Dalia Sofer: Septembers in Shiraz

The Iranian Jewish main character adds a layer of complexity to an already convoluted political terrain, and that is what sets it apart from the few books I have read about the Iranian Revolution.

Isaac Amin, a poet turned wealthy gemologist, is arrested and accused of being an Israeli spy.  His ethnicity and his status incriminates him. He is guilty of the blatant sin of being a wealthy Jew.

But who can hope for a fair trial? “If you think there is going to be a trial you’re going to be very disappointed.” There is only interrogation and torture.

Dalia Sofer writes with a slow burning suspense and unravels difficult matters with a remarkable ease.  From affecting scenes of prisoners reciting poetry to each other, to dialogues that confront social issues, to thoughts about religion and family, she breathes into them beautiful subtleties and realities that are literary pearls.

I judged this book by its cover. There seemed something saccharine about it that it took me a while to pick it up. But because of a long-standing personal intention to piece together a literary tapestry of the Fertile Crescent, I finally read it.

How wrong I was! There is absolutely nothing saccharine about post-Revolution Iran or in the physical and psychological tortures of their prisons.

The novel moves back and forth between Isaac in prison, his wife and daughter who take control of their situation in individual ways in Tehran, and a son studying architecture in New York.  We see almost nothing of Shiraz, and it takes a while to understand that Septembers of Shiraz is a wistful metaphor and allusion to brighter days that have become irredeemable.

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