"The courtyard of every house in large cities like Tabriz was, by millennia-old tradition, surrounded by high walls to ensure security and privacy." The 18 stories in "French Hats in Iran" lend us an unforgettable peek behind the high walls into the courtyard of the author's fascinating youth, and at the same time crack open a door into the Iranian history of the mid-twentieth century as it happened on the streets of Tabriz and as it climbed over the walls into the courtyards and gardens and the lives of "ordinary" people. To me this is an antithesis to "The Kite Runner" with its intense action, dark secrets and sweeping history. It is not the sensational occurrences that drive Radjavi's stories, but the small twists and turns, each in itself seemingly insignificant, but chained to the next, like pearls on a string, they form a remarkable whole.
Not unlike Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies", the view of the larger world is afforded without grand declarations, generalities or summaries, but is rather inevitably implied through an unforced dialog and actions of the characters that inhabit Radjavi's captivating narrative. The language flows smoothly, affording precision born of careful choice and simplicity, with just enough detail for everything to ring true and come alive. Each story is like an exotic candy that one can roll around in one's head, probing each angle and enjoying each flavor for days afterwords.
This is one of the best books I have read recently. Having grown up in Iran during the period covered by the mini-tales,I was swept away by the pleasurable emotions the stories evoked in me. But what is recounted here is timeless and will speak to people of all ages and cultural backgrounds. Radjavi is a natural raconteur and writes in the grand tradition of Persian story-telling literature. His style is direct,devoid of flashiness,and strikes by sheer elegance of its simplicity. I enjoyed all the episodes and recommend the book warmly. It is beautifully printed by Mage Publishers and will make a good gift.Special thanks to Mage Publishers for their praiseworthy efforts to discover and promote talent in Persian art and culture.
I enjoyed reading "French Hats in Iran". The book takes one back to 60-70 years ago in a traditional neighborhood in the city of Tabriz. It is the story of a young, curious, and smart boy growing up in Tabriz in a traditional family. The book, through short stories, sheds light on the life style of ordinary families in the 30's and 40's in Tabriz. The chapters are short, and the style is smooth and friendly, filled with good sense of humor, which makes the book a pleasant read, especially for someone from Iran and in particular from Tabriz. I am looking forward to perhaps a second volume of the book. In my opinion, this book can be made into a good movie. So, sometime in the future, I hope to see a movie based on this book.
"French Hats in Iran" is a quiet gem of a book - giving rare glimpses into Iran's hidden past as seen through the preturnaturally observant eyes of the writer as a young boy. Through a series of beautifully crafted vignettes, the author successfully conveys the challenges involved in finding, and holding, the fragile balance between filial obedience, religious and cultural strictures, and the universal joy and adventure of just wanting to be a young boy. While I have travelled to the Middle East as a visitor, this book gave me what I feel is my first 'behind the scenes' look of a society largely hidden from view to outsiders. It's a book to be read, re-read, treasured, and passed on.
I found "French Hats in Iran" an entertaining, enlightening, and instructive book. The author has managed to treat culturally sensitive issues of superstition, despotism, and modernity in a simple, humorous, and humane way. The book is a lesson in soul-searching. The deep way in which the author has succeeded in in a re-examination of himself in the public eye is truly remarkable. Through short stories about the turbulent life in Iran in the 1940's and 50's, we learn how the author's mother, sister, brothers, favorite cousin, and even his autocratic father have each played a role in his gradual liberation from superstitions and attraction to new ideas in science, history, and democracy.
Humorous collection of short stories that take place in the1940s in Iran. An era that is "in ambivalent flirtation with modernity". Radjavi is able to capure the essence of this period in a laugh-out-loud kind of way. Radjavi has razer-sharp wit and can make some of the more foreign customs seem so relatable. My favorite story was of the shame of serving beef instead of mutton to guests. I laughed so hard I could have squirted milk out of my nose.