A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

books around the world, one flight at a time (ii)

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 14, 2007

Every English-speaking Westerner who spends any amount of time in the Islamic Republic of Iran seems to want to write (or at least, to sell) a book about their experiences. Some, like Persian Mirrors, are journalist’s memoirs. Others, like Neither East Nor West, follow an adult on a quest to reconnect with a childhood spent in Iran (somewhat a mirror image of Saira Shah’s childhood). Still others, like Funny in Farsi and Even After all this Time, brilliantly capture the confusion (and the humor) of Iranian-born American immigrants, while Lipstick Jihad recounts the adventures of an Iranian-American in her parents’ country.

I enjoy these books, even when they frustrate me with their (or their publishers’) obvious attempts to capture a titillated American market. I love seeing the world through other eyes even – or all the more – when they do not wholly fit with mine.

Christopher de Bellaigue’s In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs was my latest bookworm’s venture into this genre. de Bellaigue approaches the country from a slightly different angle: having studied Persian in college, he abandoned the language and the country for some time before meeting, falling in love with, and marrying an Iranian women while on holiday. Rather than return to Europe (de Bellaigue is British-educated, with French and Belgian and who knows what other Continental roots), they settled in Teheran, making his subject one as much of serendipity as of choice.

In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs stands out among the other Westerners’ books because it does not focus on women – in fact, it focuses on men. The thread that ties his chapters together is the Iran-Iraq war and the impact it had on true-believer Basiji soldiers. This focus gives his book a melancholy, almost elegiac undertone, lending it greater depth than any of the ‘look Iranian women wear MAKEUP under their chadors’ or ‘look how travel has changed me’ tomes on the market.

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2 Responses to “books around the world, one flight at a time (ii)”

  1. intlxpatr said

    Save this one for me! Leave it with Mom or bring it!

  2. […] reading de Bellaigue’s In The Rose Garden of the Martyrs, I decided to continue the theme by reading another, rather different book on pre- to post- […]

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