Review: ‘Touba and the Meaning of Night’, Booklist

Touba and the Meaning of Night
by Shahrnush Parsipur
Biography by Persis Karim
Publish date: May 2006

from Booklist
First published in Iran in 1989, Parsipur’s novel carries the reader on a mystical and emotional odyssey spanning eight decades of Iranian cultural, political, and religious history. Educated by her progressive father, Touba is 12 when he dies. Her subsequent learning comes only in offhand remarks from the men in her family. Touba is intrigued by politics and her country’s struggles with British and Russian colonialism but is told that women should remain apolitical. She is drawn to Sufism but is discouraged from personal religious pursuit until her children are grown. In a resolute but never strident voice, Parsipur lets her characters–a young girl drowned by her uncle because her rape by soldiers results in pregnancy, Touba’s own daughter rendered infertile from a self-induced abortion caused by shame over her secret marriage to a servant–illuminate feminist issues both before and after the Islamic Revolution, in 1979. Replete with juxtapositions of mysticism and historical fact, Parsipur’s novel is a rewarding and enlightening encapsulation of her country’s recent past. Deborah Donovan
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Review: ‘Touba and the Meaning of Night’, Publishers’ Weekly, May 2006

Touba and the Meaning of Night
by Shahrnush Parsipur
Biography by Persis Karim
Publish date: May 2006

from Publishers’ Weekly
Starred Review. Eighty dramatic years in Iran—from the turn of the 20th-century to the 1979 revolution—are witnessed through Touba’s chador-covered eyes in this bold, insightful novel, Parsipur’s second to be translated into English. After her farther dies when she’s 14, Touba—smart and spiritual, but barely educated—proposes, for financial reasons, to a 52-year-old man. Miserably depressed, she divorces him a few years later, and marries a Qajar prince; it is a loving relationship, but when he takes a second wife, she divorces him, too. Alone and impoverished as the prince’s dynasty is displaced, she weaves carpets to make money, cares for her children and communes with a dead girl’s ghost that haunts her property. As Touba grows older, she seeks truth with a Sufi master, but the demands of her crumbling household intervene. Initially published in Iran in 1989, this ground-breaking novel—which juxtaposes reality and mysticism, becoming especially fantastical toward the book’s conclusion—was quickly banned by the Islamic Republic, which had imprisoned Parsipur before and did so again. Her 11 novels remain banned in Iran. Now an exile in San Francisco, Parsipur makes a stylishly original contribution to modern feminist literature. (May)
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