Reviews

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, by Shokoofeh Azar

tajiboy's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

Me gusta mucho este estilo a lo Cien Años de Soledad, y Mil y Una Noches combinado.

knjiskirovac's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

It is a modern masterpiece, pulling it's inspiration from the rich Persian history, Zoroastrian religion, folk tales, modern day Iran and G.G.Marques magic realism. We follow story of the family of intellectuals, deeply involved into mystical world of ghosts, demons and jinns from folk tales, who's life is turn upside down by 1979 revolution and utter destruction of the life they used to live, love and enjoy. It is a story of a country downfall, where intellectuals had to flee the country, hide or be imprisoned, while the ones who nevere understood the power of books and knowledge rise to the power. Shokoofeh Azar is probably one of the best modern day Iranian writers and together with Azar Nafisi a beacon of modern day female Iranian prose, with the writing so strong and emotional that you can literally feel the pain and nostalgia protruding through the each line in the book.

nini23's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

Set in the chaotic period post Iranian revolution, Shokoofeh Azar makes ample use of magical realism to express the suffering and silencing of the Iranian people. Ominous black snow falls, ghosts of political prisoners wander around crying. Khomeini is stuck in a palace of mirrors that he built. Jinns cavort & curse. A woman turns into a fish. The regime is so oppressive and brutal, the publishing of this book would have put the author's life in danger.

The book burning scene was painful. Oppressive governments always seem to follow the same script: round up the intellectuals & dissidents, elevate and roil up the peasantry, burn books, imprison, torture, kill, crack down on free press, blame the burgoise lifestyle, denounce the West. I like how Azar has included a true diverse variety of 'books that matter' (to be saved or recited from memory for posterity). All too often, in a fictional list of important or representative literature, only books written by the western world are featured showcasing the limitations of the author's reading scope. Azar is a bibliophile and wordsmith.

I love too how the book features an unabashed Iranian woman having joyous sex that she enjoys and masturbating. A rarity! There's also other defiant feminist threads like the mother's absolute refusal to wear a head covering.

Footnotes were useful for background information although I did look up some to further my knowledge; like the Arab invasion, revolution, poet Sohrab Sepheri, Nausea. A quibble here about the passage regarding the sister who turns into a fish but wonders if she's really a fish dreaming she's a human: this is blatantly lifted from Chuang Tzu's Butterfly Dream parable ('Am I a man dreaming I was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming I am a man') and should be given proper attribution/citation.

It may sound like The Enlightment of the Greengage Tree is praised for its political message and the defiance it represents. However, even if one were completely apolitical, this work is still superlative in its writing and literary merit.

A rare solid 5 ⭐

quinnster's review against another edition

Go to review page

3.0

Having very little knowledge of Iran, especially the revolution, I can't say how much of this is based on real atrocities and how much is exaggerated. I've read a few reviews written by people much more intelligent than I and it seems to go either way.

But I can say, for me, the book kept my interest. I loved the folk tales woven into the story and the glimpse into a culture I know little about. I'm not sure if things were awkward in translation or if that was the fault of the author, but I felt like it was clunky in some areas, confusing in others. Still, I was unable to put the book down!

ryanjb86's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

Love, love, loved this book! I am always a fan of magical realism but this one really took it there and ran with it. Such an awesome story and I will have my fingers crossed for it winning the Booker International Prize later this month!
~
Taking place in Iran in the period immediately after the 1978 Islamic Revolution. Azar employs the lyrical magic realism style of classical Persian storytelling, and as a reader yoy cannot help but be drawn into the heart of a family caught in the maelstrom of post-revolutionary chaos and brutality that sweeps across an ancient land and its people. The story embodies Iranian life and its never-ending balance and conflict between life and death, politics and religion, and the incalculable joys and sorrows these four elements of life can bring!
~

lucyawhipp's review

Go to review page

I found it too confusing. The writing was really good though.

jaimelire's review

Go to review page

adventurous dark emotional mysterious reflective sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

gpettey19's review against another edition

Go to review page

5.0

I loved this in ways I can’t explain

leahkrason's review

Go to review page

emotional inspiring reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? N/A
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0


Expand filter menu Content Warnings

suddenflamingword's review against another edition

Go to review page

2.0

I want to say I found this book impactful and expressive and culturally layered - and maybe these things are all true and I'm limited, human as I am. I don't see it. The book that most came to mind when reading this was Naomi Alderman's The Power. While that confused me at first, I think I understand why after reading a brief interview with Azar, where she says the book is "based on the hardship and misery of daily life in Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. It is about the politicization of Islam and the terrible consequences it has brought for Iranian culture and people."

The phrase that stuck out to me was "the politicization of Islam." It's such a telling phrase. From my best understanding it was the westernized, urbanized, wealthy city people who dismissed Islamic faith practices - echoed in the narrator's mother, that exact kind of person, constantly refers to the Revolution as an "Arab Invasion." It's a microcosm of the contrast running throughout the entire book between an imagined Persian/Zoroastrian legacy that lines up with modern Western ideas of culture - several sections dedicated purely to listing books that the family owns or has read, the literary humblebrag - and the poor, rural, and/or Muslim (by default of being government workers) who almost always are stupid, violent, and run through the world like locusts. And it comes across most obviously in that there is an entire chapter dedicated to Ayatollah Khomeini being haunted by the dead, building a secret underground hall of mirrors bunker palace, pissing himself, and dying.

It's this kind of excessive pointlessness that made me think of The Power. I can't tell if it's an off-brand cynicism that hides itself in the world of ideas or an absolute disinterest in the complexity of human experience, but either way both The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree and The Power feel like cathartic acts of cultural chauvinism. I'm not against attacks on bureaucratic stupidity or unjust systems of course, nor am I against magical realism and its ability to reflect and reimagine life distinct from the over-sensitized suburban dirty realism popular in modern "literary novels." I'm just not for literature which doesn't say anything interesting, nor says anything interestingly, about the issues it wants to discuss. Maybe in the Farsi there is something here. Maybe there's something to be said about trying, and as a debut it's fine. From my perspective though, this feels like what a generic liberal would imagine when thinking about Iranian literature; the Iran of "now" is a break from an imagined non-political past and, at the least, death will send us back to that fractured unity.

It's weird to think that past existed. Especially since the Mohammed Reza Pahlavi had to undo the ban on hijabs his father had put in place and was literally a monarch who wielded unilateral power over a wide swath of people (which included adherents to Islam). Things aren't great now, make no mistake, but Azar's book has an obvious bee in her bonnet that prevents her from showing anything beyond a little piss baby Khomeini. It's, ironically for this book, a failure of imagination.