Women Without Men: A Novel of Modern Iran
by Shahrnush Parsipur
Afterword by Persis M. Karim
Publish date: February 2004
from Publishers’ Weekly
Using the techniques of both the fabulist and the polemicist, Paripur (Prison Memoirs) continues her protest against traditional Persian gender relations in this charming yet powerful novella. Imprisoned once for her dissident views, Paripur, a native of Iran, offers her five characters the opportunity to escape the relationships and mores that constrain them. All of the characters are led to the same metaphorical magic garden, a transcendent, timeless place where they are free to decide their fates. In most instances, this amounts to a rejection of men and marriage. Like Ovid’s Daphne, Mahdokht transforms herself into a tree in order to prevent the shameful loss of her virginity. Munis, a 38-year-old virgin, is attacked and killed by her brother for refusing to obey him. She rises from the dead a psychic, heads for the garden and is raped along the way. Farrokhlaqa, a wealthy matron, accidentally kills her oppressive husband of 32 years. She then buys the magical garden where the women congregate. Only Zarrinkolah, the prostitute, discovers wedded bliss when she marries the “good gardener.” The voices of the five separate narrators–delicately connected by plot and circumstance–give us variations on the theme of the mistreatment of women in contemporary Iran.
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