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Drinking Arak Off an Ayatollah's Beard: A Journey Through the Inside-Out Worlds of Iran and Afghanistan Paperback – May 4, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
I won't say you get a complete, unbiased representation of Iranian thinking -- most of the people he encounters are the intellectual elite -- but it certainly taught me more about the Persian way of thinking than many of the other books I've read on the country and culture.
If, ultimately, Jubber comes off as having a somewhat sentimental view of Iran, it is only because he is reflecting how the Persians themselves view their country, their culture, and their history.
The stories and verses, harking back to pre-Islamic Zoroastrian beliefs, pop up in paintings, puppet shows, everyday proverbs, contemporary thrash metal lyrics, and even lurk behind religious festivals. The tale of the legendary hero Rostam was recited by soldiers to bolster their courage during the Iran/Iraq war.
The Shahnameh becomes Nicholas Jubber's passport into households in Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia: the epic is a unifying factor from a past when this part of the world was part of the same empire and shared the same Persian culture.
After a brief visit to Central Asia (including backgammon in a brothel), and after earning to walk like an Afghan (in a straight line, and taking bigger steps) Nicholas Jubber heads off to Afghanistan. He wants to trace the steps of Ferdowsi, who took his epic to Sultan Mahmud. Alas, Nicholas Jubber's journey took him through Helmand Province and into Taliban country, where he had to pretend to be mute to try to hide his foreignness.
In Afghanistan, too, the Shahnameh sheds light.Read more ›
The book is mainly centred on the authors time in Iran where he spent most of his time living with a local family in Tehran who, seemingly, are upper middle class types and certainly educated. He travels to other parts of the country as with Tehran as his base and much of the book involves tales of his observations and interactions and adventures with this family. Now admittedly if this book was set in the UK, New Zealand or the US I wouldn't give a tinkers cuss about their daily life, but given the book is set in Iran it is interesting.
As the author works his way around the country and thence into the `stans for a brief foray in and finally to Afghanistan he is able to impart an on the ground tale of the situation in these nations at the time of his writing. It's not terribly given to creating a mood of optimism it has to be said but at least the authors lack of any rose coloured glasses means his highs are more genuine. And without spoiling it there is definitely a bevy of high points contained herein.
Beyond his interactions with locals and his travels to what are, admittedly, pretty exotic locales, the main crux of this work is the aforementioned Shahnameh - a work within which we are led to believe contains not only a great history but also many stirring tales and, indeed, much of the philosophy of Persian culture in the way the stories are told.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is sort of a travelogue in Iran and Afghanistan which sounded great and I appreciate that the author dove into the culture but I was bored with the infusion of Shahnameh (Book... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Chad Newill
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this interesting ,informative book.The author spends a lot of time in Iran and comes up with a colorful portrait of Iranian society with a particular... Read morePublished 18 months ago by JAK
One of the best books I've ever read. Nicholas illustrates a side of Persia that I think is unknown to even many Iranians. Read morePublished on September 23, 2011 by Natasha
I am an Afghanistani woman who has been born and brought up in Iran. I am currently living in Afghanistan. Read morePublished on May 25, 2011 by Khadija