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The Prince [Paperback]

Houshang Golshiri , James Buchan

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Book Description

2 Nov 2006
This work was set in 1920s, in Iran. In a crumbling house in a provincial town, the last survivor of a deposed dynasty is slowly dying from tuberculosis. The Prince's once magnificent domain has shrunk to his domestic household, where the glories of his ancestors haunt him. Drifting in and out of consciousness, the Prince is tormented by episodes relived of his forbears' callous and whimsical rule. Long-dead relations glare out from photographs gathering dust in the Prince's room, or in his fevered imagination step down from their picture frames to threaten and berate him. Of these phantoms, the most terrifying is his wife Fakhronissa, who taunts him, as in life, with the vigour and potency of his grandfather and his great-grandfather. In his anguish, as his life unravels, the Prince consoles himself by seducing her servant Fakhri.

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"There is no denying the power of Golshiri's writing . . . This is one of the most disturbing novels I have read in a long time. It's made all the more unsettling for being sensational only in the skill of its telling." -Rosemary Goring, "Glasgow Herald"

From the Publisher

When this novel was first published in Iran in 1969, as Prince Ehtejab, Golshiri was immediately acclaimed as one of the first writers to apply modern literary techniques to depict the demise of the Iranian aristocracy.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars pretty effin' boring 22 July 2010
By Caraculiambro - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have no idea why I bought and read this: I think I remembered hearing somewhere that it was considered one of the really important Iranian novels of the last 100 years. From what I understand, this book is done to death in Iranian high schools and middle schools, along the lines of Steinbeck's "The Red Pony," Melville's "Billy Budd," and Twain's "Huck Finn."

There's not much of a plot. The main character is an old Qajar prince who is close to death and meditates upon his life and his family's history in his chambers, while a series of hallucinatory images from the past come to visit and speak with him. The novel bends reality to the point where you have to pay strict attention: it's not clear who's alive and dead, for example. Prince Ehtejab's wife Fakhronissa, for example, is dead from the start of the novel, whereas his servant, Fakhri, is not. Nevertheless they interact with each other without the narrator clarifying one is a phantom.

The big theme of the book is nothing more complex than that the aristocracy is corrupt and morally empty. (Basically this is accomplished by having the hoary prince chase his housekeeper throughout the book.) This is probably why the current government of Iran doesn't have many objections to this book, even though it was published ten years before the Revolution and even though the author himself was on the outs with the Khomeinists for a time. That's all past, though: this book is canon now.

It's a short book, about 150 pages. The translation does not seem to flow smoothly. I would read the introduction by the translator before starting, though. Golshiri does assume you're familiar with the history of Persia in the 20th century. If you're not, you're going to find this quite disorienting.
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