THE CROWNED CANNIBALS: Writings on Repression in Iran by Reza Baraheni

THE CROWNED CANNIBALS: Writings on Repression in Iran

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Introducing the writings of Iran's leading spokesman-in-exile, E. L. Doctorow likens him to Solzhenitsyn and other unsilenced victims of state. And, writes Baraheni: ""It is no wonder that the whole of contemporary Iranian fiction, poetry, and criticism revolves around one central theme: repression."" But if he dwells on current strategies of coercion and instruments of torture (sadly familiar from his own imprisonment), his concern is larger, he speaks as one dispossessed: an Azerbaijani Turk, he was denied his language; an Iranian, he is heir to centuries of despotic rule compounded, now, by ""Westomania."" Baraheni is a literary man, so his revolt took the form of breathing ""reality and harshness"" into the Persian language and turning it against his oppressors; but he is also a Marxist dialectician, and his most original contribution here, ""Masculine History,"" is a reconstruction-cum-analysis of patriarchal power as the economic, cultural, and political basis of Iranian society from Darius to the present Shah. In Baraheni's construct, this latest ""crowned cannibal"" engorges his opponents no less than the legendary flesh-eaters, and, like Darius, poses as the charismatic Shadow of God. To Iranian exaltation of the father (in descending order from the Shah) and subjugation of mother and children, Baraheni traces the absence from Iran of ""the social art of drama,"" dependent on give and take, and the dominance of the panegyric ode. He exposes the brutalization of women, in bed or on the street; he celebrates his burly father, who talked Turkish--""Are you all right?""--to the nodding, uncomprehending little Shah; and includes a selection of his own strong, barbed verse. A raw synthesis, tragic beyond protest--but that, at least, is a start.

Pub Date: June 27th, 1977
Publisher: Random House