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Missing Soluch by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
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Missing Soluch (1979)

by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi

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Soluch is missing, no explanation, gone away all on the first page. His wife and three children, must go on, find food, pay bills, the two boys have to work, grab and grub what they can, and the girl must be quickly married off. We never meet Soluch but we feel his absence. We feel hunger, desperation at its most cruel. This picture of tribal life in the 1940's in northeast iran may be a decent description of what rural poverty in Afghanistan may be like today. I was pleased and surprised by a strong woman character with real grit, strong feelings, and toughness that somehow made her a factor in a very brutish situation. As I read this I thought of Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" and of "Texaco" and stories from places of deep, entrenched poverty. ( )
1 vote grheault | Aug 26, 2012 |
Missing Soluch is an Iranian novel written while the author was imprisoned without pen or paper - he composed the 500 pages in his head. After his release he copied it down in 70 days. The feat is incredible enough but perhaps not surprising since he also wrote the longest novel in Iranian history, Kalidar, at 3000 pages. Mahmoud Dowlatabadi has often been considered a contender for the Nobel, I hope he lives long enough to see it.

Missing Slouch is a bleak but hopeful novel set in rural Iran in the 1960s, on the cusp of the transformation from an agrarian to urban society, similar to what Steinbeck described in Grapes of Wrath. One of the key plot elements in both novels is the disruption caused by the introduction of the tractor. And like Steinbeck, Dowlatabadi writes in a simple spare language about poor people in brutal conditions who somehow find ways to survive no matter how many insults to body and soul. Scenes of violence and brutality will stick with me: Ali Genav nearly beating his wife to death after his mother is crushed by her collapsing house, Hajer's disturbing first sexual encounter with her husband, Abrau attacking his mother with a tractor, an insane camel that attacks Abbas. Beatings, rapes, incest, theft, insanity, physical deformity, ignorance - one would think this is an insufferably bleak novel, and it can be, but through it all there is love and hope that feels more real and honest than any book I have read in a long time.

The accolades this book received are great, yet it never had many reviews, professional or otherwise. The reason is simple, not many people know or even care about pre-revolutionary Iranian village life (much less modern Iranian literature). Yet it is precisely for this reason the novel is so affecting, it's like being dropped into a totally unknown world with no context, one is transported to a new world. The novel is a very accessible introduction to Iranian literature, and a hidden gem. ( )
2 vote Stbalbach | Apr 12, 2012 |
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Dowlatabadi has created a masterpiece; a story of poverty-stricken villagers whose feelings and fears leave us anguished because their fears capture our imagination, our existential doubts about the meaning of life and death.
 
"Missing Soluch" is not a perfect book, but it makes a deep impression. It reads like an ancient thing. [It] was one of the most wholesome, transporting books I read this year.
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mahmoud Dowlatabadiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rastegar, KamranTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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