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Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature

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A stunning collection of newly-discovered writing, this is a richly varied collection of short stories, novel extracts and poetry, revealed to the Western world for the first time. Despite war, repression and censorship, a renaissance has taken place in Iran over the last 25 years - a renaissance hidden from Westerners since the Iranian revolution of 1979. "Strange Times, A stunning collection of newly-discovered writing, this is a richly varied collection of short stories, novel extracts and poetry, revealed to the Western world for the first time. Despite war, repression and censorship, a renaissance has taken place in Iran over the last 25 years - a renaissance hidden from Westerners since the Iranian revolution of 1979. "Strange Times, My Dear" brings the first ever translated selection of work from three generations worth of the best in Iranian writing - featuring short stories, novel extracts and poems from over 40 contributors - to the English speaking world. For thousands of years, multiple ethnicities, languages and religions have co-existed in Iran - and continue to do so despite traumatic events and the oppression of recent decades. Their literature has flourished in adversity, producing works of diverse beauty and incalculable importance. "Strange Times, My Dear" reveals a major and largely undiscovered branch of world literature for the first time.


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A stunning collection of newly-discovered writing, this is a richly varied collection of short stories, novel extracts and poetry, revealed to the Western world for the first time. Despite war, repression and censorship, a renaissance has taken place in Iran over the last 25 years - a renaissance hidden from Westerners since the Iranian revolution of 1979. "Strange Times, A stunning collection of newly-discovered writing, this is a richly varied collection of short stories, novel extracts and poetry, revealed to the Western world for the first time. Despite war, repression and censorship, a renaissance has taken place in Iran over the last 25 years - a renaissance hidden from Westerners since the Iranian revolution of 1979. "Strange Times, My Dear" brings the first ever translated selection of work from three generations worth of the best in Iranian writing - featuring short stories, novel extracts and poems from over 40 contributors - to the English speaking world. For thousands of years, multiple ethnicities, languages and religions have co-existed in Iran - and continue to do so despite traumatic events and the oppression of recent decades. Their literature has flourished in adversity, producing works of diverse beauty and incalculable importance. "Strange Times, My Dear" reveals a major and largely undiscovered branch of world literature for the first time.

30 review for Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    It is as if a kind of iron curtain fell between Iran and the U.S. after the fall of the Shah in 1979. This collection of prose and poetry by Iranian writers lifts that curtain for a glimpse of that country's recent past through the eyes of many of its most creative writers. For me, the most interesting selection was an excerpt from Ahmad Mahmud's novel "Scorched Earth," about ordinary citizens experiencing the invasion of Iraq in 1980. I also liked the excerpt from Esmail Fassih's novel "Sorraya It is as if a kind of iron curtain fell between Iran and the U.S. after the fall of the Shah in 1979. This collection of prose and poetry by Iranian writers lifts that curtain for a glimpse of that country's recent past through the eyes of many of its most creative writers. For me, the most interesting selection was an excerpt from Ahmad Mahmud's novel "Scorched Earth," about ordinary citizens experiencing the invasion of Iraq in 1980. I also liked the excerpt from Esmail Fassih's novel "Sorraya in a Coma," which follows a traveler on an arduous journey by bus from Iran to Turkey. Reza Farrokhfal's "Ah, Istanbul" tells a sad story of an older writer, about to leave Iran, whose manuscript is considered unpublishable by a young editor's assistant. Goli Taraghi's "In Another Place" is a psychological study describing the coming apart of an ideal marriage. Farkhondeh Aghai's "A Little Secret" tells of a woman's long stay in a hospital ward, where a young man wounded in the war appeals to a young sweetheart on a nearby telephone. Iranians abroad will surely find this collection more illuminating and rewarding than westerners simply because the references to daily life and Iranian culture and history often require explanatory footnotes that can't always explain enough. Literary styles take some getting used to, as well. For readers of western literature, these stories and excerpts will seem slow going and repetitive before they reach a conclusion that sometimes seems to lose something in the translation. But as many of these 43 writers have never been translated into English, this is an opportunity to experience a world that has been largely hidden from view. And that's reason enough to give it a read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Gillespie

    Since I’m interested in the intersection of fiction and politics, I found the introductory essay by editor Nahid Mozaffari very illuminating, and I also appreciated the short biographies of each author included before the selection of his or her work. While I don’t generally enjoy book length collections of short stories by one author (it seems like a cop-out when they could have used the space to write a novel), I do find that I like collections of stories by a variety of authors. It’s a great Since I’m interested in the intersection of fiction and politics, I found the introductory essay by editor Nahid Mozaffari very illuminating, and I also appreciated the short biographies of each author included before the selection of his or her work. While I don’t generally enjoy book length collections of short stories by one author (it seems like a cop-out when they could have used the space to write a novel), I do find that I like collections of stories by a variety of authors. It’s a great way to look at an issue or area from a wider range of viewpoints, and also a good chance to discover new authors. Strange Times, My Dear contains both short stories and poetry, and I found that I enjoyed the poetry especially as I considered how translation complicates understanding poems. {Read my full review here}

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brian Griffith

    Good collection of recent Iranian literature. One of my favorite bits is by Simin Behbahani: It’s time now to mow the flowers don’t procrastinate Fetch the sickles, come Don’t spare a single tulip in the fields. The meadows are in bloom: Who has ever seen such insolence?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eschargot

    Between books I often read a few essays from 'Arguably - Essays by Christopher Hitchens'. In his 'Legacies of totalitarianism - The Persian Version' he mentions the collection of stories (or small samples of them) in 'Strange times, my dear: The PEN anthology of contemporary Iranian Lit.' and says, "Anyone wanting to sample the range and depth of the country's contemporary writing would do well to begin here." It is a great sample of both prose and poetry. The title taken from the wonderful poem Between books I often read a few essays from 'Arguably - Essays by Christopher Hitchens'. In his 'Legacies of totalitarianism - The Persian Version' he mentions the collection of stories (or small samples of them) in 'Strange times, my dear: The PEN anthology of contemporary Iranian Lit.' and says, "Anyone wanting to sample the range and depth of the country's contemporary writing would do well to begin here." It is a great sample of both prose and poetry. The title taken from the wonderful poem "In this blind alley" by Ahmed Shamlu. The writings and poems cover the tumultuous recent history of Iran from the overthrow of Mosaddegh, the reign of the Shah, the revolution and the aftermath. To quote Hitchens again - "that this fate should have befallen such a sophisticated and energetic people is a catastrophe piled upon a disaster." In This Blind Alley - They smell your breath lest you have said: I love you, They smell your heart: These are strange times, my dear.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julie Chaffee-mazza

    This book contains samples of poetry and fiction from Iranian authors. Quite frankly, I had never given a thought to Iranian literature. I really enjoyed the range of these sample works. With some of the samples I read, I found myself drawn into their stories and wanted to read even more. I now have a list of Iranian authors whose works I truly desire to read. It is really sad that some authors are silenced by political, social, and economic embargoes based on their residency. I believe that li This book contains samples of poetry and fiction from Iranian authors. Quite frankly, I had never given a thought to Iranian literature. I really enjoyed the range of these sample works. With some of the samples I read, I found myself drawn into their stories and wanted to read even more. I now have a list of Iranian authors whose works I truly desire to read. It is really sad that some authors are silenced by political, social, and economic embargoes based on their residency. I believe that literature and the arts should not be subjected to embargoes. I highly recommend this book for those who like to explore the works of authors from other countries. I was so impressed with the quality of work seen in this work by a variety of authors. It opened a door for me, one I had not realized was even there.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Yulia.I

    I was really excited to see this book exists as an audiobook. I have not tried listening to something of a similar format before - but really thought a sampling of different Iranian fiction and poetry would be fantastic. Some stories / excerpts were good, a lot I barely made it through. The narrator tried to vary his voice, but frankly by the end of the fiction section when I heard another dragged out and breathy "woman's voice" I literally couldn't take it and skipped that story entirely. Poetry I was really excited to see this book exists as an audiobook. I have not tried listening to something of a similar format before - but really thought a sampling of different Iranian fiction and poetry would be fantastic. Some stories / excerpts were good, a lot I barely made it through. The narrator tried to vary his voice, but frankly by the end of the fiction section when I heard another dragged out and breathy "woman's voice" I literally couldn't take it and skipped that story entirely. Poetry was pretty good / I wish that came first when I had enthusiasm. Overall I think it is not great as an audiobook, also it is no substitute for one work of fiction - BUT I do hope to read more by the couple of authors that I did enjoy.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Glen Stott

    This is a collection of short stories, excerpts from novels, and poetry by Iranian authors. It is a fairly long book, nearly 500 pages. I found many writers whom I enjoyed, but there was also a lot that left me unsatisfied. I think that was primarily because the Middle Eastern culture is unfamiliar to me, and therefore I didn’t actually understand the full depth of the writing. In addition, most of the works were translated and generally, something is lost in a translation. That being said, over This is a collection of short stories, excerpts from novels, and poetry by Iranian authors. It is a fairly long book, nearly 500 pages. I found many writers whom I enjoyed, but there was also a lot that left me unsatisfied. I think that was primarily because the Middle Eastern culture is unfamiliar to me, and therefore I didn’t actually understand the full depth of the writing. In addition, most of the works were translated and generally, something is lost in a translation. That being said, overall the book was worth the read and I learned some things.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ramin

    This is an excellent collection. It's edited and translated well, with instructive introductions to each of the writers, giving historical background and putting them in their social and political context. Most of the book consists of short stories and excerpts from longer prose, and the rest consists of poetry, which is of course very important in Iranian culture. This is a very good selection of modern writers and poets, dating from the mid-20th century until the 2000s. They're diverse too, in This is an excellent collection. It's edited and translated well, with instructive introductions to each of the writers, giving historical background and putting them in their social and political context. Most of the book consists of short stories and excerpts from longer prose, and the rest consists of poetry, which is of course very important in Iranian culture. This is a very good selection of modern writers and poets, dating from the mid-20th century until the 2000s. They're diverse too, including people with different ethnicities, genders, politics, and including expats too.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    This is a remarkable anthology of Iranian literature that provides, for the West, an insight into a culture and literary tradition that is both widely misunderstood/unknown and made delicate by the circumstances of the Revolution. Here are prose and poetry from expatriates, those dedicated to literary traditions, and writers whose work proves very much that language, despite its myriad vernaculars, translates a shared human experience.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    The short stories are great - special favourite is "The Victory Chronicle of the Magi" by Hushang Golshiri, which uses a shifting narrator (we/they change meaning throughout the story) for great effect. "Hitchcock and Agha Baji" and "Satan's Stones" also stick out. But, I'm afraid that most poetry seems to lose its vitality in translation. The short stories are great - special favourite is "The Victory Chronicle of the Magi" by Hushang Golshiri, which uses a shifting narrator (we/they change meaning throughout the story) for great effect. "Hitchcock and Agha Baji" and "Satan's Stones" also stick out. But, I'm afraid that most poetry seems to lose its vitality in translation.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mahbod

    A great collection of rare but wonderful stories -

  12. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    A wonderful anthology. Compelling stories, very interesting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    3.5 stars

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael Powell

    Hmmm maybe it was the translations, but I am still glad I bought this to support authors in Iran who do not have freedom of speech

  15. 4 out of 5

    Clarry

    I'm reading this with an online discussion group of alumni from my beloved alma mater I'm reading this with an online discussion group of alumni from my beloved alma mater

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gargi Harithakam

    What a wonderful book - serving as a window to a least known stream of literature. Some stories had my heart beating fast and some poems made it stop. Its a must have for a lover of literature.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    I abandoned it about halfway through. I just found that I wasn't really enjoying any of the stories. I abandoned it about halfway through. I just found that I wasn't really enjoying any of the stories.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nnima J-G

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kayden

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brice

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eve H.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deidra Yvette Romero

  23. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

  24. 4 out of 5

    Yusra Qazi

  25. 4 out of 5

    Yasi

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Bentley

  27. 5 out of 5

    Penney

  28. 4 out of 5

    Corey Alan

  29. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

  30. 4 out of 5

    Effie

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