With an essay by editor Moayyad (Persian Literature/Univ. of Chicago), this anthology is not only a timely introduction to an unfamiliar literature but offers as well illuminating insights into a society where the postmodern and pre-Renaissance still uneasily coexist. Ranging in quality from the excellent to the competent, the stories similarly vary in form between the conventional and the experimental. Conventional stories like ""Abji Khanom,"" ""Love,"" and ""The Long Night,"" in which young girls, more children than women, are married off by their families to monsters of sexual depravity whose excesses kill their child-brides on their wedding nights, reflect an older society, dominated by tradition and superstition. ""Trial Offers,"" a Kafkaesque story of B., who is turning into a butterfly to ""serve as an obvious example of an age that elegizes the obvious,"" and the deliberately fragmentary ""The Trench and the Empty Canteen,"" in which three anonymous lives intersect to reveal ""the grief and sorrow of thinking in loneliness, sleeping in loneliness, and screaming in loneliness,"" are examples of more experimental fiction. Perhaps two of the most polished pieces are ""The Half-closed Eye,"" a perceptive tale of protective family delusions by Simin Daneshvar, whose work has been published in the US; and ""Mirza,"" which is as much an affecting love story as a telling account of Iranian political dissent. Rich in imagery and symbols, stories that--despite some uneven writing--do much to explain a country whose recent history has so devastatingly impinged on our own.