The Arab World in Troubled Times
The troubled times that the news reporters have tagged as “Arab Spring” continue. Things are heating up in Syria, as government troops fire on mourners. (See our review of The Calligrapher’s Secret, set in a peaceful Damascus). The U.S. is sending drones into Libya and French spokesmen are calling for “boots on the ground” form NATO troops as Gadafi holds off rebels. (We talked about In The Country of Men, which helps understand the long, desperate struggle in Libya). Although Iran is not one of the countries in open revolt right now, they went through a perilous time last year, and continue to be a thorn in the side of the Western nations. We continue our series on Arab countries with an interview from last year. I found Mostofi’s view of her native land to be quite different than the usual view we get of Iran.
Book: Cemetery of Dreams (2010) by S. Mostofi
Cemetery of Dreams by S. Mostofi covers in fictional form the events during President Jimmy Carter’s term when the United States tried (and failed) to rescue diplomats held hostage by the Iranian Revolutionary government.
The book is complex, as were the events, but the characters are compelling individuals rather than stereotypes. We see the events of that year from the point of view of Iranians and what was going on in Iran . This inside view makes clear the political differences within Iran in a way that was new to me. Along the way we are introduced to the wide variety of cultures and society within Iran.
I turned to Mostofi’s web page to learn more about how the book was structured. While there is some information in the book, and more on the web page, I still wanted to talk to her. Here are some of the answers she e-mailed to my questions.
A Traveler’s Library: Do you worry that writing this book (and your blog) will make it difficult for you to travel to Iran in the future?
Sasha Mostofi: Cemetery of Dreams is fiction but it’s inspired by true stories from personal experience as well as years of research and provides a pretty accurate description of post revolutionary Iran. Many of my relatives, some who were officers in the Shah’s military were executed without fair trials immediately after the revolution. Their stories clearly have had an impact on me while growing up in Iran. However, I never intended to make any sort of political statement with this book.
My blog also highlights ordinary everyday Iranians. I think in the sensationalism of Western media we sometimes forget that Iran is a very diverse country; ethnically, linguistically, religiously and even culturally. .. But sometimes people tend to put everybody from that region in the same category, which I think is a mistake.
It is important that our government (U.S.) works with the people of that region to fight extremism. I also like to highlight the unsung everyday Iranian heroes in Iran and around the world, who take action to have a positive impact on their country. I like to celebrate them because I know of the risks they’re taking. In some way I’m doing that with my novel as well since I’m portraying Iranian characters who take action to make a difference.
I don’t think the straightforward way I have portrayed the human rights violations, many of which are close to reality and continue to this day, will be simply ignored by the Iranian authorities.
I don’t think it’s safe or wise for me to visit Iran right now.
Read the rest of the interview with S. Mostofi that ran last year in November. Learn why she thinks you should travel to Iran, how she became a writer, and more. And I also recommend her blog if you are interested in learning more about Iran.
Did you read Cemetery of Dreams last year? If you read it, I would really like to hear your reaction.