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The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree

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3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,495 ratings  ·  326 reviews
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is an extraordinarily powerful and evocative literary novel set in Iran in the period immediately after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Using the lyrical magic realism style of classical Persian storytelling, Azar draws the reader deep into the heart of a family caught in the maelstrom of post-revolutionary chaos and brutality that s ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 7th 2020 by Europa Editions (first published August 17th 2017)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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Adina
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mbi2020, iran
Now shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2020

4.5*
“Contrary to what dad believe, culture, knowledge and art retreat in the face of violence, the sword and fire. “

I guess this novel proves that I am not over magic realism in general but only over some authors representing this genre. I say this because this book is drowning in magic realism, it breaths in and breaths out magical creatures, ghosts, Arabic and Persian mythology.

Shokoofeh Azar is an Iranian writer, living in Australia and
...more
Hugh
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shortlisted for the Booker International Prize 2020

Azar is an Iranian (or Persian) exile living in Australia - which gives her a degree of license to describe her country's problems that would not be available to anyone still living there - indeed the translator chose to remain anonymous for his/her own safety.

This is an enjoyable magic realist fable, which is very loosely based on the experience of living through Iran's Islamic revolution, but owes much more to Persian and Arabic myths and leg
...more
Paul Fulcher
The more she read old books such as The Darab Nama, One Thousand and One Nights, Khayyam’s Nowruz Nama, Hossein Kord Shabestari, The Shahnama, Eskandar Nama, Malek Jamshid, Jame al-Olum, Ajayeb Nama, and Aja’ib va Ghara’ib, the deeper she delved into the magnificent expanse of ocean that was the Iranian people’s real-imaginary beliefs, and became ever more detached from the real, day-to-day world. To deny or forget her past, she read and wrote, submerging herself in the meaning of myth.

The Enlig
...more
Jola
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: iran
Have you ever tried to pour an ocean into a thimble? If yes, you know exactly what I am feeling, trying to write a review of Shokoofeh Azar's novel which I finished tonight. Words fail me. I wish I had a garden - then I would plant a greengage tree instead. It would always remind me of Roza, Hushang, Sohrab, Beeta, Bahar and the book which blew me away.

That's it.

Review to come, provided I will safely return to reality. My heart is still in Razan.
Gumble's Yard
Dad wrote everything again. This time he cut out all the parts he had realized were incomprehensible to their stale minds, and embellished here and there to make it thoroughly believable. This time he wrote nothing about the black snow or my ghost, or Aunt Turan joining the jinns, or Beeta and Issa’s circular flames of love-making. In this new version, there was nothing about Homeyra Khatun’s enchanted garden and well or Effat’s black love, the magical sleep or Razan’s holy fire—all of which
...more
Antonomasia
Apr 14, 2020 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: 2020 International Booker Shortlist
The narrative voice is very likeable in this magic-realist ghost story set in post-revolution Iran, but, at least to this reader with zero background in Iranian culture, the novel is often just too similar to the work of Gabriel García Márquez - not quite original enough - for a prize like the International Booker.

Having read Márquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold only last month, I would say that Azar does have a couple of strengths absent from that particular Márquez novel, at least. (She ref
...more
Katia N
Literally when I was typing this, the book was shortlisted for International Booker Prize 2020.

In one sentence, if you are a fan of the classic magic realism a-la One Hundred Years of Solitude , you will probably like this book. And it is a harder call, if you like me are not armoured with this work by Marquez. I personally prefer Borges and Cortazar.

For the first two chapters, I really thought i was going to admire this book. For a while now, I've been trying unsuccessfully to find something g
...more
Eric Anderson
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I want to learn about world events and political revolutions there's a reason why I don't only read newspaper articles and history books. There's so much more to a country, its people and their culture than can be found in facts. “The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree” describes an Iranian family splintered apart by the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution. They flee their home in Tehran and settle in a small village with the hope of continuing their lives in relative peace but find the new ...more
Michael Livingston
I struggled with this - lots of digressive magical realism in the style of Marquez, which isn't something I really have a lot of patience with. It's fascinating to read something so deeply Iranian - lots of mythology and history bleeds into the story - but I like my narratives built on more solid ground.
Settare
I really wanted to like this book, but it didn't let me.
I have a little bit of praise but also many problems with it. It's a sentimental story that brings to life many forgotten local Iranian folk tales, but it's so poorly written and its message is a bit distorted and exaggerated that I can't rate it anything higher than a 1.5.

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a novel by Shokoofeh Azar, an Iranian based in Australia. It uses magical realism and Iranian folklore to tell the story of a
...more
Lisa
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Brendan Fredericks
It’s a stunning novel. It’s written in a lyrical magical realism style, which seems bizarre at first – until the author’s purpose becomes clear. This style is both a tribute to classical Persian storytelling and an appropriate response to the madness of the world she is describing. The novel tells the story of a family living through the turbulent period of Iranian history when the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war brought them overwhelming grief. While there is no solace to be had in the ...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This book seemed like an Iranian version of ‘100 Years of Solitude’. It follows a family from the 1979 revolution to present day Iran. There is lots of magical realism and the book is populated with characters from the local folklore-djinns and soothsayers, mermaids and ghosts. Unfortunately, I found that the fantastical overwhelmed the story of the family to the point I often couldn’t tell what was going on.
John Banks
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably closer to 4.5

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree (Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker International) is a wonderful read in the broad tradition of magical realism - there are certainly references to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, among others. But simply framing it in this way would be to misunderstand, as the novel is heavily gounded in and uplifted by far older Persian storytelling and mystic traditions. My pleasure in this novel is this spiritual soul it shares for the art of storytelling :
...more
Lia
Simultaneously a modern yet mythical retelling of the Iranian Revolution.
The narrative style is unusual and I understand it draws stylistically from Persian storytelling traditions.
An amazing first novel, an interesting choice for the Stella Prize shortlist. Beyond a doubt a wonderfully told story, yet the unusual structure and subject perhaps may alienate all but the most adventurous of readers.
I enjoyed the book immensely and it is well worth the effort and energy to read.
I would be very inte
...more
Neil
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I read this book due to its longlisting for the 2020 Booker International Prize. The story is set in Iran in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and we follow the fortunes of Bahar’s family as she tells us about her mother, father, sister and brother. It seems every preview of this book gives away the “secret” that Bahar is, at the time she is telling the story, a ghost and the story of her death forms part of the narrative. Bahar and her family leave Tehran to start a new life in a sma ...more
Paula
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“But for us, for our family, enough was enough. They could watch as a pregnant Baha’i woman was thrown from the roof of her house in the name of Islam to the words, “God is great.” They could gradually become accustomed to seeing executions moved from inside prisons out into city squares and parks in front of their homes. Putting the stress on the word wanted, Dad says most people wanted to get used to everything. As if it were a decision they had made in advance as they seized their booty, land ...more
Prerna
Shortlisted for the International Booker prize 2020

Oh Iran, what is it about you that makes you the perfect setting for a tragic story seeped in magical realism? Is it those streets ravaged by years of war? Is it your rich cultural heritage of pain, beauty and truth? Or is it simply the defiance of your people - a defiance whose intrinsic value is comprised of the will to survive?

Mirrors. Mirrors were everywhere, catching everyone off-guard with a view of himself from every angle. Gradually fear
...more
Abbie | ab_reads
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
(#gifted @thebookerprizes) ‘Or if just once they were to watch and understand the blooming of a flower or birth of a lamb, using their senses of sight and hearing and smell completely, perhaps humans would come to the conclusion that in all the days and nights of their lives, only that minute in which they are immersed is worth calculating.’
.
From the lows of Red Dog I moved on to this absolute GEM of a novel from the International Booker longlist and my faith in the judges was restored. I’m goin
...more
Viv JM
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is the story of a family of five set during the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the years afterwards. It combines the brutal reality of injustice, loss and grief with fable-like magical elements complete with jinns, ghosts, prophesies and even a mermaid.

I am finding it a difficult book to rate. There were passages that were, for me, breathtaking and amazing and worthy of five stars. However, during some of the lengthy forays into mysticism and magic, I fou
...more
Lyn Elliott
Amazing.
Full review to come when I get my computer back from the repair shop.
I hope it wins the Booker International.

Update now the computer is home again.

Shookoofeh Azar was only seven when the Islamic Revolution struck Iran, and she lived there with her family until her work as a journalist and writer put her in such danger that she was forced to leave. In 2011 she was accepted as a political refugee in Australia where she has resumed writing and has begun to exhibit as a visual artist as well
...more
Mohammed Morsi
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic journey. A recommended read.
It's not your usual writing style but once you let yourself flow along and be carried (by the excellent translation), there is a story that will teach you, make you happy and sad, enlightened and grateful.
Definitely recommended.
Claire
I was very quickly pulled into this book and for the most part seamlessly travelled between the realistic part of the story and parts where the author shifted into the character's imagination.

Azar uses the lyrical magic realism style of classical Persian storytelling to tell the story of a family of five in the period immediately after the 1979 Islamic revolution and the story is narrated by the spirit of the 13 year old daughter. She wrote the story, inspired by and in an attempt to answer thi
...more
Nancy Oakes
full post here at my reading journal
https://www.readingavidly.com/2020/06...

As I generally do prior to reading any book, I take a glance at the dustjacket blurb, both for the basic outline of what it is I'm about to read and for information about the author, as well as the translator if there is one. I got a bit of a jolt this time around -- there's the normal bit about the author, Shokoofeh Azar, saying that she moved to Australia in 2001 as a political refugee, but the surprise is that the tra
...more
ns510
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a powerful read! Rich with magical realism, this was right up my street. It also reminded me somewhat of Salman Rushdie’s writing style.

This is a story of an Iranian family, and how the Iranian Revolution impacted on their lives collectively, and individually. Torn apart and traumatised, the effects are far-reaching. Widening the scope, there is also a bigger story in there, of the effects war and religious extremism has on the country as a whole.

Sometimes you need a touch of the fantastic
...more
Kate
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar is set in Iran in the period immediately after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Using magic realism and classical Persian tales, Azar tells the story of a family deeply affected by the post-revolutionary chaos and brutality.

Things I understand and appreciate about The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree:

01. That it is a stunning example of using folklore to tell a modern story.

02. That Persian folklore is rich and I knew very little of it
...more
Calzean
For me this was a very unusual novel with elements that I'll never understand. But what a book!
Narrated by a 13 year old Iranian girl whose family flees the Islamic Revolution of the 70s to a remote village where they hope for peace. Each member of the family is featured at various lengths as to what has happened and is happening to them.
Sounds simple but the story is layered with ghosts, jinns, spells, Iranian folklore, debates on death versus life, the beauty of nature, wise men, sad men, love
...more
Jan
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Azar uses Iranian folk tales and magical realism to convey the effects of the 20th-century Islamic Revolution. The magical realism was tedious at times, but I liked the way things came together in the end. A finalist for the International Booker Prize.
Inderjit Sanghera
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roughly midway through the novel a character makes reference to ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ and the reader can sense the influence of Marquez and magical realism throughout the story. Ostensible the novel follows the story of an Iranian family following the revolution, yet Azar chooses to interweave elements of fantasy into the story. One of the key elements of magical realism is that the fantastical elements of the stories are nowhere near as surreal as the reality they depict, a reality of ...more
Magdelanye
There are a lot of good things about dying. You're suddenly light and free and no longer so afraid of death, sickness, judgment and religion. You don't have to grow up fated to replicate the lives of others. p57

Shokoofeh Azar has given us an exquisite tapestry of grief, a seamless blending of fact and the fantastical that ensures that the enchanted reader never really knows exactly what is going on until the end when we realize that we do.

Reading history books and listening to the news didn't le
...more
Skip
This book is about life in Iran following the Islamic Revolution in 1979. We follow the destruction of an upper middle class family that had done well under the leadership of Pahlevi, but whose education and wealth attracted the attention and persecution of Ayatollah Khomeini and his thugs. Like others, I was interested by the notion of a family narrative with interwoven Persian tales: magical realism, mythology, historical events, etc. Sadly, the wandering storyline was too hard to follow, and ...more
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Author and journalist:
The writer of “The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree”

Awards:
* Longlisted at National Book Awards 2020
* Shortlisted at The Booker International 2020
* Shortlisted at The Stella Prize 2018
* Shortlisted at The University of Queensland Fiction Book Award 2018
* Shortlisted at The Adelaide Writers Festival 2020

Grants:
Australian Council for the Arts 2019
Creative Victoria 2019

Sch
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20 likes · 18 comments
“There are a lot of good things about dying. You are suddenly light and free and no longer afraid of death, sickness, judgement or religion; you don't have to grow up fated to replicate the lives of others.

But for the most important advantage of death is knowing something when I want to know it. Kon fayakon. Piece of cake. If I want to be somewhere, I am, just like that.”
7 likes
“I looked at the eyes of the ghosts sitting around the fire and at Beeta, and suddenly I realized that we dead are the sorrowful part of life, while the living are the joyful side of death. And yet, Beeta was not joyful and it was the sad side of life that she didn't even know she should be joyful in life because there was nothing else she could do. I wanted to tell her this, but was afraid of bringing her damaged spirit down even further. Fortunately, she herself eventually spoke and said, "It seems that from among you, I am the more fortunate because nobody killed me. But I don't feel happy at all." She looked at we who had died. The dead who had been the first to meet her in the world of the living outside Razan. An old man in the group responded, "This is because you don't yet realize how beautiful, young, and healthy you are." Beeta smiled and her cheeks reddened by the light of the fire in silent emotion; and all of us who were dead saw how good the smile looked on her. But as she recalled dark memories, her smile faded and she said, "But the man who loved me simply turned his back on me and married a young girl." The middle-aged man said, "All the better! It means you were lovable enough but he wasn't smart enough to realize it.” 4 likes
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