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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Hafez in Love

Iraj Pezeshkzad

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To purchase Hafez in Love

Title: Hafez in Love
Author: Iraj Pezeshkzad
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004 (Eng. 2021)
Length: 223 pages
Original in: Persian
Availability: Hafez in Love - US
Hafez in Love - UK
Hafez in Love - Canada
from: Bookshop.org (US)
directly from: Syracuse University Press
  • Persian title: حافظ ناشنیده پند
  • Translated by Pouneh Shabani-Jadidi and Patricia J. Higgins
  • With a Foreword by Dominic Parviz Brookshaw

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Our Assessment:

B : charming historical romance, with a nice comic touch

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The Hafez of the title is the famous Persian poet, Shams al-Din Mohammad Hafez (ca. 1320-1390). The novel is narrated by his brother-in-law and close friend, Mohammad Golandam, who begins his account in the Shiraz of 1354, when the two are still just twenty-three years old. Political power has shifted, with longtime ruler Sheikh Abu Eshaq Inju -- often called Shah Sheikh here -- chased out of town and conqueror Amir Mobarez al-Din Mohammad Mozaffar taking power a few months earlier.
       The young Hafez -- generally called Shams al-Din here -- is already a well-known poet, in a city in which poetry is highly regarded -- if not always truly appreciated: even in the best of times, many of the rich and powerful show only very superficial interest:

It is clear that they only want poets and minstrels at their gatherings because of their names and reputations; it is one of the means of demonstrating the host's greatness and power, like silk rugs and gold-embroidered curtains.
       Shah Sheikh seems to have been a relatively easy-going ruler, who actually enjoyed poetry (and being immortalized and praised in poetry ...), but the new guy is much coarser and harsher:
This blood-shedding creature of God understands neither literature nor poetry. He is one of those dull-hearted people who, in the words of Shams Qeis Razi, don't 'distinguish between the sound of music and the braying of an ass.' His source of pleasure and happiness is cutting off heads.
       Those who had previously sung Shah Sheikh's praises now are doing their best to toady up to the new regime. Happy-go-lucky Hafez, however, doesn't take all of this as seriously as he should; what matters to him, above all, is enjoying his poetry, and having a good time -- and there's also that woman he has his eyes on.
       As his brother-in-law notes, Hafez has several enemies to worry about: there are his nasty neighbors, who have their sights on his house, jealous fellow poets -- and Amir Mobarez, who, if he ever takes notice of Hafez, seems likely to decide to simply do away with him. And it's not like Hafez can count on many others to help him, as there are many who probably wouldn't mind in the least to see him get his comeuppance:
Shams al-Din has not left any of them off lightly. He has massacred Sufis, judges, jurists, and police officers with the blade of his pen. Those few who have survived his pen, he has offended for his own entertainment and laughter. Consider recently, amidst all his problems, how many troubles he has caused --
       Most worryingly, however, the woman Hafez has fallen in love with, Jahan Khatun, has another suitor -- the Police Chief Kolu 'Omar, who already wields considerable power and is eager to get this potential rival out of the way.
       Jahan Khatun is the rare woman who is also a poet, and has joined in gatherings of male poets -- decorously behind a curtain, but nevertheless. She was previously married -- which kept her out of circulation for a while -- but is now free again (as long as she can hold off Kolu 'Omar ...), and when she and Hafez attend a party the poetic and other sparks immediately fly, and Hafez become obsessed with her.
       Hafez is repeatedly advised to lay low, and even to flee Shiraz, but he just can't help himself. For a while he gets by, but eventually the police scoop him up, and Kolu 'Omar uses him as a bargaining chip to make Jahan Khatun more pliant. Of course, that rumor that is then spread, about how Jahan Khatun handled her unwanted first husband, on their wedding night and after, gives Kolu 'Omar some pause .....
       It all makes for a light romance, with a decent bit of suspense -- not least as to Hafez's cat, which he is devoted to and which Jahan Khatun comes to care for --, a good deal of humor, and a lot of poetry, as Hafez and others are frequently found to resort to it, Pezeshkzad sprinkling it throughout. Cheeky Hafez is a sympathetic and amusing hero, while his more levelheaded brother-in-law makes a good narrator (and protagonist, both as Hafez's sometime sidekick and in trying to help him out). Many of those Hafez and Mohammad Golandam encounter and deal with are amusing caricatures -- poets convinced of talents they don't have, and bending (over backwards) to try to please whoever is in power, and there is a good deal of comic relief throughout the novel.
       Hafez in Love is a quite charming little historical romance, in a world that has become very unstable but where poetry also still matters. It's an enjoyable read -- and fans of Hafez and his poetry will certainly appreciate it, not least for how the poetry is cleverly employed in the novel.

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 March 2022

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Hafez in Love: Reviews: Hafez:
  • Hafez at the Encyclopædia Iranica
Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Iranian author Iraj Pezeshkzad (ایرج پزشکزاد) lived 1928 to 2022.

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© 2022 the complete review

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