The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree: A Novel

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree: A Novel

by Shokoofeh Azar


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LONGLISTED for the 2020 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD for Translated Literature

From the pen of one of Iran’s rising literary stars, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a family story about the unbreakable connection between the living and the dead.

Set in Iran in the decade following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, this moving, richly imagined novel is narrated by the ghost of Bahar, a thirteen-year-old girl, whose family is compelled to flee their home in Tehran for a new life in a small village, hoping in this way to preserve both their intellectual freedom and their lives. But they soon find themselves caught up in the post-revolutionary chaos that sweeps across their ancient land. Bahar’s mother, after a tragic loss, will embark on a long, eventful journey in search of meaning in a world swept up in the post-revolutionary madness.

Told from the wise yet innocent gaze of a young girl, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree speaks of the power of imagination when confronted with cruelty, and of our human need to make sense of trauma through the ritual of storytelling itself. Through her unforgettable characters, Azar weaves a timely and timeless story that juxtaposes the beauty of an ancient, vibrant culture with the brutality of an oppressive political regime.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


This challenging debut by Iranian writer Azar, forced to flee to Australia in 2011, tells in dreams and fantasies the story of one family during and after the Islamic Revolution, which overtook the country in the last quarter of the 20th century. Thirteen-year-old Bahar narrates from beyond the grave, weaving a phantasmagorical tale that follows her father, Hushang, as he leads his family away from Tehran and their old ways, abandoning rugs and books and intellectual pursuits deemed dangerous by the new Islamic regime, to the small town of Razan, where he hopes to protect them. Propelled by fairy tales of jinn and the dead, the novel meanders from Bahar’s own death in a fire set by Islamic thugs to the disappearance, torture, and death of her brother, Sohrab, through the mental struggles of Bahar’s mother, who climbs greengage plum trees, and beautiful sister Beeta, who turns into a mermaid. Azar’s florid style emulates the rich storytelling tradition of bygone Persia, redolent with Zoroastrian lore and mired in magical vegetation “containing a thousand memories,” clearly meant as a bulwark against the oppression of the present day regime. But the promise of the voice is weighed down by clunky writing, rife with repeated and awkward phrasings. Azar’s dense family saga is animated by characters who face terror heroically, but it’s undercut by the unpolished prose. (Jan.)

From the Publisher

Praise for The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree

★ “Azar’s narrative exudes fairy tale charm driven by moments of deep connection that ultimately celebrate human and humane bonds unbroken even in death.” —Booklist

“Engaging, tantalizing, and memorable.”—ForeWord Reviews

“If ever there was a book that needs to be read more than once, this is it.” —ArtsHub

“One of those miraculous books that not only has the power to send an arrow into your heart, it also makes you think.”—Qantara

“Shokoofeh Azar has found a brilliant way to use myth to record harsh truths about political and cultural upheaval.”—BookRiot

“[Azar’s] book is a great journey. It moves places and it moves us as readers, in an emotional and intellectual sense.” —Robert Wood, The Los Angeles Review of Books

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a hugely ambitious book, blending familial drama with the history of a nation during a conflicted era.”—Words Without Borders

“Azar’s novel is sad, funny, poetic, moving and poignant all at once, a novel I would recommend without any reservations at all.”—Asian Review of Books

“A book full of hope and human resilience in the face of unspeakable cruelty and intolerance” —World Literature Today

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is both a simple family story and a complex look at the nature of reality and imagination.” —The Winnipeg Free Press

“[The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree] affirms again the adaptability, the veracity, the sheer power of the novel form.” —The Brooklyn Rail

“The plot is intricate…the writing is ravishing: shimmeringly poetic…so mesmerizing is the storytelling.” —Miriam Cosic, The Weekend Australian

“Azar delves deep into the mythological spirit realm and pre-Islamic Zoroastrian religion of ancient Persia . . . [taking] us into breathtaking worlds of imagination and allegory . . . Astonishing.” —Backstory

“I have never read such a voice before. It is playful, poetic and deeply melancholy at the same time. Azar writes about the blunt force or Iranian history with the lightness of a feather’s touch. Transcendental, brilliant and beautiful.” —Alice Pung, author of Laurinda

“Combing characters loosely drawn from her own life with a mélange of supernatural elements, Azar achieves a certain magical realist style that is rich without being baroque, amply lush without being weighed down by access.”—Asymptote Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609455651
Publisher: Europa Editions, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/07/2020
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 123,248
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Customer Reviews