Thursday 4 July 2013

Abdolah, Kader "My Father’s Notebook"

Abdolah, Kader (Hossein Sadjadi Ghaemmaghami Farahani) "My Father’s Notebook" (Dutch: Spijkerschrift) - 2000

In 2010, we read "The House of the Mosque" in our book club. It was by the same author and I wanted to read this book ever since. Well, I finally did and I am not disappointed. Same as in his other book, the author manages to transport us to the country of his birth, not just in place but also in time. He tells us about the changes during the decades that he lived there.

This novel is even more personal, it is almost an autobiography. Ishmael, the protagonist in this story, has a deaf-mute father who works as a carpet restaurateur, same as Kader Abdolah, whose pseudonym is the pen name of Hossein Sadjadi Ghaemmaghami Farahani. The name is an homage to two friends who were executed in Iran, one during the regime of the shah, the other one under the ayatollahs.

Ishmael ends up in the Netherlands as a writer, his wife follows him later ... well, I think I leave it at that, there are more similarities between the author and his protagonist.

Coming back to the book, it does go a bit back and forth, from Ismail's father Aga Akbar's youth to today, then back to Aga Akbar's youth, then Ishmael's youth, his studies ... But it is in no way confusing. A good report about the history of the situation in Iran.

I also quite liked the subject of the original Dutch title: "Spijkerschrift" meaning cuneiform script, the very first known system of writing. His father writes this way, since he can't hear and talk, he develops his own spelling. Quite interesting if you are into this kind of topic.

This novel is political as well as historical. A fascinating read.

From the back cover:

"On a holy mountain in the depths of Persia there is a cave with a mysterious cuneiform carving deep inside it. Aga Akbar, a deaf-mute boy from the mountain, develops his own private script from these symbols and writes passionately of his life, his family and his efforts to make sense of the changes the twentieth century brings to his country. Exiled in Holland a generation later, Akbar's son Ishmael struggles to decipher the notebook, reflecting how his own political activities have forced him to flee his country and abandon his family. As he gets closer to the heart of his father's story, he unravels the intricate tale of how the silent world of a village carpet-mender was forced to give way to one where the increasingly hostile environment of modern Iran has brought the family both love and sacrifice."

I read this book in the original Dutch.

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