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My Father's Notebook Paperback – 26 Apr 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (26 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841959278
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841959276
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

Beautifully evoked in often touching and amusing detail, My Father's Notebook is an intriguing, complex and often playful novel that deserves attention (Scotland on Sunday)

With seamlessly interwoven quotations from Persian and Dutch literature, deft storytelling and affectionate humour, he offers the reader buoyancy as well as weight. My Father's Notebook is a gift to English readers (Independent)

A moving elegy for a lost father and homeland, but also a voice raised against all forms of repression... My Father's Notebook reads like a detective story: information is withheld so that we gradually discover the background to Ishmael's exile. (The Guardian)

This poignant, affectionate and beautifully told tale reflects a longing for a lost homeland (Guardian)

From the Back Cover

"My Father's Notebook reads like a detective story . . . A moving elegy for a lost father and homeland."

Guardian

Ishmael is a man separated from his history. As a young man he was driven out of his home, exiled from all he loved most by the tumultuous revolution that overwhelmed his country. Years later, thousands of miles away, his father dies. His legacy is a notebook, which finds its way into Ishmael's hands. And through it Ishmael will uncover an extraordinary story that illuminates not only his own past, but also that of Iran itself.

"Simply told . . . it shows a nation lurching into a hostile modern world and what that does to an age-old thing like the bond between a father and his son." Big Issue

"Beautifully evoked . . . [with] deft storytelling and affectionate humour." Independent

"A storyteller of the utmost subtlety and natural ease . . . a moving and conflicted tribute to a marvellous character."

Times Literary Supplement

Longlisted for the independent foreign fiction prize

Translated by Susan Massotty


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Top Banana on 18 Jan. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having started on a nicely quirky note, the book settles into a more prosaic style - fortunately without losing too much of its charm. It takes place in Iran, initially at the end of the Shah dynasty and then into the rule of the Mullahs. An Immam on every corner! Whilst neither regime was exactly democratic, the changeover boosted the number of political prisoners, disappearances and executions.

Although important, the political scene is the context rather than the centrepiece. The underlying theme is the close relationship between father and son. The father is an illiterate deaf-mute who becomes inspired by ancient cave writings. They are inscribed in an esoteric pictorial script that the experts struggle to translate. He invents his own version to enable him to set down his life's thoughts in secret. Son Ishmael is alway close at hand to help his father communicate day by day and to offer moral support. As Ishmael benefits from a formal education, and becomes an underground party activist, the two men's interdependency reduces. However their love and mutual respect never diminish.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Pease on 8 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was in my recommendations and on the strength of the other reviews here, I decided to order a copy.

I won't bother with a synopsis of the storyline as that has been done by others. I would agree with other reviewers that Abdolah's prose is beautiful. Lyrical, even. Much respect must also, surely, go to Susan Massotty for the translation. I enjoyed the backround about Iran, both at the time of the Shah and at the time of the rise of Khomeni. However, I'm not sure that I completely took to Ishmael as a character and I was a bit confused as to whether or not he managed to decipher his father's notebook. I felt a little dissatisfied when I had finished.

Am I glad I read the book? Yes, although for my money, Khaled Hosseini's books were much more enjoyable. I will read the book again at sometime to be sure I've given it a fair chance-I do find some books improve on a second read-but I doubt it will become a treasured favourite.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Sewell on 20 July 2006
Format: Paperback
I can only echo the previous reviewer's thoughts. This is a beautiful, haunting and vibrant novel, so moving that it brought me to tears (the first time a book has done that in 8 years (too embarrassed to say what the last book was)). It bears comparison with the Kite Runner and Midnight's Children, but I enjoyed it more than either of those excellent novels.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Laura Morwood on 24 May 2007
Format: Paperback
A superb novel about life in Iran during the reign of the last Sjah and Khomeini afterwards. Written in Dutch by a political refugee now living in the Netherlands, it covers relationships, politics, religion, love and pain. But despite the 'big' subjects, the story is magical and moves along at a nice pace. An excellent read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Harry Rutherford on 6 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
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.

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.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Emer Martin on 27 Jun. 2006
Format: Paperback
This book was one of the best books I have read in a long time. The language was simple and the story straight forward but the complexity was astounding. I was genuinely moved by the end. The hard struggles of one family under repressive dictators and religions regimes painted a universal picture of how humans suffer terribly under their governments. The two narratives past and present were beautifully woven together. The ending left me bereft and moved. The perfect note at the end of Golden Bell in the cave brought the book full circle. Wonderful.
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By Sharil Dewa on 26 Dec. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My Father’s Notebook is a beautifully told tale of Ishmael (whose political life seems to echo that of author Kader Abdolah, a nom de plume created in memoriam to the author’s friends who died under the persecution of the current Iranian regime), a political exile who, using his father’s notebook, rediscovers not only his own family’s past, but that of Iran’s as well.

Spanning some seven decades, the novel switches from first person point of view (Ishmael’s) and a third person’s narration (presumably Abdolah, who cast himself as not only the storyteller of Ishmael’s life, but that of Iran as well), with the former taking place a quarter of the way through when Ishmael is born.

Starting in the early part of the 20th century, Aga Akbar is born to a temporary wife of a Persian nobleman. Under Shiite law, Aga Akbar is not considered an heir, so instead of material riches, Aga Akbar remained in the rural village of Saffron, and was raised by his poet uncle when his mother died.

Encouraged by his uncle and in an effort to express himself and inspired by tales of an ancient Persian king, Aga Akbar invented a cuneiform language. The only person who understood Aga Akbar’s cuneiform language was Ishmael, who, decades later, translated his father’s thoughts, feelings and actions into words that formed the basis of the novel.
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