An extraordinarily powerful, evocative and literary novel set in Iran in the period immediately after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is an embodiment of Iranian life in constant oscillation, a struggle between four opposing poles: life and death, politics and religion. The resulting sorrow that resides in the depths of our joy is the product of a life between these four poles.
Using the lyrical magic realism style of classical Persian storytelling, Azar draws the reader deep into the heart of a family caught in the maelstrom of post-revolutionary chaos and brutality that sweeps across this ancient land, and its people. Exquisitely written, Azar is the consummate storyteller, using the panoply of Persian mythical and mystical entities to bring life, humour, hope, resignation, and insights to the characters and their world. It is simultaneously confronting and transcendent; weaving through the cruel and banal are the philosophical and existential illuminations that, for the reader, are intensely affecting.
Stylistically, the novel is multi-layered, fixed to the material world and simultaneously connected to supernatural mystical realms. The earthly and corporeal is informed by political, social and cultural events; The Iranian Revolution, book burnings, destruction of treasures and antiquities, arbitrary interrogations, arrests, and executions.
The metaphysical is informed by the mythical, the mystical, and the fantastical, the legends based in Iranian popular belief: Al, Jinns, Azrael, Bushasp the demon of sleep, Huma the bird of happiness, and the myth of the Tree of Life. And so, fate-altering dreams, visions and enlightenment, appear throughout the narrative.
Linguistically, the novel is heavily influenced by the tone and language of the Iranian-Persian storytelling tradition, much like the much-loved Persian classic, One Thousand and One Nights, which immerses the reader on a journey, from one story to the next.
The history of oppression in Iran is as old as the country's mysticism, and the history of its myth and imagination is older than both. And so, Iranian life today is lived between the real and the imaginary. The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree overwhelms the reader with sorrow; just as sorrow has penetrated every layer of Iranian life, for only then will it be possible to understand what it means to be Iranian in the modern world.
Shokoofeh Azar was born in Iran in 1972, just 7 years before the Islamic revolution. Despite spending most of her childhood and early career in a relatively hostile environment for independent writing, Shokoofeh's early interest in writing and art was sparked by her father who was an Iranian intellectual, author, poet and artist. She studied literature at high school and university, later working as a journalist for an independent newspaper for 14 years.
As well as having numerous short stories, reports, interviews and articles published in the Iranian media, her other publications include two collections of short stories: one children's book; and a Companion in Writing and Editing Essays in the Persian Literary Encyclopedia, which won the prize for The Best Book in Iran in 1997.
In 2004, Shokoofeh became the first Iranian woman to backpack and hitchhike along the Silk Road: from Iran to Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan and India. Reports and photos of this 3-month journey were published in an Iranian newspaper, to great acclaim.
In 2011, with independent reporting increasingly coming under threat, Shokoofeh was forced to leave Iran with her family and was accepted as a political refugee by Australia. She continues her writing and is also gaining a reputation as an artist with a number of successful exhibitions in Perth, where she lives.
Shokoofeh is a shining star of Iranian literature, bringing deep resonances of Iranian tradition into the Western world, and profoundly affecting her readers with philosophical and existential illuminations.
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is Azar's first novel to be translated into English, and her latest work of fiction.
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree
Wild Dingo Press
Author: Shokoofeh Azar