwards.

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree I found similar in quality to several of the other novels on this year's longlist: there is a lot in it which is good quality, but there is at least one significant flaw, or other aspect I disliked, which means I don't see it as a winner. Here that would be the similarity to Márquez, plus its being a tougher read than some would like at this time. (But so many other people like this one, so who knows.) I would have loved to have instead read a whole novel about the 1000-year-old wandering ghost of a Siberian hunter, whom the narrator meets in the first quarter.

(Read & reviewed April 2020)
Profile Image for Jolanta (knygupe).
888 reviews189 followers
May 9, 2022
We are not the first people to have destroyed ourselves; with a city where all devices of felicity were present. -"Manifest of Desolation" by Bahram Beizai

Shokoofeh Azar - Irano rašytoja, 2011-ais, kaip politinė pabėgelė buvo priimta Australijoje. Tai pirmasis autorės romanas išverstas į anglų kalbą. Parašytas jis Farsi kalba ir išleistas 2017-ais metais.
Knyga - apie žmogaus/ šeimos/ bendruomenės/ tautos/valstybės tragediją įspūdingai papasakota per fantastišką magiškąjį realizmą. Veiksmas vyksta Irane tuoj pat po 1979- jų metų Islamo revoliucijos ir trunka daugiu nei porą dešimtmečių. Pasakojimo centre - teheranieciu šeima, bandanti išgyventi tiek fiziškai, tiek intelektualiai, tiek dvasiškai tame porevoliuciniame chaose ir "tvarkoje". Pasakoja tą nepaprastai stiprią ir sukrečiančią istoriją trylikametės žuvusios mergaitės Bahar dvasia. 
"There are a lot of good things about dying. You are suddenly light and free and no longer afraid of death, sickness, judgement or religion; you don't have to grow up fated to replicate the lives of others. You are no longer forced to study nor tested on the principles of religion or what invalidates prayer. But for the most important advantage of death is knowing something when I want to know it. Kon fayakon* (Be! And it is. What God says of creation in the Quran 2:117) Piece of cake. If I want to be somewhere, I am, just like that. I realized all this the day I died, February 9, 1978."[...] 57 psl. 
Azar kalba apie nepaprastą vaizduotes jėgą prieš brutalumą ir nebepakeliamybę, kai nebėra jokios vilties...
"It's life's failure and its deficiencies that make someone a daydreamer. I don't understand why prophets and philosophers didn't see the significance in that. I think imagination is at the heart of reality, or at least, is the immediate definition and interpretation of reality, or at least, is the immediate meaning and interpretation of life. [...] I mean, when life is so deficient and mundane, why shouldn't imagination supplement reality to liven it up?” kaip nuostabiai organiškai autorė supina persų mitologiją, religiją (Zoroastrizmą), realybę. Dvasios, džinai, undinės, žmonės ir kiti (ne)gyviai liečiasi, veikia vieni kitus...Ir net Ch. Bukowski citata "Find what you love and let it kill you" - taip netikėtai atranda čia savo vietą...Nesinori pasakoti kas ir kaip čia vyksta....nes ne tokia ši knyga...svarbiau - ką tu jauti, galvoji ją skaitydama(-as)... 

"So, the thing on which I lived is called Planet Earth, and it's round, and according to you, all of those countries and tribal lands exist, and seven billion people live on this ball, and I don't even know how many that is. I just know it means very many. [...] Well, if there are all these people alive, think of all the dead people and wandering ghosts who also live on this ball. If every one of these wandering ghosts wanted to avenge themselves on another ghost or person, the world would become hell". 54-55 psl.
Ir pabaigai:
"Their lives can be summed up in two sentences: they fell in love with each other and wanted to build a beautiful future, but instead of a happy life for themselves and their children, they saw death, confusion, and suffering, and then died". "I'm happy none of us had children.This isn't a safe world to bring children into".244 psl.
Mano antroji perskaityta knyga iš šių metų (2020) Man Booker International trumpojo sąrašo. Turiu pripažinti, kad ir  kaip man patiko keturios iš skaitytų penkių pernykščių Booker finalisčių, šioji - visiškai nunešė man stogą.     
Skaityti būtina! 
Profile Image for Eric Anderson.
686 reviews3,394 followers
August 21, 2020
When I want to learn about world events and political revolutions there's a reason why I don't only read newspaper articles and history books. There's so much more to a country, its people and their culture than can be found in facts. “The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree” describes an Iranian family splintered apart by the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution. They flee their home in Tehran and settle in a small village with the hope of continuing their lives in relative peace but find the new regime imposes changes which hinder or end their lives. The novel doesn't shrink from the brutality of what happens to people who are imprisoned, murdered or suffer wider violence because their beliefs and opinions run counter to the new order. But it also fills these stories with fantastic occurrences including encounters with jinns and a girl who morphs into a mermaid. These tales which draw upon Persian mythology are a way for the characters to process what's happening to them but they also keep their culture alive when it's being quashed by an enforced monotheistic government. A character named Beeta comments “when life is so deficient and mundane why shouldn't imagination supplement reality to liven it up?” So this novel's method of telling also produces an enthralling and beautifully inventive story.

Read my full review of The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar on LonesomeReader
Profile Image for Michael Livingston.
795 reviews252 followers
February 18, 2018
I struggled with this - lots of digressive magical realism in the style of Marquez, which isn't something I really have a lot of patience with. It's fascinating to read something so deeply Iranian - lots of mythology and history bleeds into the story - but I like my narratives built on more solid ground.
Profile Image for Razieh mehdizadeh.
370 reviews61 followers
April 18, 2020
دوست داشتم این کتاب را دوست داشته باشم و به حضورش در میان نامزدهای جایزه ی بوکر افتخار کنم اما نتوانستم. طنز و تخیل نویسنده خیلی خوب است و در بسیاری از جاها تحسین برانگیز است اما چون خط به خط از روی " صد سال تنهایی" کتاب قرآن ادبیات من نوشته شده بود نتوانستم این کتاب را دوست داشته باشم.
فضای سوریال و نمادها و نشانه ها و حتی خانه و زمان و شلوغی خانواده هیچ کدام اوریجینال نیستند و همه در صد سال تنهایی آمده است. مثلا مادر خانواده دچار جنون های دوره ای می شود. فراموش حافظه و خوابیدن های طولانی- دقیقا در صدسال تنهایی آمده است.
مادر زیر درخت می ماند دقیقا شخصیت مادر با شخصیت پدر که به درخت وصلش می کنند در صد سا�� تنهایی تطابق دارد.
- اعدام برادر- اعدام برادر سرهنگ در صد سال تنهایی
لوکیشن خانه و خمام- عین صدسال تنهایی/ شلوغی خانواده و ورود و خروج شخصیت های گوناگون- تکرار صدسال تنهایی
حضور جلمی های هندی دقیقا مثل کولی هایی که به ماکاندو وارد می شوند.
روح پیر در این کتاب با ملکیادس مطابقت می کند
فضاهای تخیلی زیبا و هوشنمدانه:
با مرگ شورت هایشان را دراوردند و بر فراز شهر رقصیدند.
یا تبدیل شدن خواهر به پری دریایی و رفتن زیر دریاها
پایان کتاب و تلفیق دنیای مردگان و زندگان بسیار زیبا بود.

اما در نهایت برای اینکه بی انصاف نباشم باید بگویم اگر کتاب را گیر آوردید حتما بخوانید.
Profile Image for Lisa.
3,375 reviews429 followers
August 1, 2017
It’s a stunning novel. It’s written in a lyrical magical realism style, which seems bizarre at first – until the author’s purpose becomes clear. This style is both a tribute to classical Persian storytelling and an appropriate response to the madness of the world she is describing. The novel tells the story of a family living through the turbulent period of Iranian history when the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war brought them overwhelming grief. While there is no solace to be had in the real world, the mystical world conjures it instead. When the eldest son Sobrah is arbitrarily arrested and executed along with thousands of others, the child narrator who was immolated when the Revolutionary Guards came to burn her father’s library, is there as a witness. She is there to tell the strange story of her mother Roza’s disappearance, the attacks on her sister Beeta, and the destruction of everything her father Hushang holds dear. The presence of ghosts everywhere seems almost realistic when the entire country is plunged into mourning by the Islamic regime. It is the regime which seems unrealistic because it was responsible for the execution of thousands and thousands of its own people: dissidents and conscripts in the senseless eight-year war…

The regime orders book burnings, the destruction of ancient Persian cultural artefacts, and arbitrary arrests and executions without trial. Roza will not set foot outside the house because she refuses to cover herself in accordance with the new rules, rigidly enforced by the Morality Police. Music is banned; any manifestations of pro-Western attitudes brings brutal punishment. The family leaves Tehran for the small village of Razan, hoping that its isolation will allow them some freedom. But sorrow follows them there too, along with all kinds of strange fantastical beings: fireflies that live in Roza’s hair; Jinns who avenge themselves on Beeta’s lover; and dragonflies which portend the future. The more I read, the more strange it seemed, and yet it made sense when the all powerful Ayatollah Khomeini goes mad in a mansion of mirrors and dies alone, haunted by the spirits of the dead. This is the magical world delivering the justice that this evil man evaded in the real world.

To read the rest of my review please visit
Profile Image for Jerrie.
989 reviews130 followers
March 8, 2020
This book seemed like an Iranian version of ‘100 Years of Solitude’. It follows a family from the 1979 revolution to present day Iran. There is lots of magical realism and the book is populated with characters from the local folklore-djinns and soothsayers, mermaids and ghosts. Unfortunately, I found that the fantastical overwhelmed the story of the family to the point I often couldn’t tell what was going on.
Profile Image for John Banks.
136 reviews51 followers
September 21, 2020
Probably closer to 4.5

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree (Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker International) is a wonderful read in the broad tradition of magical realism - there are certainly references to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, among others. But simply framing it in this way would be to misunderstand, as the novel is heavily gounded in and uplifted by far older Persian storytelling and mystic traditions. My pleasure in this novel is this spiritual soul it shares for the art of storytelling : the making and telling of stories and the power of this craft when confronted by the soul and life destroying forces of religious totalitarianism.

The book is set in the decade or so after the Iranian 1979 Islamic Revolution. It tells the story of a family, from the perspective of one of the daughters, Bahar, doing their best to survive the aftermath of the revolution, holding onto each other and their traditions, even in the face of death and indeed through and after death. Ghosts and spirits are a signficant presence. The author, Shokoofeh Azar, left Iran in 2011 to become a political refugee in Australia.

We learn very early in the book that Bahar is dead (at age thirteen) and the family have fled Tehran to a small rural village, Razan, where they attempt to hide out from the zealous religious revolutionaries:

"There are a lot of good things about dying. You are suddenly light and free and no longer afraid of death, sickness, judgment or religion; you don't have to grow up and lvie a repeat of others' lives on your own belhaf.... I realised this the day I died. February 9, 1979. Just two days before the culmination of the Islamic Revolution. I died the day inflamed revolutionaries boiling with revolutionary hatred and fervour poured into our house in Tehranpars and, making strange noises, cried out, 'God is great. God is great!'.

Bahar's brother, Sohrab, is imprisoned and executed. This family suffers a lot. Against all this though they have their stories: stories nested within stories (histories, myths, religious and political philosophy, poetry, music and literature from across the world and from diverse traditions). They are literature and culture devotees, they cling to it through the maelstrom of post- revolutionary Iran. In an incident of book burning, as the flames engulf the precious volumes from the family library, Bahar literally hears the book characters' cries:

"All those voices, those books, each of which was a art of the body and soul of our five-member family: our arms, our hearts, our hair, our dreams, our eyes, our mouths". With the burning of the books "... we had lost our limbs and our voices".

Various characters encountered, not just the family members, share gorgeously narrated, richly imaginative stories. It is this celebration of story that is at the heart of The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree and it is a joy as a reader discovering how delightfully and ingeniously Azar intertwines these storytellings in the overarching narrative of this family and its struggle. There is a kind of nostalgia here and a sense that such stories enable us to transcend the terrible realities of such political upheaval (for example, by escaping in the form of a mermaid). But the author is savvy enough to be aware of the tenuous and fragile nature of such storytelling cultures. At one point when the family car is searched and the revolutionary guards find a copy of Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude: "Their car was turned inside out and, finally, when the Guards found One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez in Beeta's bag, they spent an hour passing it back and forth and radioing around before they were eventually convinced that politically, it was not a dangeous book". Is Azar suggesting that for all their wonderful beauty our treasured stories count for little in the face of such brutality (other than perhaps providing a kind of solace) or is she suggesting that the guards , mistakenly, do not see or apprehend the very real power of such literature? Perhaps both and I think this is a significant theme of the book.

It is the weaving together of the many different stories with wonderfully strange mystical and dream elements featuring mermaids that escape to the Caspian Sea, soothsayers, magical forests, ghosts and spirits, jinns and other magical creatures and entities that marks this as magical realist, a form that I love. Azar also follows many other magical realist writers (Allende, Marquez, etc.) with playfully distorting temporality and memory. There is a sentence which reminds me of the famous opening line to One Hundred Years of Solitude, basically a homage to its playful, twisty distortions of time and memory.

A book well worth spending time with that beautifuuly reminds us of the strangely mesmerising powers of storytelling in all its diverse forms and traditons, including its capacity to provide solace against brutal authoritarianism and even perhaps inspire us to face it down.
Profile Image for Akvilina Cicėnaitė.
Author 19 books234 followers
April 15, 2020
Jaudinanti knyga, parašyta pirmuoju asmeniu, įdomiai pasirinktu pasakotojos balsu – tai žuvusios trylikametės mergaitės dvasia. Per tragišką vienos šeimos istoriją skleidžiasi Irano istorija. Pasakojimo laikas –1979 m. vykusi revoliucija, kurios metu panaikinta monarchija ir įvesta Irano Islamo respublika, bei vėlesni metai.

Knyga parašyta magiškojo realizmo stiliumi, bet šioji stilistika pasirinkta kaip priemonė perteikti tragiškus įvykius, apie kuriuos tampa per sunku kalbėti ir kuriuos tampa per sunku suvokti kasdienėje plotmėje. Vaizduotė gelbsti tada, kai gyventi siaubingoje realybėje tampa nepakeliama. Esti dvi šeimos likimo interpretacijos – „tikroji“ ir toji, apie kurią sukasi pasakojimas, kur veikia dvasios, džinai, undinės, kur viskas tampa įmanoma.

Knygoje apstu subtiliai įpintų aliuzijų į persų mitologiją, zoroastrizmą, pasaulio literatūrą. Svarbų vaidmenį knygoje užima pasaulinė literatūra apskritai - knygos yra deginamos, skaitomos, slepiamos, išsaugomos, knygos saugo nuo vienatvės ir beprotybės, bibliotekos tampa šventovėmis. Tekste apstu tiek iraniečių, tiek pasaulinės literatūros vardų bei citatų, organiškai įsiliejančių į tekstą. Parašyta nuostabia literatūrine kalba, tarsi vienu įkvėpimu.

Rekomenduoju visiems, gal tik išskyrus tuos, kuriems apskritai nepatinka magiškasis realizmas.

“The fragrance of the northern-smoked tea reached Mum’s nostrils as she was traversing the Milky Way, watching the stars and planets spinning and orbiting with astonishing order, every rotation of which split open a space in which scientists hopelessly searched for a sign of God. From up there, perched on star dust, gazing down at an Earth no bigger than a tiny speck, she came to the same conclusion she had reached that day at precisely 2:35 p.m: it’s not worth it, life isn’t what she had thought. Life is precisely that which she and others were prodigiously killing – the moment itself. A moment carrying in its womb the past and future; just like lines on the palm of one’s hand, in the leaf of a tree, or in her husband, Hushang’s eyes.” (p. 2)
Profile Image for Fedezux.
184 reviews215 followers
February 9, 2021
"Poi, con un ampio movimento del braccio che mi rimase scolpito per sempre nella memoria, tirò fuori un fiammifero, lo accese e lo lanciò sulla catasta di libri.

Con un debole pff...ff...ff...le fiamme guizzarono sulle pagine attecchendo prima ai vecchi volumi di carta marrone di cui amavo così tanto il profumo.

...guardai il fuoco insinuarsi tra altri amanti inseparabili, Pierre e Natasha, Heathcliff e Catherine Earnshaw, Scarlett O'Hara e Rhett Butler, Elizabeth e Mr Darcy, Abelardo ed Eloisa, Tristano e Isotta... Rosa e il Piccolo Principe, prima che avessero il tempo di annusarsi o baciarsi o bisbigliarsi un'ultima volta "Ti amo".

Oh!...Remedios la bella e le sue lenzuola bianche, le friabili ali gialle delle farfalle di Mauricio Babilonia e i continui sbuffi di Huckleberry Finn che pagaia sulla zattera - tutti si mescolarono alle fiamme, bruciando e svanendo come se non fossero mai esistiti.

Era come se gli esseri umani non avessero mai avuto bisogno di amore o verità, di storia o saggezza, di avventura o conoscenza.
Era come se non desiderassero più nulla."
Profile Image for Prerna.
222 reviews1,427 followers
August 5, 2020
Shortlisted for the International Booker prize 2020

Oh Iran, what is it about you that makes you the perfect setting for a tragic story seeped in magical realism? Is it those streets ravaged by years of war? Is it your rich cultural heritage of pain, beauty and truth? Or is it simply the defiance of your people - a defiance whose intrinsic value is comprised of the will to survive?

Mirrors. Mirrors were everywhere, catching everyone off-guard with a view of himself from every angle. Gradually fear gripped all who were worked there. Cries of terror could be heard day and night, calling for help out of the labyrinth.

The most visceral character of this book is unwontedly, the dead ghostly daughter - Bahar, whose name in Persian as well as Hindi means 'spring'. And she truly is a breath of fresh air, the center of a story that spins around war, punishment, grief, torture, abuse and love. The story is a paroxysm of loss, loss that causes grief so crushing that it encroaches on reality, erases its boundaries and unshackles the mind. Pain exists in a toxic symbiotic relationship with its perception, destroy one of them and other vanishes almost immediately.

He concluded that much of what influences our lives, happens in our absence.

Our perception of time is so constrained in accordance with our biological evolution that it permits us to understand small stretches. We live in the present, both past and future are incomprehensible entities. We forget that the present is not static, that it always rushes past us to merge with history. The present itself is a consequence of causality, and in its turn begets more obscure events ordered linearly in time.

From up there, perched on star dust, gazing down at an Earth no bigger than a tiny speck, she came to the same conclusion she had reached that day at precisely 2:35 p.m: it’s not worth it, life isn’t what she had thought. Life is precisely that which she and others were prodigiously killing—the moment itself. A moment carrying in its womb the past and future; just like lines on the palm of one’s hand, in the leaf of a tree, or in her husband, Hushang’s eyes.

What is history but a collective memory in transit? And what is to become of us? Oh but the same fate as that of Sohrab, Beeta, Bahar, Roza and Hushang awaits us. We will be engulfed by history, we will just blend into its branches that stretch across all of space-time.

I realize this has been more of a rant that a review. So I hope this helps: although I found the translation to be lacking something, the book was still marvelous. Girls turn into mermaids and give birth to fish, trauma causes time to stand still, ghosts live in eternal boredom, Jinns grant boons although honestly they are curses. And the characters revolt against the vulnerability of being human.
Profile Image for Paula Mota.
1,032 reviews318 followers
March 19, 2020
“But for us, for our family, enough was enough. They could watch as a pregnant Baha’i woman was thrown from the roof of her house in the name of Islam to the words, “God is great.” They could gradually become accustomed to seeing executions moved from inside prisons out into city squares and parks in front of their homes. Putting the stress on the word wanted, Dad says most people wanted to get used to everything. As if it were a decision they had made in advance as they seized their booty, land, jobs, firms, and factories from the enemies of Islam—the affluent and bourgeois—dividing the spoils among themselves.

Tal como Marjane Satrapi, a escritora Shokoofeh Azar era uma criança quando se deu a Revolução Islâmica no Irão e, tal como a autora do famoso “Persépolis”, vive agora no exílio. "The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree" começa com Roza, qual Barão Trepador, a instalar-se no cimo de uma ameixeira rainha-cláudia, depois de a sua família ter fugido de Teerão onde a casa onde vivia com o marido e os três filhos foi incendiada por serem considerados intelectuais e burgueses. É apenas o início de uma história que mistura o melhor realismo mágico que já vimos em García Márquez (a quem aqui se pisca o olho várias vezes) com histórias de génios, adivinhos e fantasmas inspiradas na mitologia e no misticismo persa. A vida da família é pautada por sucessivas tragédias relacionadas com a repressão do regime de Ayatollah Khomeini, apresentando episódios de puro terror, mas esta narrativa enreda-se de tal forma em sucessivas histórias interligadas ou paralelas que, aos poucos, vai perdendo algum do fôlego.

“Khomeini said, “I am who I am. Someone for whom millions of people voted. Someone who managed an eight-year war. Someone who spread Islam to the far reaches of the earth.” The child smiled slightly and said, “Why?” Khomeini said, “Islam must become universal.” Again, the child asked, “Why?” “Because Islam is the last and most perfect religion.” Again, the child asked, “Why?” Heatedly Khomeini exclaimed, “There are no whys about it! Your understanding has not yet matured, otherwise you would know that this question doesn’t have an answer.” Calmly but insistently this time, the child said, “But, really why?”
Profile Image for Neil.
1,007 reviews650 followers
March 8, 2020
I read this book due to its longlisting for the 2020 Booker International Prize. The story is set in Iran in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and we follow the fortunes of Bahar’s family as she tells us about her mother, father, sister and brother. It seems every preview of this book gives away the “secret” that Bahar is, at the time she is telling the story, a ghost and the story of her death forms part of the narrative. Bahar and her family leave Tehran to start a new life in a small village. Their plan is to keep both their intellectual freedom and their lives. But it isn’t long before the revolution catches up with them.

The judges of the Stella Prize wrote:

The novel presents a richly woven magical reality: Bahar’s mother attains enlightenment atop a greengage tree at the moment her son is executed; the ghosts of five thousand prisoners march down the streets of Tehran, preceded by a river of their own tears; and a fictional Ayatollah Khomeini finds himself lost underground in his own labyrinthine palace of mirrors. Drawing on techniques of classic Persian literature, and recalling aspects of South American magic realism, Azar powerfully juxtaposes the beauty of Persian culture and mythology with the brutality of a political regime responsible for the destruction of so many lives.

The examples given are just a few of the many magical realism aspects of the book and these along with the “techniques of classic Persian literature” make this a book with a very different feel to my normal reading. As a general rule, I am not a great fan of “magical realism”, so I really wasn’t sure what I would make of this. There were times, I have to admit, that all the weird stuff was a bit too much, but that is purely down to my tastes and not a comment on the quality of the book.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about the book now that I have finished it. I did struggle at times as I was reading it, but I am 99% sure that this is purely down to the fact that it is very different to my normal reading i.e. it’s me, not the book. I can’t claim that I understood all the imagery and allusions, but I think there are several times when you have to simply go with the flow.

3.5 stars rounded up.
Profile Image for Viv JM.
694 reviews153 followers
June 15, 2020
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is the story of a family of five set during the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the years afterwards. It combines the brutal reality of injustice, loss and grief with fable-like magical elements complete with jinns, ghosts, prophesies and even a mermaid.

I am finding it a difficult book to rate. There were passages that were, for me, breathtaking and amazing and worthy of five stars. However, during some of the lengthy forays into mysticism and magic, I found my attention wandering and quite honestly I felt bored and wanting to skim read. I do wonder if I just wasn't quite "in the mood" for magical realism and that's why it just wasn't really hitting the spot for me. Your mileage may vary, and this is definitely an interesting and worthy book. I have plumped for 4 stars.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,351 reviews412 followers
June 20, 2020
This book is about life in Iran following the Islamic Revolution in 1979. We follow the destruction of an upper middle class family that had done well under the leadership of Pahlevi, but whose education and wealth attracted the attention and persecution of Ayatollah Khomeini and his thugs. Like others, I was interested by the notion of a family narrative with interwoven Persian tales: magical realism, mythology, historical events, etc. Sadly, the wandering storyline was too hard to follow, and I was never vested in any of the characters, probably because of the utter absence of cohesion. I kept reading on, hoping the story would improve, but eventually quit @ 53%. Note: It's been years since I haven't finished a book.
Profile Image for Mahmoud Masoud.
287 reviews473 followers
December 2, 2022
الرواية دي، كانت مفاجأة السنة. واحدة من أجمل الروايات اللي قرأتها السنة دي. مزيج من الواقعية السحرية، وأدب الديكتاتورية، والتراث الشعبي. تخيلوا كده مئة عام من العزلة، مع حفلة التيس، مع الجمال جرح. الكاتبة عاملة مزيج رائع في الرواية. يمكن عيبها الوحيد في النص الثاني من الرواية هتبدأ تحس إن فيه حاجة مش طبيعية في سياق الرواية. مازلت مش قادر أحدد العيب ده ناتج عن إيه. بس في النهاية تجربة مميزة جداً. الجميل في الموضوع إن تقريباً دي أول تجربة ليا مع الأدب الإيراني، وعندي حالياً شغف رهيب تجاهه.

كان فيه مشهد في الرواية وقفت عنده شوية، لما جمعوا كل الكتب وحرقوها في وسط القرية، ووالد الأسرة بعد أيام طلب منهم يسجلوا كل اللي فاكرينه من الروايات علشان يحتفظوا بيها ومتتنساش. المشهد ده كان مكتوب بعناية لدرجة إنك هتتأثر به بشكل فظيع. أحب أرشح الرواية دي جداً.
Profile Image for Lia.
281 reviews68 followers
March 25, 2018
Simultaneously a modern yet mythical retelling of the Iranian Revolution.
The narrative style is unusual and I understand it draws stylistically from Persian storytelling traditions.
An amazing first novel, an interesting choice for the Stella Prize shortlist. Beyond a doubt a wonderfully told story, yet the unusual structure and subject perhaps may alienate all but the most adventurous of readers.
I enjoyed the book immensely and it is well worth the effort and energy to read.
I would be very interested in Ms Azar's next project
Profile Image for Lyn Elliott.
699 reviews187 followers
July 14, 2020
Full review to come when I get my computer back from the repair shop.
I hope it wins the Booker International.

Update now the computer is home again.

Shookoofeh Azar was only seven when the Islamic Revolution struck Iran, and she lived there with her family until her work as a journalist and writer put her in such danger that she was forced to leave. In 2011 she was accepted as a political refugee in Australia where she has resumed writing and has begun to exhibit as a visual artist as well. The cover illustration is from one of Azar’s works.

She wrote The Enlightenment of the Greengage TreeThe Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree in her first language, Farsi, and worked with translator Adrien Kijek on the English version which has been shortlisted for the Booker International. Here’s the Booker short description:
'Set in Iran in the decade following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, this moving, richly imagined novel is narrated by the ghost of Bahar, a 13-year-old girl whose family is compelled to flee their home in Tehran for a new life in a small village, hoping in this way to preserve both their intellectual freedom and their lives. But they soon find themselves caught up in the post-revolutionary chaos that sweeps across the country, a madness that affects both living and dead, old and young.
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree speaks of the power of imagination when confronted with cruelty, and of our human need to make sense of the world through the ritual of storytelling. Through her unforgettable characters and glittering magical realist style, Azar weaves a timely and timeless story that juxtaposes the beauty of an ancient, vibrant culture with the brutality of an oppressive political regime'.

Not just the Booker team but most reviewers label the book ‘magic realism’ but to me that detracts from the originality of Azar’s vision and writing, which come naturally out of her own background. The dead are with the living, she said in an interview, that’s the true reality, and the spirit of storytelling infuses the whole of life, perhaps especially when existence is bleak.

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree took me into a culture far removed from my own, one in which the living and the dead occupy the same place and time, where ghosts are lovingly and protectively present; where humans transform into djinns; the flight and colour of dragonflies direct lives; and where the ancient spirits of the pre-Islamic of Zoroastrian world are familiar companions, at least to the central characters.

I found myself thinking about ‘The Arabian Nights’, a collection of tales from the Orient, including Persia, Syria, Egypt and Turkey, which I’ve dipped into in a couple of translations of varying length over the years. Marina Warner wrote a splendid article on the Nights in 2008 (1) and this paragraph caught some of the rich quality of Greengage Tree:
‘The title alone summoned a mood, an atmosphere, a sphere of the imagination, dominated by enchantments and prodigies, terrifying metamorphoses (into animals, stone, things), flagrant coincidences and cruel horrors, voluptuous pleasures and despotic injustice, with fountains, rubies, sherbet, genies swarming out of caskets like smoking chimneys. Reading the stories is hard because they disobey so many rules about character, motive, verisimilitude, plot structure; they do not fit with theories about fiction, history or psychology, and their excesses of emotion, their desultory and extreme violence, twists of fate and improbable outcomes seem to flout the order of things. This makes them exciting, alarming and compelling.

In Azar’s book, the violence and cruelty come from the regime and its enforcers, not from the supernatural which is benevolent but ultimately powerless.

It’s an engrossing, wonderful book.

Lisa Hill has written a long review on her blog

1 Marina Warner in LRB 2008
Profile Image for Abbie | ab_reads.
603 reviews447 followers
March 14, 2020
(#gifted @thebookerprizes) ‘Or if just once they were to watch and understand the blooming of a flower or birth of a lamb, using their senses of sight and hearing and smell completely, perhaps humans would come to the conclusion that in all the days and nights of their lives, only that minute in which they are immersed is worth calculating.’
From the lows of Red Dog I moved on to this absolute GEM of a novel from the International Booker longlist and my faith in the judges was restored. I’m going to be bold and say if you were going to read just ONE book from the longlist, make it this one. That’s right! And I still have six to read. (Although do consider reading more from the list as there is some cracking translated fiction here!)
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a blend of magical realism and historical fiction set during the Iranian Revolution of 1979, going up to pretty much present day. It recalls two of my favourite novels, The House of the Spirits and One Hundred Years of Solitude, as it focuses on a family over the years whose lives are touched by magic. But it’s also steeped in Iranian folklore which sets it apart and allows it to stand on its own two feet (or mermaid tail).
Azar, an Iranian refugee now living in Australia, wrote originally in Persian and their translator has done an incredible job of rendering that lyrical language into English. But here’s the kicker. The translator has requested to remain anonymous for security reasons. The book has not been ‘officially’ published in Iran because of its stance against the regime - Azar herself was arrested multiple times when she worked as a journalist before seeking political asylum in Australia.
I know I haven’t said all that much about the plot but I genuinely believe I could do no justice to the book that way. This one has to be experienced to appreciate the richness of the prose. The combination of the mythical element and brutal historical fact is perfection, and I will definitely have my eye on anything else Azar writes!
Profile Image for Ramin Azodi.
115 reviews
July 29, 2020
راست‌ش وقتی اولین بار اسم کتاب را همراه با خبر نامزدی‌ش برای جایزه بوکر، از صفحه خانم پدرام‌نیا خواندم، مطمئن نبودم خیلی آش دهن‌سوزی باشد. یک بار هم خواستم از ناشری زیرزمینی کتاب را اینترنتی سفارش بدهم که فروشنده انقدر برخورد بی‌ادبانه‌ای داشت که منصرف شدم. چند ماهی گذشت تا مصاحبه‌ای از خانم آذر به دستم رسید. این بار بیشتر درباره کتاب دست‌گیرم شد. فهمیدم که در ژانر رئالیسم جادویی نوشته شده و به سرگذشت یک خانواده پنج نفره بعد از انقلاب می‌پردازد.
اما تازه وقتی که می‌خواستم کتاب "روز‌ها در راه" آقای مسکوب را بگیرم، چشمم به این کتاب افتاد و این بار سفارشش دادم.
تا فصل چهارم فضا معمولی بود و قصۀ جدیدی نداشت. نگران بودم که کتاب فقط یک بیان شاعرانه از وقایع تلخ گذشته باشد. این نگرانی تا میانۀ فصل چارم همراهم بود اما اولین برگ برنده نویسنده، همین‌جا رو شد و بعد از این ورق به کلی برگشت.
نویسنده از قصه‌های فولکلور ایرانی استفاده کرده و آن‌ها را به سبک خودش بازآفرینی می‌کند. نتیجه فضایی آشنا و همزمان مدرن است. بنابر همین مهارت در بازآفرینی، منطق جادویی کتاب کاملا قابل پذیرش شده است. بر این اساس می‌توانم بگویم که نویسنده به خوبی از عهده نوشتن داستانی گیرا در ژانر رئالیسم جادویی برآمده است.
تا قبل از سی صفحۀ پایانی آماده بودم تا پنج ستاره برای این کتاب ثبت کنم ولی راست‌ش را بخواهید، از فصل هفده خیلی خوشم نیامد. البته این ماجرا کاملا سلیقه‌ای است ولی (من حس کردم) لزومی نداشت شخصیت بیتا چنین سرانجامی داشته باشد. (به من) این حس دست داد که نویسنده دنبال بستن پرونده بیتا بود و شتاب‌زده این کار را کرد.
Profile Image for Huy.
770 reviews
April 9, 2020
Một cuốn sách xuất sắc, kết hợp giữa khói bụi chiến tranh ở đất nước Iran đầy biến động với những xung đột sắc tộc, tôn giáo, văn hóa... cùng với màu sắc huyền ảo, đầy ma mị của thế giới tâm linh. "The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree" được kể bởi hồn ma của một cô bé chết cháy trước mặt ba mẹ mình trong cuộc chiến tranh Hồi Giáo, cùng với số phận của 5 con người cùng một gia đình trong những thăng trầm của lịch sử, cô bé đã chứng kiến lắng nghe và thấu hiểu tất cả. Được viết đầy nhịp điệu, giàu chất thơ, uyển chuyển mà trong đó ta thấy được văn chương là niềm an ủi nhưng cũng là ngọn nguồn của khổ đau, sách vở khiến người ta sợ hãi, được xem là mầm mống nguy hiểm của sự nổi loạn bởi vì nó mang lại cái nhìn khác biệt trong cái xã hội ta luôn bị bắt ép nhìn về một hướng.
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