Monday, June 26, 2017

On the Coffee Table: Mahmoud Dowlatabadi

Title: Thirst
Author: Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
via Amazon
Dolatabadi is Iran's most revered living writer and one who has certainly earned his repressed artist street cred.  He was jailed by the Shah's regime for two years in the '70s simply for the fact that his books were always found in the homes of others arrested by the secret police.  Subversion was assumed.  Thirst, published in English in 2014, has never been published in the original Persian.

Thirst is an account of the Iran-Iraq War as told by two writers: one Iranian, one Iraqi.  There are three (or four? five?) story threads going on at once and the text weaves in, out and between them constantly and seamlessly.  At the heart of it all is one story about warring soldiers stalemated over a patch of earth, a water tank between them.  Neither side can approach the tank without being gunned down by the other: a perfect metaphor.  The political and historical messages are many.  Those in power control truth.  The Persian/Arab rivalry goes back well over a thousand years.  Soldiers are human.  War is absurd.

By design, the stories are difficult to follow.  As such, the overarching themes are emphasized over narrative details.  I sensed elements of other works: In the Labyrinth by Alaine Robbe-Grillet (review here) and All Quiet on the Western Front.  It's a good book with the playful, florid language I've come to expect from all Asian literature. 


  1. That sounds interesting.
    I'm going to add it to my list, but that doesn't mean I'll get to it. :/

  2. Interesting but a very hard read for me.
    I like these "On The Table" reviews.

    cheers, parsnip and thehamish

  3. That sounds very thought-provoking. Different to my normal fare, for sure.

    1. Nick! Wow, it's been a while. Thanks for stopping by.