Friday, August 31, 2007

Prisoner of Tehran

Title: Prisoner of Tehran
Author: Marina Nemat
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 301
Edition: Hardcover

1982. Tehran, Iran. It was turbulent times then. The 1979 Iranian Revolution spearheaded by Ayatollah Khomeini had forced Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran to go into exile. Khomeini was gaining power and had become the Supreme leader and founder of Islamic Republic. Chaos, Killings and Rallies paralyzed the country and protesters suffered horrific deaths under his brutal regime. The ubiquitous political propaganda evoked anger and political outbursts among different cultural groups in Iran. Anyone who spoke against Khomeini was sent to Evin, the notorious political prison, to be interrogated, tortured and executed.

When Marina Nemat, a Christian, then sixteen-years-old, protested the calculus teacher who digressed from her subject to Koran and political propaganda, she was asked to walk out of the class. She did and other students followed. Little did she knew that her actions that day would change her fate forever. Marina was accused of speaking against Khomeini's regime and was sent to Evin with hundreds of others who dared to speak out.

Marina was tormented mercilessly by interrogators to give up names of her friends. Fear and despondency gripped her and she awaited her execution with an overwhelming sense of despair. She was dragged to the execution grounds, blindfolded and about to be shot. Just minutes before execution, her life was spared by the jailer of Evin, Ali. Using his family ties with Khomeini, Ali reduced Marina's sentence to lifetime in prison. But, What was the price she had to pay? Ali confessed that he fell in love with Marina on the first day they met in prison and couldn't imagine a life without her. He forced Marina to marry him. When Marina refused to succumb to Ali's wishes, he threatened to torment her family.

Marina had no choice but to marry Ali. To convert to Islam. But, Will she ever escape from the depths of abyss that threaten to engulf her? Will she ever be able to go back to her family? Will she ever find solace in life after being tormented for years in prison?

What I liked about the book was that it was deeply disturbing and a touching memoir. Her style of writing made the book so compelling. Life in prison has never been a rosy experience for anyone. But, the memories of Evin, Marina shares in this book were horrendous. Her many struggles to hold on to her dignity under severe torture was deeply moving and made me feel sick at heart. I begin to appreciate the many gifts life has offered me so far and what is yet to come. I found this book hard to put down and I highly recommend it!

To listen to the author's interview on NPR, please click here.

My Rating: 4/5


Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Chitts!

Tehran seems to be the flavor of the month. I came here from Sanjay's blog and he, too, has read a novel set in the days after the Iranian revolution.

I see "Prisoner of Tehran" everywhere I occupies a place of great prominence at our local bookstore and comes highly recommended by the owner,who is also a writer.

Interesting how Marina's life was spared at the last minute, but there's always a price to pay, isn't there?

I think this is a book I will enjoy reading, so this will go on my wishlist along with Dalia's Sofer's "The Septembers of Shiraz".

Thank you for the wonderful review, Chitts!

Lotus Reads said...

I forgot to mention how absolutely beautiful the cover is...I was so drawn to it...the Canadian edition has a different (not so nice) cover.

Happy Reader said...

@Lotus ~ 'Septembers of Shiraz' will be my next read! Do let me know your thoughts if you happen to read it! I was so lured by the gorgeous cover, I had to pick it up :) And I am glad I did!

Radha said...

Nice review. Somehow I get scared of taking up books which talk of too much physical torture or get really graphic about it. Which is why I've been avoiding 'A million Little Pieces' as well.
Is this book one of those kinds?

Happy Reader said...

@Radha ~ The book involves a fair amount of physical torture, but it doesn't get all graphic. A lot of substance deals with emotional agony and grief.
I remember reading 'A Million Little Pieces' and I had to put it down halfway, because it was too gross for me. This novel is way better than that.