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the Complete Review
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بامداد خمار

Fattaneh Haj Seyed Javadi

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Title: بامداد خمار
Author: Fattaneh Haj Seyed Javadi
Genre: Novel
Written: 1995
Length: 438 pages
Original in: Farsi
Availability: Der Morgen der Trunkenheit - Deutschland
  • An English translation of بامداد خمار ('Drunkard Morning') by Caroline Croskery, Languor of the Moon, is apparently available but has not yet found a publisher.

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Our Assessment:

B+ : romance and Iranian reality in a nice panorama -- though with a troubling moral

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Berliner Zeitung A 26/8/2000 Stefan Weidner
FAZ . 15/11/2000 Sandra Ghandtchi
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 8/3/2001 Stefan Weidner
World Lit. Today A Spring/2001 Keith Hitchins
Die Zeit . (27/2001) Fahim eh Farsaie

  Review Consensus:

  Generally positive, though some concerns about the reactionary attitudes it reinforces

  From the Reviews:
  • "Es ist eine jener klassischen, zeit- und ortlosen Liebesgeschichten, die, so sehr sie in einem lokalen Umfeld wurzeln, alle kulturellen Grenzen wie im Flug überschreiten. (...) Der Morgen der Trunkenheit besticht durch seine brillante narrative Ökonomie. Trotz der 400 Seiten entfaltet sich die Geschichte völlig schnörkellos." - Stefan Weidner, Berliner Zeitung

  • "Die Komposition von orientalischer Erz&aum;hltradition -- Rahmenerzählung à la Scheherazade --, iranischen literarischen Stoffen und Motiven und modernen Erzähltechniken machen aus Morgen der Trunkenheit ein ungewöhnlich spannendes Buch, das sich vor allem durch seine erfrischend einfache Sprache und klare Struktur gegen den in der zeitgenössischen Prosaliteratur Irans federführenden symbolistischen Modernismus in der Tradition Sadeq Hedayats abhebt." - Sandra Ghandtchi, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "The charm of the novel lies in the finely drawn portrait of Mahbube, in effect a self-portrait as she gradually reveals herself. Equally complex is the character of Rahim. (...) Masterly also is the novelist's delineation of character through dialogue and his depiction of extended dramatic scenes" - Keith Hitchins, World Literature Today

  • "Die Geschichte spiegelt die eingeschränkten Verhältnisse einer Teheraner Frauenwelt in den dreißiger Jahren -- und wirbt für sie. Mahbubehs gescheiterte Liebe und ihr qualvolles Schicksal sollen abschreckend auf Mädchen wirken, die es wagen, ein selbstbestimmtes Leben zu führen." - Fahim eh Farsaie, Die Zeit

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:

       Bamdad-e Khomar (translating as something like: "The Morning After") has been a spectacular bestseller in Iran. It is both a love story and a morality tale, teaching that even the delirious intoxication of love can't spare one the pain and reality of the hangover the next morning.
       The novel begins in modern times. Sudabeh, an educated girl from a good family, has fallen in love with someone her family believes is inappropriate -- a boy whose family has been successful in business, but whose father can't even write his own name. The family is against this marriage, but Sudabeh argues that these are modern times and that a girl should be allowed to do as she wants. Her mother agrees -- but within limits. She tells Sudabeh that sometimes the old folks do know best, and that marriages between people of different social classes bring problems with them that love alone won't bridge.
       Sudabeh isn't convinced, so her mother brings in the big guns: Aunt Mahbubeh. Listen to her story and then decide, Sudabeh's mother tells the young girl. And so Sudabeh and Mahbubeh sit down together, and the aunt tells her story.
       Mahbubeh's tale accounts for almost the whole book. Over the course of it there are a few glimpses of the present -- Sudabeh's reactions, and Mahbubeh showing her some of the keepsakes she has preserved -- but most of it recounts the past.
       Mahbubeh begins her story with the time when she was about fifteen. It was a different time, but her family was already a fairly modern one -- and a cultured and educated one. At fifteen, it was time to start thinking about marrying off Mahbubeh -- but then she does the unthinkable: she falls in love. And not with some suitable young man, but with a carpenter she has glimpsed in the street, Rahim. She turns down first one, then another proper and desirable match -- of fine, upstanding men from her family's circle -- her heart and mind set only on Rahim, with whom she barely exchanges a few words.
       Her family tries to bring her to reason, and tries to get rid of Rahim, but there is nothing to be done. To have their daughter marry such a lowly person is shameful to the family, but finally they see no way out: disgrace will come, no matter what, so best to do it as painlessly as possible. Rahim and Mahbubeh are allowed to marry, but the family essentially disowns her. They provide her with a small house, and Rahim with a little shop, and they send the nurse over with a bit of money every month, but they forbid Mahbubeh to set foot in the family home as long as she is married to that man.
       Mahbubeh's illusions aren't immediately shattered, though her changed lifestyle unsettles her. She isn't used to the plebeian environment she suddenly finds herself in. She has no servants to do the dirty work. She hates going to the market, and is taken advantage of because she won't haggle as forcefully as the other customers will. Her domestic life pleases her more -- and the future looks brighter, as Rahim promised that, when he had enough money, he would join the military and become an officer.
       Naturally, things don't improve. The nasty step-mother becomes a larger presence, and once Mahbubeh and Rahim have a son she moves in permanently. His mother brings out the boor in Rahim. Mahbubeh is also too weak to assume control over her the rearing of her son, who instead is completely in the hands of his grandmother. She allows him to play in the dirt, spoils him with sweets, and sets him against his mother. And the first words he learns are grandma's coarse terms. It makes Mahbubeh miserable, but she is too weak to do anything about it.
       Things get worse and worse: Rahim shows no intention of trying to better himself. Their child dies in an accident. Rahim starts sleeping around. Wretched Mahbubeh gets pregnant again, but doesn't want the child and -- for once -- actually takes action, but even this has horrible results.
       It can't go on, and so Mahbubeh finally leaves Rahim, returning to the family fold. Rich and powerful papa can, of course, set almost everything right again, and soon Mahbubeh is living the life she is accustomed to again. Some things can never be set right, but overall there is a happy ending for Mahbubeh -- and a lesson for the next generation, and for Sudabeh in particular.

       Bamdad-e Khomar provides a neat panorama of domestic life in Iran. Mahbubeh's life is almost entirely inside -- she rarely can (or wants to) venture outside. The streets are no place for a woman -- and certainly not for a refined woman (such as her).
       Some of the messages in the book are a bit troubling: Passion is all well and good, but father (and mother) really do know best. Tradition must be upheld. And, most emphatically: the chasm between the social classes can not be bridged: a manual labourer and an educated woman can never find happiness together.
       Still, Haj Seyed Javadi presents an often gripping story. Mahbubeh -- a naïve child when she marries -- does mature over the course of the novel. Her inaction on occasion is irritating, but overall she is a fairly believable character. In trying to make her marriage work, she gives in at the wrong times and for the wrong reasons, but most of her actions are believable (if frustrating). Rahim is a less well realized character, remaining almost as much of a mystery to the reader as to Mahbubeh.
       Bamdad-e Khomar is engagingly written and offers an interesting picture of a society that Western audiences aren't very familiar with. It is of particular interest because most of the fiction that does reach the West from the so-called closed societies tends to challenge the status quo; Bamdad-e Khomar resolutely affirms it, arguing for tradition (and, oddly, for class distinction). There are no politics in this book, but it is a novel that can find acceptance in contemporary Iran -- and that would probably also have been acclaimed in pre-revolutionary Iran.

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بامداد خمار: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Iranian author Fattaneh Haj Seyed Javadi (فتانه حاج سید جوادی) was born in 1945

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