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Apala Bhowmick praises the novel’s “exorbitantly beautiful narrative style” and describes it as “a sumptuous meditation on the practice of interpretation.”

Author: Apala Bhowmick
Newspaper: Asymptote
Date: Jul 31 2020

In Iran, reading and writing are steeped in peril and never to be indulged in lightly. Reading constitutes a high class of treason: along with your books, you may lose your house and even your life. The act of reading, it would seem, echoes other acts of subversion against whichever hegemonic force or regime happens to be power. Fueled by a desire to flout the rules by engaging in literary activities like writing fiction, Shokoofeh Azar, the author of The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, moved to Australia in 2011 under political duress. Her novel, first published by Wild Dingo Press in 2017, became more visible to readers of world literature when it was brought out by Europa Editions earlier this year. Soon after, it found a place on the Booker International Prize shortlist, and its exorbitantly beautiful narrative style, united with controversial political content, garnered adulation from readers and critics alike. But despite this recent acclaim, the usual dangers persist, and the translator has chosen to remain anonymous because, should they ever choose to travel in and out of Iran, their safety would be at grave risk. The reason is that this novel paints the Ayatollah Khomeini in a less-than-favorable light—something that has rarely been carried out in Iranian literature. (...)