Monthly Archives: April 2012

September’s of Shiraz A Family Affair

In The September’s of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer, a man named Isaac becomes imprisoned essentially for his religion and for his “living well under the shah.” Revolutionaries come and take him from his place of work. However, the situation not only affects him but it is an ordeal for his whole family. He has a wife named Farnaz, a daughter named Shirin, who both live with him and a son, Parviz, who lives in America. Although things affect them all differently, Parviz, Isaac’s son, has the most similarities to his father. These two characters through the traits they possess, the situations in which they are placed, and the language used to describe them, share a lot of things in common and it is conceivable that a parallel was meant to be drawn between the two.
Both Parviz and Isaac share feelings of abandonment and feel that “the world is going on without them” (Chapter 5). Isaac in jail feels this way because he is all alone and is the subject of suspicion, violence, and torture. He feels that his wife and his children will go on without him there and will go through life’s hurtles on their own. He is obviously disheartened by this notion. Parviz is equally disheartened by the notion of the world going by without him but for different reasons. While he too, feels alone and isolated in New York, he is not in so much of a physical prison like his father but a mental one. He is extremely lethargic and watches static on TV and cannot even muster the energy to turn on the light. He is almost penniless and is desperate for money but lacks the initiative to get a job. In both cases, the men seem static and almost paralyzed by the situations they are in.
In the novel the two men share certain indelible traits that are similar in unique ways. One example of this is when the story of Parviz’s departure to America is recounted and a woman says to him after asking if he is being sent away because of the war, that this is “good, you’re the wrong age for this country now. These mullahs will use the last one of you” (Chapter 5). But Parviz reflects that his father, with his stooped back and bloodshot eye, is also the wrong age for the country. Neither generation of men will be able to survive in the land that is being created in what was once their home. Both men are Jews but do not practice. They share certain criticism because of this fact. Parviz, living with a family of very devout Hassidic Jews, has to endure their offers of celebrating the Sabbath and the fact that because of his aversion to religiosity he can never be with the daughter of his landlord, for whom he nurses a soft spot. Isaac too, endures criticism at his being Jewish but not practicing, but instead of urging him to become more Jewish his captors indirectly encourage him to become Muslim. In this way Isaac essentially gains nothing from being Jewish because he neither devoutly believes nor receives comfort from that, nor does he wish to relinquish his religious background and become Muslim. So he basically gains nothing from being Jewish but refuses to change, just like Parviz.
In conclusion these two characters are very similar in their manners and the language used in describing them and their habits is similar in both characters. They both share certain characteristic like their age and their religion that are indelible and contribute to who they are as people. They are very similar even though they are so far away and it is this that irrevocably connects them and makes their relationship unique.

Time and Beauty in The September’s of Shiraz

The Mutability of Beauty and Time
In the novel, The September’s of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer, although there is a surface story of Isaac being in prison and his family suffering without him, there is also a deeper aspect that speaks of the nature of life. Two things that the story speaks to are how time and beauty can be fickle and are not kind to the people in the novel. This is evident within conversations that characters have and observations made throughout the novel.
The beginning of this trend starts with the conversation had between Shirin, the daughter in the family, and her father Isaac. Shirin reminisces on this saying, “Once after her father had explained a poem to her, something about how time and beauty are both unfaithful, she had asked him, “So what happens at the end, Baba? And he had said, “There is no end, Shirin-jan. That’s the first thing you should learn about ghazals. There is no resolution” “ (Ch 24). This is the thesis for the book’s theme of the decay or loss of beauty and of time. Neither of these things has been good to either Farnaz or Isaac and this theme is carried throughout the entire work.
For example, time has been hard on Isaac. He is weaker than the other men in his cell because of his age and feels fatigued and therefore, more likely to die. Also, Parviz makes note of his father’s aged appearance, describing his face by saying, “his right eye infected, the veins like rivulets spilling red inside it” (Ch 5). He later ruminates on the thought that although the women at the airport told him that he is the wrong age for the country; he thinks his father is too. Such atrocities that are being carried out in the country he used to love are not fit for an old man to bear. Thus, time has been cruel to Isaac and though he had weathered battles before, his age makes him vulnerable to the tactics being used against him in prison.
The observations made about Farnaz’s beauty also speak to the theme of decay of beauty and also obsession with it that is evident throughout the work. In the novel it states that Farnaz, “showers quickly and wears navy slacks, a white turtleneck, and a long black coat- the new government enforced uniform. Her shapeless reflection in the full length mirror strips her of the one lure she had possessed before the revolution, when a hip-hugging skirt, a fitted cashmere sweater, and a red smile were enough to get an entire room of a house painted for free, or the most tender meat saved by the butcher… She twists her long black hair into a bun and covers it with a scarf”(Ch 3). This shows that Farnaz laments the loss of her femininity and beauty and that she thought highly of herself because of it. This beauty can be seen as one of her only redeeming features, and she loses that to the regime of the new government being implemented at the time. Another example of the obsession and then decay of beauty is Isaac’s jewels. He loved jewels for their beauty and the esthetics of them. But all of his jewels, save a few, are stolen from him when he goes to prison. And although they are the reason why he went to prison in the first place indirectly, he still prizes them and refuses to give up the hidden crown of his collection and even contemplates killing over it. This shows the obsession with outward appearance and beauty and how it can corrupt the soul.
In conclusion, in this work the theme of the obsession and loss or decay of beauty and the decay that time causes are both prevalent themes. These themes weave into the interworkings of the story making it rich in plot, but also rich in lessons that can be gleaned from reading it.