Melville House Publishing, Paperback, 9781612193007, 151pp.
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
In the midst of the Iran-Iraq War, an Iraqi journalist is given a tour of a military prison. The Major in charge of the camp informs the writer of what is expected: he is to write a fabricated report about a murder that has occurred in the camp, with the aim of demoralizing Iranian soldiers.
Reluctant to write the report, the writer spends a long night talking and drinking with the Major and detailing a work of fiction he is composing about a group of soldiers trapped on a hill, dying of thirst as they battle for a water tank with a group of enemy soldiers perched on the opposite hill. The tank remains undamaged, but neither group has a hope of reaching it without being killed.
In a narrative riddled with surreal images, shifting perspectives, and dark humor, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi--widely acknowledged as the most important living Iranian writer--offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of the warring countries as he questions the meaning of national identity and does something that has been nearly impossible to do in Iran for the last century: tell a true story.
Dowlatabadi pioneered the use of the everyday language of the Iranian people as suitable for high literary art. His books include "Missing Soluch," published by Melville House and his first work to be translated into English, and a ten-book portrait of Iranian village life, "Kelidar." In 1974, Dowlatabadi was arrested by the Savak, the shah's secret police force. When he asked what crime he'd committed, he was told, "None, but everyone we arrest seems to have copies of your novels, so that makes you provocative to revolutionaries." He was in prison for two years.
His novel "The Colonel "was shortlisted for the Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin International Literature Award, long-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and the winner of the 2013 Jan Michalski Prize for Literature.
Praise for The Colonel:
"Mr. Dowlatabadi draws a detailed, realist picture of Iranian life, especially that of the rural poor, in language that is complex and lyrical, rather than simplistic." —The Financial Times
"A demanding and richly composed book by a novelist who stands apart." —Kirkus Reviews
"The Colonel is a remarkable and important book ... a masterpiece." —The Globe and Mail
"It's about time everyone even remotely interested in Iran read this novel." —The Independent