Bureaucratic frustration and the superfluity of modern man are themes Gogol and Kafka use with classic grace. The same can not be said for Esfandiary's tale of a displaced national seeking an identity card in a maze of Iranian indifference. The fortyish fellow, a Western educated dispirited intellectual, clashes with the bumbling, slow motion culture of his native land. After, a number of elusive incidents, including a languid love affair, dullish parties, numerous scenes of official gobbledygook and political unrest, he receives his travel permit and ""the next day Daryoush Aryana's body was found in one of the narrow alleys of the Old City."" Was he murdered because he made incautious remarks about the regime? Is he meant to symbolize the 20th century here alienated from both the past and the present? Is irony attached to the name? (Daryoush the Great was a warrior-king of Persia.) The novel operates on three levels: a comedy of manners, a mood piece, an allegory. But the satire is slim, the atmosphere sketchy, and the underlying argument about revolution and reaction, or personal engagement and public confusion, much too perfunctory to engender interest. It is really a dilated short story, listlessly composed, and the effect from chapter to chapter is of lights going out one by one. The author is deeply at odds with the Iranian rulers, but his plight lack fire and art.