Symphony of the Dead
"Symphony of the Dead" traces the fate of the troubled Urkhani family in the provincial Iranian town of Ardabil before and after the second world war through the trials and ghostly recollections of its very individual members: Ideen, the frustrated poet unhinged since childhood by the excesses of his stern and incorrigible father; Urhan, his greedy and talentless younger brother; and Yousef, whose childhood antics with an umbrella left him paralysed and helpless. Into this male dystopia are woven the hardships of the long-suffering asthmatic mother, weary from the disturbances caused by her men, and the silent, spectral presence of the daughter Ida, whose own search for happiness is forgotten amid the bedlam.From the nut-seller's souk to the Lord's Electric Fan Factory and thence to the family's inharmonious home, Abbas Maroufi's symphony is a brilliant variation on the theme of discord. At times hysterical, at times deeply tragic, the author has created a portrait of postwar Iranian life in tones both vivid yet subtle that is simply without comparison.
- Paperback | 280 pages
- 139.7 x 205.74 x 25.4mm | 362.87g
- 28 Oct 2007
- AFLAME BOOKS
- Laverstock, United Kingdom
In this print-on-demand age, it's remarkable how much writing still fails to cross international borders. Abbas Maroufi's first novel, Symphony of the Dead, was published in Iran in 1988, and immediately acclaimed as a masterpiece. But this new translation marks his Anglo-Saxon debut. Only in Germany, where Maroufi has lived in exile since 1996, after being accused of "insulting eminent revolutionaries and Islamic values", has this book been rendered from Farsi.At its simplest, this is the tale of a dysfunctional family living in the provincial town of Ardabil in the years after the second world war. Djerban, the patriarch, bullies his children and submissive wife. His eldest son, Yousef, is disabled after jumping from a window. Ideen, who wants to be a poet, succumbs to madness under his father's brutality, while Ideen's twin sister, Ida, is marginalised. Only the youngest son, the sly, money-loving Urhan, thrives in this domestic tyranny, devoting his energies to the family business while harbouring murderous thoughts about his siblings.What distinguishes the book from a typical domestic saga, however, is its structure. Based on symphonic form, with different narrators for each movement, it switches back and forth between first- and third-person with no warning. That can be an effective device in a story so concerned with memory. But it's also exasperating to have to re-read key passages, trying to work out who did what to whom. (More footnotes explaining culturally specific references would also have been welcome.)Does this matter? Not if you're patient and can relax into the stream of consciousness. What lingers is a series of apocalyptically bleak impressions - ravens in a ferocious winter, a shallow forest grave - punctuated with rare moments of connection. Symphony of the Dead may not be the most comforting take on human nature, but in that sense of desolation lies something austerely grand. - Financial Times----------First published in Iran in 1988, this heartrending first novel recounts, using an unusual symphonic structure, the WWII-era dissolution of the mercantile Urkhani family in the provincial town of Arabdil. Rageful, narrow-minded patriarch Djaber terrorizes his children, sometimes with the enabling of his wife ("Mother"). Yousef, the eldest, is paralyzed in a childhood incident and becomes a family burden. The deep bond connecting twins Ida and her brother Ideen is broken first by Ida's banishment to the kitchen and subservient duties, then by her marriage and subsequent death.The central, triangular conflict is between Ideen, a gifted poet; his father, who thwarts his every literary advancement; and Ideen's elder brother Urhan, the favorite son, who dedicates his life to the family business. Over the course of the book's four movements, traumatic events reoccur, contrasted with the constants of daily life, and abetted by fluid shifts in time and perspective. Maroufi, who has been in exile in Germany since 1996 (when he was convicted of "insulting Islamic values"), forges a desperate cycle of self-preservation and self-destruction in this tense and sorrowful narrative.- Publishers Weekly
About Abbas Maroufi
Abbas Maroufi has been living in Germany since 1996. He left Iran, where he was born in 1957, after being sentenced to six month imprisonment and 20 lashing with a whip for 'spreading lies' and 'insulting eminent revolutionaries and Islamic values' through his writings in the literary magazine he edited. Maroufi's first tales were published in magazines before the revolution of 1979. He lives in Berlin and runs a Persian bookshop.