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Touba and the Meaning of Night

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  747 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Touba and the Meaning of Night introduces English-speaking readers to the masterpiece of a great contemporary Persian writer, renowned in her native Iran and much of Western Europe. This remarkable epic novel, begun during one of the author's several imprisonments, was published in Iran in 1989 to great critical acclaim and instant bestseller status—until Shahrnush Parsipu ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by The Feminist Press at CUNY (first published 1990)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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Ahmad Sharabiani
Tubâ va ma'nâ-ye shab = Touba and the Meaning of Night, Shahrnush Parsipur
Touba and the Meaning of Night is a novel written by Iranian novelist, Shahrnush Parsipur and was originally published in Iran in 1989. it is Parsipur's second novel and is a fictional account of a woman, Touba, living through the rapidly changing political environment of 20th century Iran. Like other works of Shahrnush Parsipur, Touba and the Meaning of Night is considered by most to be a feminist work. Also, like Parsipu
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a monumental book, maybe a masterpiece of Iranian fiction, but certainly a family saga of considerable dimensions that follows the lifetime of one woman, Touba, from girlhood to old age. During a period of time that reaches across most of a century, she represents the traditional, sequestered world to which Iranian women have been assigned for generations. With one significant difference: she enters that world with the blessings of a father who believes that women are the equals to men a ...more
Jul 06, 2009 rated it really liked it

As the events this past month unfolded, our aggregated American heads swiveled towards Iran, looking at it with greater interest than since the 1980s. Who is this Iran, center of the Axis of evil, run by a midget Holocaust denier, and populated with beautiful and politically engaged students? Iran’s history seems like it has been a long tug between its rich, cultural Persian history and religious fundamentalism (with some US puppet governments thrown in for good measure.)

I’m not sure why, but
May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
A wonderful book. I really enjoyed reading it. Some parts are a little harder to get through, but others are suspenseful, fascinating, and gripping. I especially liked learning about Iranian culture and history, both of which I really knew nothing about before reading this book. I feel like I've broadened my horizons a little bit by understanding more about what happened in Iran between the end of the 19th century and the Islamic Revolution.
My favorite parts of the story itself were the love st
May 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love when I read a book and leaves me wandering in its world for hours, days, weeks afterwards. This book accomplished that and so much more for me, intellectually and emotionally. If you have any interest in Iran, mysticism, gender, or Islam, I highly recommend this book.
woman on a hot tin moon
What intrigued me most in this novel is its relationship to magic realism. In Touba and the meaning of Night what we call magic is deeply rooted in religion although disregarding the magical twists that were borrowed from pre-Islamic philosophy and skillfully woven into the narrative will be unfair to the novel in its totality. Throughout the novel, I could not help but compare it with One Hundred Years of Solitude and kept thinking how magic is culturally and religiously coded. One of the quest ...more
Lane Pybas
I read Touba after reading Parsipur’s wonderful novella Women Without Men. The novella wove the disturbing stories of five women together with the strength of a parable, and I was hoping that Touba would also be in this vein. The novel is steeped in Persian legend and lore, but the symbolism lost its force for me in the long novel format. The bold little allegories that I enjoyed in Women Without Men were sort of muddied down in service of the larger plot about a matriarch whose life story mirro ...more
May 06, 2007 rated it it was ok
This is a very serious Iranian novel. Epic. One of the few novels that I've read and wondered if I couldn't fully appreciate it because I'm so unfamiliar with the cultural outlook? I thought it was odd that, maybe because it was written by a woman, it seems to be regarded as a feminist work. The female protagonist is sometimes strong... but sometimes isn't. And I do feel like the work perpetuates a large number of mysogenist practices (or is it just reflecting a reality?).

Ismael grew curious abo
Dec 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a lot of Iranian history and culture in an amazing set through eyes of a woman...
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Of the books that I've read for this self-imposed challenge this has, so far, been the most challenging because it is set in a mythological universe with which I am mostly unfamiliar. The story, at its face, involves the changes in Persia/Iran from the last days of the Qajar dynasty until just before the Revolution in 1979. It is told from the perspective of Touba, an Iranian woman twice-married who spends most of her life searching for God and meaning in the midst of living the very cloistered ...more
A bestseller from the time of it's release in Iran, this amazing book has finally been translated into English for Western readers to sink their teeth into. Historical, mythical, and with long, loosely connected tangents of magical realism, this book covers the life of one Iranian woman over her very long life, as well as the political, social, and religious changes during that time period. Touba lives through the reigns of shahs, of British and Russian Colonialists, of the relatively brief peri ...more
Nov 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Love this book. Love this author. Wish they would translate more of her work from Farsi to English. Ms. Parsipur has been compared to other magical realist authors like Gaberial Garcia Marquez. The symbolism and allegory are interesting for me especially because I was raised in the US with a disconnect to Iran. Not having studied our history, literature or mythology till now, this book was a great introduction to various ideas I've never been exposed to. A book I'll def need to read a multiple t ...more
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: iran
The book tells the life story of a woman and covers both Qajar and Pahlavi periods. It was interesting to read about political and social changes and how they were changing people and influencing the woman`s destiny. I enjoyed reading about the woman`s personal life as in this book the woman`s character is quite different from what you usually see in Iranian books - she is active, decisive and independent as much as it was possible in those times.
It was also quite entertaining to see the reactio
Melanie  H
Jan 18, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is part of my quest to read more non-western literature and what better place to travel than Iran. Recognizing that I live a completely different experience, especially in the world of women's rights, what was most disappointing about Touba as a character is that she starts out so strong and in opposition to doing as society dictates. And yet she grows into an old woman seeped in tradition that proves irrelevant in the new world she finds herself in. Realistic future for many an averag ...more
Apr 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Islamic literature:
"A fictional biography of a woman named Touba, and her struggle to survive successively exploitative relation ships in a patriarchal religious culture wracked by cataclysmic political transformations, Touba and the Meaning of Night is a feminist tour de force that stands among the classics of twentieth-century Middle Eastern literature. We can't recommend Touba more highly." - Tikkun
Feb 01, 2008 marked it as to-read
From Dad: a novel spanning the history of Persia/Iran from before WWI through the eyes of an Iranian woman. It is an intriguing, sometimes very dramatic, saga that takes you deep into Persian culture. Parsipur must be the Persian balzac!
Feb 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
beautiful, magical, inspiring
Shokufeh شکوفه  Kavani کاوانی
The first beautiful book of modern Iranian literature written by a woman.
Pavement Poet
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the character of Touba. Her entire life depicts the journey of politics in Iran. I found it a very difficult read, very dense and full of realistic surrealism.
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best novels I've read in a long time. Certainly Parsipur's masterpiece (Women Without Men didn't hit home for me as much) and unmatched in contemporary Iranian fiction as far as I can see. Maybe Mahmoud Doulatabadi's Kelidar could compete in terms of the epic scale of a family saga. But no one else has been able to weave in so much Iranian history and culture without essentially writing a textbook. I found it very impressive the way the story and characters work even if you take away ...more
Magda M
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
thank god for the feminist press for, amongst many things, introducing me to shahrnush parsipur. touba & spans nearly the entire 20th century in iran, following the life and family of touba (a tree in paradise).

parsipur's magical realist epic has been compared to márquez's one hundred years of solitude, and oh how i wish i had read it in high school as well, because who knows how my young mind would have been forever altered. i will certainly revisit this book, but if i could do it again for th
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book took me It was an interesting book, especially if you're into magical realism, but it was taxing to read and so I found myself avoiding it (it's really overdue to be returned to the library). It reminds me of 100 years of solitude in that it tells the story of a place through a personal story. Touba and the Meaning of Night tells the story of 20th century Iran through it's many revolutions and changes. There were moments where I had absolutely no idea what was going on ...more
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is the occasionally surreal story of a woman, Touba, from the end of the 19th century through the Islamic revolution in Iran. We see how culture has inoculated Touba so that it is very difficult for her to grasp change in any way. As a young woman she seemed modern at times, but things changed around her with the Iranian cultural revolution. I found this book very interesting because most of it is from Touba's point of view as a woman of her time. Still, it took me a while to read. ...more
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was by far one of the most difficult things I have read in quite a few years. Even though it's a relatively small book it's really not because there's so much in it to unpack. It's also nonlinear and very spiritual which makes it impossible to blow through. To really get this book you need to just go with the flow and take your time with it. ...more
Michelle S
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
I couldn't get through the book. I think part of it is my lack of historical context, but it was just slow moving and I was not engaged enough to be motivated to finish it. ...more
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an author for those interested is seeing what other cultures than their own, look like. I highly recommend this book to those seeking knowledge of others and other's culture. ...more
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely should rank among Midnight's Children and Hundred Years of Solitude in terms of historical sweep, brilliant writing, and pure genius. Tragically underrated in the West. ...more
Sarah Phelan
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
An epic story of Iran's modern history as told through the eyes of a learned, soul-seeking woman who eventually becomes trapped by the things and people she must care for. Occasionally overwhelming in scope, the story overlays the political changes from the days of the Qajar dynasty all the way to the Islamic revolution of the 70s and is demonstrated through the changing nature of the residents of Touba's home. There is magical realism reminiscent of A Thousand and One Nights, and there were man ...more
Dec 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminist
Many more characters and much more detail than my mind can absorb. thank goodness for the list of characters in the front. The reading experience would have been much improved if the list had been in both chronological order (which it is) and alphabetical order (for looking up the characters when they reappear). Also, a general outline of the history of Iraq during the time of the book wld have been very helpful, and even more so, the "mapping" of the events in the book to the historical traject ...more
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salam 4 20 Aug 13, 2010 06:40AM  

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