This book is an extraordinarily powerful and evocative literary novel set in Iran in the period immediately after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Using the lyrical magic realism style of classical Persian storytelling, Azar draws the reader deep 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. Azar is the consummate storyteller, using the panoply of Persian mythical and mystical entities to bring life, humour, hope, resignation, and profound insights to the characters and their world.
Shokoofeh Azar was born in Iran in 1972, just seven years before the Islamic revolution. Despite spending most of her childhood and early career in a hostile environment for independent writing, Shokoofeh’s interest in writing and art was sparked by her father who was an Iranian intellectual, author, poet and artist. She studied literature at high school and university, later working as a journalist for an independent newspaper for fourteen years.
Following an increasing crackdown on independent journalism, Shokoofeh was jailed three times, the last time being three months in isolation, which left her no choice but to flee her country by boat, ending up on Christmas Island. Shokoofeh was ultimately accepted as a political refugee by the Australian government, and settled in Perth, where she continued her writing and gained a reputation as an artist with a number of successful exhibitions. She now lives in Geelong, Victoria. The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is Azar’s first novel to be translated into English.
Shokoofeh Azar’s The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a unique and profoundly moving novel, translated from Farsi by Adrien Kijek. Set in Iran, the story is narrated by thirteen-year-old Bahar as she follows the fortunes of her family in the violent aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The novel presents a richly woven magical reality: Bahar’s mother attains enlightenment atop a greengage tree at the moment her son is executed; the ghosts of five thousand prisoners march down the streets of Tehran, preceded by a river of their own tears; and a fictional Ayatollah Khomeini finds himself lost underground in his own labyrinthine palace of mirrors. Drawing on techniques of classic Persian literature, and recalling aspects of South American magic realism, Azar powerfully juxtaposes the beauty of Persian culture and mythology with the brutality of a political regime responsible for the destruction of so many lives. The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a stunning meditation on grief and loss in the life of a family and a society by an extraordinary Australian writer.
‘The writing is ravishing: shimmeringly poetic. Even as the story progresses and the mood darkens, the narrator’s meticulous descriptions of the flowers, birds, animals and landscapes around her hold beauty as close as a talisman.’ Miriam Cosic, The Australian
‘The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is ultimately a philosophical celebration of life that persists in the face of confused national identity, desperate personal anguish, and unimaginable brutality. With her nuanced understanding of the dichotomies that drive the human condition, Azar positions herself as a literary talent to watch.’ Anika Baset, Right Now
‘With all the beauty and the horror, the supernatural and the realistic, the love and the hatred, if ever there was a book that needs to be read more than once, this is it.’ Erich Mayer, ArtsHub