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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Dialogue in the Garden

Shahrokh Meskub

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To purchase Dialogue in the Garden

Title: Dialogue in the Garden
Author: Shahrokh Meskub
Genre: Fiction
Written: (1990)
Length: 44 pages
Original in: Persian
Availability: in: Translating the Garden - US
in: Translating the Garden - UK
in: Translating the Garden - Canada
  • First published, in part, in Iran Nameh in 1991, and then in book form in 1992
  • Persian title: Goftogu dar Bagh
  • Translated by M.R.Ghanoonparvar
  • See also our review of M.R.Ghanoonparvar's book about Translating the Garden, in which the English version of Dialogue in the Garden is published

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting, revealing piece

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The English edition of Dialogue in the Garden is published together with translator M.R.Ghanoonparvar's commentary on Translating the Garden (see also our review)). Ghanoonparvar's accompanying text offers a welcome discussion of the difficulties of rendering the piece into English, as well as providing information about -- and insight into -- the text itself.
       Dialogue in the Garden is a work of fiction, largely in the form of a dialogue between a nephew ("S.") and his Uncle Farhad ("F"). Farhad is an artist; the nephew comes to visit and look at his paintings, and these are then discussed -- leading also to more far-reaching discussions about art, the Iranian intellectual, and the Iranian emigré.
       The paintings Farhad has been working on, and the ones his nephew looks at, are all of gardens. (The "garden" of the title is a translation of the Persian "bagh" -- a term not quite equivalent to the English word "garden", as Ghanoonparvar fortunately explains.) The gardens are representative of many things: of home (one's own, as well as in the sense of Heimat (one's native country, native place)), of imagined and not real worlds, of memories made visible.
       The nephew notes: "You have not, in fact, come out of your garden these last few years." For the uncle they are a retreat -- both from the political realities of the time (post-revolutionary Iran) as well as the simple realities of life. The garden is a reflection of self, too, the uncle insists: his pictures are alive with human spirit.
       The nephew puts part of it succinctly:

The garden is the abode of your childhood, which is gone and only its memory remains. You are a painter of the memory of the past.
       Their discussions about the paintings are fairly interesting. They are about art, but also about more, the art merely helping to explain (or providing a cover).
       The discussion considers other things too. Here the Persian tradition of miniatures as well as classical Persian literature are effectively used, while later emigré lives serve as examples. The need for a place -- in memory and also to some extent in reality -- to return to, that comfortable home where one feels like the person one truly is is central to the piece. Transplanted and uprooted, in whatever form, one can not be completely satisfied. The story of the Iranian boxing champion living in the United States is only the most drastic example.
       The unsettled state of Iran circa 1990 (when this was written) is obviously also at issue, if not as directly addressed. The intellectual, the artist are, in part, at sea in this world -- certainly Uncle Farhad is. But Meskub does not whine about the intellectuals' fate -- tellingly using a very different example (that of the boxer Vazgen) to show the greatest displacement.
       Dialogue in the Garden isn't particularly easy to read, though those who come to it after reading Ghanoonparvar's commentary on Translating the Garden are certainly better equipped to deal with the language and imagery. Still, even more explanation (and some footnotes) would not have been out of place.
       A short work, Dialogue in the Garden gives an interesting glimpse of another culture -- as much in what material it presents as in how it is presented.

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Dialogue in the Garden: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Iranian author Shahrokh Meskub has written numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. He has also translated many works into Persian.

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