8 Aug 2007, 10:48pm
Books & Literature
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Missing Soluch

Missing Soluch

Iranian writer Mahmoud Dowlatabadi is described in one bio as “the most prominent Iranian novelist of the 1980s” and in another as “one of the first Iranian writers of fiction to support himself primarily by writing.” Before he became a writer, he was a stage and film actor in Tehran, where he still lives. Before that, he was a farm hand, shepherd, and construction worker, and was raised in a very poor village. Perhaps that’s why this book, set in a fictional rural village in Iran, is so affecting.

First published in 1979, Dowlatabadi’s novel Missing Soluch was recently translated to English by Kamran Rastegar. It’s a really elegant translation, for which I am most grateful (I read it in English but compared notes with friends who read the Persian). And Dowlatabadi’s spare and nuanced writing is actually quite reminiscent of John Steinbeck’s, his prose simple and his protagonists complicated. The subject matter, too, is very Steinbeckian, as the novel is not short on suffering: it’s the story of a woman who must support herself and her three children when her husband, Soluch, unexpectedly leaves them and the impoverished village in which they live. Like some of Steinbeck’s works, Missing Soluch illustrates the decline of agrarian life in the face of industrialization and can be heartbreaking to read. The novel is full of madness, violence, rape, and loss, and despite the simple language, it’s not an easy read, and it’s more than 500 pages long. But there’s hope and clear tenderness towards these characters, and a look at a rural Iran that is not frequently represented in the landscape of Iranian literature (at least not in the literature that’s available in English). That makes it worthy of any reading list.

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The first 5 pages of this book were truly captivating :)

 

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