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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Mahmud Doulatabadi

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Title: Safar
Author: Mahmud Doulatabadi
Genre: Novel
Written: 1969 (rev. 1974)
Length: 127 pages
Original in: Persian
Availability: Die Reise - Deutschland
  • Safar has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B+ : effective, sad novella

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

Please note that this review is based also on the German translation of the novel, published as Die Reise, in a translation by Bahman Nirumand.

       Safar -- The voyage -- relates a sad small sliver of Iranian life. It begins with Mochtar losing his job. Seeing no alternative, he decides to venture to Kuwait in the hope that he can find a way to provide for his family there. He leaves behind his wife, Chatun, and young daughter, Chawan, promising to write -- and to return.
       Meanwhile happy-go-lucky Marhab comes to town, also in search of a job. With no real qualifications -- but willing and able to try anything -- he is not yet as desperate as Mochtar and he is willing to try his luck here. He makes a friend in Ali, and finds employment.
       Soon enough Marhab has set his eyes on Chatun. He's not very forward, but he spends a great deal of time watching her house and her.
       Bad news comes regarding Mochtar: Chatun is told he died. And now Marhab can eventually insinuate himself in the household. The presumed widow and he begin an affair.
       But it turns out Mochtar did not die. He lost a leg, and half his mind, but he returns alive -- at least to town. He can not face his wife and child and does not return to their home, watching it instead as Marhab had done so long. And obviously his heart is broken by what he sees.
       Marhab too loses his job -- and considers heading for Kuwait. He can't stay with Chatun if he can't provide for her, and tells her he must leave.
       The story culminates in the meeting of the two men, each keeping away from the woman they love. The tragic end comes as it must.

       Safar is a spare, dark tale, effectively told by Doulatabadi. It's only a novella, a drawn-out story, but Doulatabadi paints this small scene very nicely, in all its bleakness and with all its shattered hopes.
       No one is at fault here, no one means to do wrong, yet life is almost unlivable. Economic circumstances make for difficult choices, and pride adds to the falls. Tragedy is the almost inevitable outcome.
       A small, powerful, almost painfully sad story.

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Safar: 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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