Book Excerpts
Photo by John Sann

The white jasmine was in bloom. Blossoms were gathered in silver bowls throughout the rooms, and the scent had taken pos-session of the house. That night, Mother said, summer would be celebrated with a dinner party on the back veranda. They’d strung up the paper lanterns, their orbs swaying in the evening breeze.
From my bedroom window upstairs I watched the garden, the curve of flower beds, the gardeners spraying the lawns, fans of wa-ter arcing out at sunset.
Dinner would be late. My brothers were having their friends, and I was having mine. At quarter to eight, Father, immaculately dressed, came out in the upstairs hall and settled down to read yet another version of the rise and fall of our history. Mother was fret-ting downstairs, orchestrating our life as usual. She called out to my brothers to bring the stereo system out into the garden.
My three brothers, not married yet, went out often with a lot of girls and brought many of them home. That summer of my six-teenth year, I watched them go out into the world and I watchedthem return. Always triumphant. I couldn’t decide if it was their freedom that made them that way, or the privilege and certainties of home. I believed in never letting on how much I knew, preserving power. And secretly I longed to see my life ravaged so I could see it rise up again from its own ashes — a riveting thought.
I went out into the hall dressed in ivory muslin and pearls for dinner. A manservant ran halfway up the stairs to make a hurried announcement.
“Sir, madame says it’s Hajji Alimardan! He’s here with his son! They’re waiting in the living room.” Father, breaking into a smile, said, “What a splendid surprise.” My pulse raced. Reza was back for the first time. I hadn’t seen him in two years. ...

Page 11

... I had mentioned the private matter to them at a luncheon two weeks before, telling
neither Houshang nor Father. Father hasn’t much influence left and Houshang only uses his for business. He doesn’t like to get in-volved in matters of conscience. So there we were, the three of us on the lawns, cordial and diffident. What a place for a conversation about the secret police, in the Garden of Paradise. But bad taste reigns these days. They’re always cordial at first because of Father.
“And how’s Mr. Mosharraf? Please give him my very best.” Why don'’t they do it in person? Father isn’t fashionable to call on any-more; he’s one of the has-beens they’ve shelved. How did they put it after that? Succinctly. “That’s all they’ll say. Don’t ask more ques-tions.” Why not? A country without questions is a land of indiffer-ence. They don’t even hear the questions ....

Page 38

"....The jeeps turned on their sirens, and Houshang slowed down.The jeeps pulled out, speeding past us, two army vehicles now visible behind them. Then something peculiar happened in front.The jeeps jackknifed into the brown car suddenly, forcing it off the road. ...

Page 40 & 41

...Mother was tucking lamb into hot, fluffy rice. Mashdi Ghan-bar, our cook for more than thirty years — reciter of epic poems, and repository of Napoleonic longings — was quibbling ostentatiously about the whereabouts of four canisters of cooking oil. The new maid, a girl of eighteen from the village, came in the back door carrying fresh, long loaves of sangak bread. Mashd-Ghanbar gave her his most menacing look. She’d come to learn that meant she might as well take poison. I opened the cake box. “It’s dented.” Mother pointed to the green dome. “We were in an ambush!”
She nodded, heaping more baby lima bean rice onto her china platter as if the outside world didn’t really count. ...

Page 69

" ... That night they took thier revenge and started grilling me like a criminal, disassembling my life, denouncing my background and family and loyalties. I was bourgeois, I wasn't committed, I was impure, I was and equivocator. I didn't follow the code of behavior and reasoning they upheld. " Where was your burning dedication to absolute revolution?" they yelled. I was always equivocating. I was an agitator, a revisionist, a renegade. I said, " the only absolute I feel is a revulsion for you. You reason exactly like the regime you condemn!" ...

Page 91

"... So many years gone by, we could feel them buckle under us, our smiles slightly strained at that realization, and at being alone togther."

Page 92

" ... Explaining had distanced us from each other with time and place, making sudden strangers of us instead of bringing us closer to the emotions we felt at seeing each other again."

Page 94

".... We discussed how the Left was splintered and all over the place, deathly afarid to criticize and rectify itself. Meanwhile the tide turned antisecular, with Shariati the rage and students finding religion, calling Islam our legitimate roots and heritage. Even society philosophy professors and men of letters -- those coddled by the regime -- were siding with Islam to retaliate against the Left by saying nothing worthwhile came from the West ... "

The first five Chapters (53 pages, 212 KB, PDF format)
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The dust of many crumbled cities 
settles over us 
like a forgetful doze, 
but we are older than those cities.
and always we have forgotten our former states. . . . 
Maulana Jalaleddin Rumi 
Reprinted  by kind permission from 
Coleman Barks: The Essential Rumi