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.