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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Kelidar I

Mahmud Doulatabadi

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Title: Kelidar I
Author: Mahmud Doulatabadi
Genre: Novel
Written: 1978
Length: 388 pages
Original in: Persian
Availability: in Kelidar - Deutschland
  • Kelidar I has not yet been translated into English
  • The first in a ten-volume series, published as Kelidar between 1978 and 1983.

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Our Assessment:

A- : a gripping, fascinating tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
World Lit. Today . Fall/1998 William L. Hanaway

The WLT review refers to the German translation of Kelidar

  From the Reviews:
  • "Kelidar is the longest Persian novel written to date, and surely one of the finest. The present translation is of parts I and 2 only, which are sufficiently self-contained to make for satisfying reading and which also give a good idea of what the whole is like. (...) Doulatabadi's style is that of a traditional Persian storyteller, in that he constructs his tale in a linear fashion, speaks through an omniscient narrator, and uses a balanced mixture of narrative and dialogue. (...) One wishes that readers of English could also experience the pleasures of this novel." - William L. Hanaway, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

Please note that this review is based also on the German translation of the novel, published as Kelidar, in a translation by Sigrid Lotfi.

       Mahmud Doulatabadi's Kelidar is a massive, ten-volume epic saga. The first two volumes have been translated into German, but not even that much is available in English (or, it seems, French). A shame: it is an impressive and engaging work, and in many ways a marvel.
       This first volume of Kelidar opens impressively, with Kurdish girl Maral riding into town, a grand entrance of a proud, independent girl -- hardly a woman yet -- in difficult circumstances. She has come to visit her jailed father and fiancé. Her mother has died -- news she can't bear to convey -- and their flock of sheep has succumbed to disease. After her visit she has to go join up with some relatives, having nowhere else to turn to. Her only companion is her imposing horse, Gareh-At, who won't allow anyone else to ride him.
       Maral goes to live with the Kalmischi family: pater familias Kalmischi is married to Belgeyss, Maral's aunt. They have three sons and a daughter. One of the sons is Gol-Mammad, married to Siwar. But from the first -- from before even, as it turns out -- there are sparks between Maral and Gol-Mammad.
       Life is hard. The family has sheep, but in these hard times can not support them, and eventually the animals almost all succumb to the horrible plague going round. The family tries farming, but can not afford proper irrigation or good land, and their efforts fail miserably.
       There are also domestic troubles: barren and jealous Siwar feels she is a disappointment and is wary of Maral. Belgeyss' young brother Madyar is in love with Ssougi, and in a night raid with the Kalmischi-men looks to bring her home to be his bride. It goes disastrously wrong, and one man from each family dies. The deaths will haunt the Kalmischis .....
       Doulatabadi writes powerfully, from a string of single-word sentences for emphasis to long, lyrical descriptions of the hard countryside. The life of these shepherd families is convincingly related and, despite the bleak locales and very different lifestyle from that familiar to most readers in the modern West, almost always absolutely riveting.
       Except for their fundamental passions and ambitions it can be hard to relate to these characters: they live by a different code, they can be petty, they are always suspicious. Yet there are many rich characters among them. Among the few disappointments is that Doulatabadi does not focus more closely on only a few of them (especially the winning Maral). This is a sprawling saga -- the first of ten volumes, one has to remember -- and it can be hard to follow (though it is much tighter than the second volume).
       All in all, a marvelous beginning. Certainly recommended.

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Kelidar: Mahmud Doulatabadi: Other books by Mahmud Doulatabadi under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Iranian author Mahmud Doulatabadi (Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, etc.; محمود دولت آبادی) was born in 1940. He has written many highly acclaimed novels and also worked as an actor.

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