THE CRAZY DERVISH AND THE POMEGRANATE TREE
Farnoosh Moshiri

 


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Black Heron Press, 2004
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Iranian Short Stories

This collection of short stories was written by a political refugee from Iran who settled in the US in the 1980s. Her experience gives her a great deal to say about the human side of life as an Iranian during a period of dangerous political oppositions. As one reads, it becomes obvious that she has truly listened to people with other experiences, in addition to writing from her own. These are close-up views of what can happen when cruelty wears the mask of religion. They are also moving, sympathetic stories which increase our insight. A thumbnail of each story:

The Wall. Twelve political prisoners in a van being carried to an unknown destination. A very personal focus on the experience of one prisoner, as his relationship to his life changes during the trip.

The Bricklayer. We share the disorientation of an aged man who has emigrated from his dangerous homeland to join his daughters in the US.

Crossing. A woman in a gym Ö a man familiar to her Ö I canít say more. I donít want to deprive you of the impact.

The Pillar. The image of a few frozen hours in a cell. A tiny story, but magnified to encompass a prisonerís existence.

Ali the Little. Ali is the son of a fundamentalist vigilante. He and his family are seen through the eyes of a neighbor, a modern woman of Teheran who gives parties and wears no veil. The story is so realistic that if it wasnít for the note at the beginning that it was written in Teheran, I would have thought this story, from first to last, was an exact account of the authorís own experiences.

On the Rooftop. A haunting tale of a Moslem womanís life choices. This is the most recent story of the collection and it shows in the increased maturity.

The Pool. Where is a prisonerís breaking point? How far does community reach?

The Dark End Of the Orchard. The mysterious end of a quiet old couple who wanted nothing but each other.

The Story Of Our Life. Former friends make contact, who havenít met for decades. A dizzy, swirling kind of contact that leaves us looking for a firm place to put our feet.

The Unbelievable Story of My Grandfatherís Wife. How a free woman overcomes all.

The Danger of Galapagos. A fable about a community living in a section of old buildings. It has a moral and everything.

The Crazy Dervish and the Pomegranate Tree. Fantasy tale about a dervish and his quest for love. Poetic environment. Iím not sure why this was chosen as the title story Ė maybe because it has the most interesting title. These last two stories have nothing like the first-hand emotional impact of her straight contemporary stories.

Author Farnoosh Moshiri was an established writer in Iran before she was forced to flee. After making her name writing in Farsi, she decided that the right audience for what she has to say is English-speaking, so she earned a degree in Creative Writing in the US. Even though English is not her mother tongue, her style is simple only in the sense that she is laying bare the skeleton of her humanist message; her word choices are perfect for her needs. Farnoosh Moshiri has twice won her publisher Black Heronís Award for Social Fiction, with THE CRAZY DERVISH AND THE POMEGRANATE TREE, and with a novel, THE BATHHOUSE.

Donít speed through these. Take your time and absorb them.

June 2005 Review

 

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