Mandanipour served as a frontline officer in the Iran-Iraq war: a writer’s baptism of fire whose flames light up several stories here. . . . Seasons of Purgatory unites storytelling subtlety with scenes of visceral emotional impact.” —Wall Street Journal
“Cause for celebration. . . . Mandanipour provides readers with a vivid and idiosyncratic map of [Iran’s] people and places, effortlessly translated by Sara Khalili whose close collaboration with the author is palpable on every gleaming, blade-sharp page.” —Chicago Review of Books
“Read[s] like dispatches from the front. . . . [Mandanipour] sifts through military conflict, the repression of women, the forbidden graves of the state-executed, and the shattered minds of children. Storytelling and remembering are subversive acts when power benefits from forgetting.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“Bewitching and disorienting. . . . Mandanipour has been compared to Milan Kundera and to the artist M.C. Escher for the way his fictions require the reader to put them together like a puzzle. . . . The stories in Seasons of Purgatory are stunning.” —Washington Independent Review of Books
“Each mesmerizing story . . . put[s] us into a state of disequilibrium in a way that highlights the complexities of the human experience in the fallout of war and revolution.” —Litro Magazine
“Mandanipour respects his reader by esteeming resonance over facile moralism or plot-shock. . . . The psyche in his stories gnaws at an actual world and eludes purgatory for the moment by giving that world an obsessively resonant sound, rendered with a keen ear for urgency and strife by translator Sara Khalili.” —On the Seawall
“Stunning. . . . Deserves a much wider readership.” —Literary Hub
“Rich with enigma, asking to be read, then read again.” —Full Stop“A must read for lovers of the short story.” —North of Oxford
“A scorchingly beautiful collection in elegant, icepick-sharp prose.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“While the turmoil and danger of everyday life in Iran are the backdrop, Mandanipour focuses on the personal struggles of the characters and their hardscrabble lives. . . . These haunting, urgent works are as nuanced and provocative as the lives they depict.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A stunning collection of stories about Iran’s traditions, its violent recent history, and how the memory of both influences daily life.” —Foreword Reviews (starred review)
“Dostoyevskian in their density and black humor, Mandanipour’s stories capture the Iranian experience of constant upheaval in a brilliant translation that allows the English-speaking world to experience this gem of Iranian literature.” —Booklist
“Altogether subversive. . . . [Mandanipour is] a skilled storyteller with a bent for the quietly macabre and the burdens of those crushed by totalitarian rule.” —Kirkus Reviews
In exile from Iran, where his books are banned, Mandanipour—author most recently of the LJ best-booked Moon Brow—delivers a scorchingly beautiful collection in elegant, icepick-sharp prose. A father demands that his three sons uphold tradition after their grandfather's death and return to live in the ancestral home, where a golden-scaled viper ultimately reigns. A girl named Dorna accuses her parents of causing the death of her daring older sister even as her father lectures her that she's loved because she's obedient. A badly injured soldier survives for days in an unreachable no-man's land, his cries and finally his corpse becoming the central focus of his comrades. War and revolution are a given, but generally they are less focus than relentless implication. Walking to the cemetery, Dorna and her father are briefly waylaid by a bombing, while readers learn almost in passing that cantankerous Mr. Farvaneh, forever inveighing again animals, returned home a changed man after incarceration at the time of the coup d'état. VERDICT With understated power, Mandanipour limns characters in acute situations, delivering a deep understanding of the human condition. Highly recommended.
Iranian writer Mandanipour delivers a series of stories that are alternately spectral and somber but altogether subversive.
In the opening story, "Shadows of the Cave," a widower quietly defies the new Iranian theocracy by wearing a dark suit and tie, “which since the revolution has been considered ‘the leash of civilization’ and is unofficially banned,” in order to visit his wife’s grave in a cemetery now crowded with victims of the mullahs. He defies the censorial dictates of the regime as well, keeping a large private library, nursing memories of a long-ago post before the shah’s coup d’état of 1953. The library—and this is the crux—focuses on animals, with which Mr. Farvaneh has a philosophical obsession: “At times,” he intones, “their indifference to humans is truly insulting.” In the title story, Iran’s war with Iraq provides a scenario in which endless suffering breeds just that indifference to other humans, as a wounded Iraqi in no-man’s land eventually disintegrates against an exposed hillside. Remarks the Iranian narrator, “One day, we noticed that his lips had decomposed—it was the worms’ doing—his long teeth were exposed; he looked like he was laughing. Late one night, an animal ripped off his arm and took it away, but he didn’t fall.” Nasser, the doomed Iraqi soldier, is a drag on morale on both sides, but there’s nothing anyone can do until finally an officer, driven nearly mad by combat, erases his presence with a rocket. In "Seven Captains," speaking to current headlines, another soldier gloomily remarks of the power plant he’s guarding, “There’s talk that the Westerners have said they’ll bomb it. If they do, people say we’ll all die….Do you think they’re right?” Death comes in many forms in stories marked by symbolic animals: fish, worms, cuckoos, cowering dogs, snakes that hide among “the arabesque motif on the carpet,” everywhere they can trouble the dreams of struggling humans.
A skilled storyteller with a bent for the quietly macabre and the burdens of those crushed by totalitarian rule.