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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