Symphony of the Dead Paperback – Oct 28 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
First published in Iran in 1988, this heartrending first novel recounts, using an unusual symphonic structure, the WWII-era dissolution of the mercantile Urkhani family in the provincial town of Arabdil. Rageful, narrow-minded patriarch Djaber terrorizes his children, sometimes with the enabling of his wife (Mother). Yousef, the eldest, is paralyzed in a childhood incident and becomes a family burden. The deep bond connecting twins Ida and her brother Ideen is broken first by Ida's banishment to the kitchen and subservient duties, then by her marriage and subsequent death. The central, triangular conflict is between Ideen, a gifted poet; his father, who thwarts his every literary advancement; and Ideen's elder brother Urhan, the favorite son, who dedicates his life to the family business. Over the course of the book's four movements, traumatic events reoccur, contrasted with the constants of daily life, and abetted by fluid shifts in time and perspective. Maroufi, who has been in exile in Germany since 1996 (when he was convicted of insulting Islamic values), forges a desperate cycle of self-preservation and self-destruction in this tense and sorrowful narrative.(Oct.)
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"In that sense of desolation lies something austerely grand." Financial Times
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
if not my most favorite, one of my favorite persian writers. But the english translation disappointed me. The translator is an expert in what he does but the english text does not carry the farsi tone. some words are just
outdated in (at least american) english and dont really make sense. It needs to be translated to a richer english text.
The story revolves around two brothers, their significantly different views on life and styles and the clashes between them as they become older. One is studios and a bookworm, with a poetic mind. Another a store owner, trader and uneducated. One seeks discovering his identity; the other looks for greatness in approval and recognition from society. These differences are accentuated and emphasized by their parents, each in its own way. A father whose world does not extend much beyond his business and his place of residence. And a mother who sees injustices in how her children are being treated by their father and tries very hard to make up for it. Each page, each chapter reeks of death and decay, not unlike James Joyce's Dubliners. But most importantly it is about ignorance, about principles and force feeding them to people around us, and yes about love. Love is what binds people together throughout these pages and selfishness and self-pity are what create isolation and amplifies ignorance.
The chapters can be schizophrenic - the narratives at times jump from one time internal and incident to another, even multiple times within a paragraph. It was hard to adjust to this style at the beginning, specially in the first chapter which was almost like a summary of chapters to come. But I came to appreciate it as it was actually very creative. I'm sure this is not the first time this has been done by a writer but Mr Maroufi has done a great job here. In one of the chapters, the whole writing is a stream of consciousness, not unlike how the thoughts and memories come and go into our heads, without filters, sometimes at random, but usually along a theme or two. The writing is very fluid and smooth.
I started reading the translated version. But the translation, although is ok, does not capture the original feel of this book, written in persian. I definitely suggest reading it in persian if you can. Regardless, as depressing as the book may seem (similar to the feel that The Road by Cormac McCarthy had), it is very enjoyable to read.