My Father’s Notebook by Kader Abdolah

Kader Abdolah left Iran as a political refugee, having been part of a leftist political party that opposed first the Shah and then the ayatollahs. He has lived in the Netherlands since 1988 and My Father’s Notebook is actually a translation (by Susan Massotty) from Dutch. Despite that, I’m counting it for Iran for the Read The World challenge.

The story is narrated by a Iranian political refugee living in the Netherlands, who tells the story of his father, a deaf-mute carpet mender, over the period that includes the coming of the Shahs and the Islamic revolution. I guess we have to assume that there is an element of autobiography here, but I have no idea how much. The book combines a nostalgia for an apparently simpler time, before the politics of Iran got so messy, with a portrayal of a family, and particularly a father-son relationship, caught up in dangerous politics.

I found it weirdly insubstantial. I whipped through it in a couple of days, and found it likeable enough, but not much more than that. Easy to read, easy to forget. It has a kind of sub-magical realism thing going on: not much actual magic, but a certain dwelling on the colourful and peculiar. Perhaps that’s why it didn’t particularly grab me. Or perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood.

» The image, ‘Some Iranian patterns…’, is © François Bouchet and used under a CC by-nc-nd licence.

2 Comments

  1. 14 September 2008 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    I’ve been counting refugees, expatriates and others who lived for a substantial time in their country, then went elsewhere. Most from Africa are writing in French.

    My “Iran” was The Complete Persepolis: http://shoshanapnw.livejournal.com/?skip=15#item50540

  2. Harry
    14 September 2008 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Yes, it’s certainly Iranian enough to qualify. I think I could have probably found a better book for a country as large and culturally, politically and historically interesting as Iran, but it was in the house, but never mind.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] so I rather expected The Kite Runner to be a bit like the book I read for Iran, also written by a refugee who has lived for many years away their home country: […]

  2. […] World challenge, various themes are recurring; this is the third book I’ve read (along with My Father’s Notebook and The Kite Runner) which is written by a refugee, starts with nostalgic memories of the home […]

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