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The Caspian circle consists loosely of two or three generations of four Iranian families who have had their ups and downs since 1948 but never sank below the flaky upper crust. Narrator Firuz (or Felix in the West) Momtaz, now an American professor, looks back (through the long lens of alienation) at the circle's shifting business and romantic alliances during his growing up. Stuck here and there in this tedious soap opera are mini-dissertations of an oddly apolitical (not to say amoral) sort summarizing post-war Iranian international and internal struggles. But the nation's fate scarcely interests the narrator and his friends (""My memory of that period is largely a blur""), who plod through a tiresome international world of camps, prep schools, and beach resorts, of Turkish carpets for sale and endless pretty plates of fruit. Behind the display of money is the fight to get it: men cheat or abandon their children, humiliate and beat up their wives, betray and bugger one another. Gratuitous cruelty--Raffat calls it ""impulsiveness""--seems to be the national pastime. The Shah, who has ""measured up to his stature,"" orders University students gunned down in Teheran, while a scion of the circle drives his green Lotus to classes at Harvard. One hopes such events are juxtaposed with irony, but the blurry, witless narrator sees no connections. Instead he doggedly chronicles the momentous historical events in the life of his group: 350 pages, worth of ""She picked a daisy and put it absently to her nose."" They are an eminently forgettable lot, either stupid (like the narrator and some women) or cruel (like everybody else), as ingrown as a toenail and just about as interesting.

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 1977
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin