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The Colonel: A Novel Paperback – May 8, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This important novel offers at least some glimmer of insight into recent history that remains quite opaque to most of us…and perhaps even to many Iranians themselves."
Paste

"Yes, it's a good book."
Vice-chairman of the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance (although the book is still unavailable in Iran) in the
 New York Times

“Dowlatabadi combines the poetic tradition of his culture with the direct and unembellished everyday speech of the villages. With this highly topical new novel Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Iran’s most important novelist, sheds light on the upheavals, which haunts his country until today.”
—Man Asian Literary Prize nomination citation

“[A] masterpiece." —Quarterly Conversation

"A demanding and richly composed book by a novelist who stands apart."Kirkus Reviews

"Mr. Dowlatabadi draws a detailed, realist picture of Iranian life, especially that of the rural poor, in language that is complex and lyrical, rather than simplistic." —The Financial Times

"The Colonel is a remarkable and important book ... a masterpiece." —The Globe and Mail

"The nature of authoritarians is not to learn from mistakes but to attempt to erase them. The Colonel is a very thorough accounting of those mistakes, and of their cost, and a demonstration of the necessity, for humanity’s sake, of overcoming them." The Rumpus

"Iran's greatest writer."The Millions

“It’s about time everyone even remotely interested in Iran read this novel.”
—The Independent

"An affecting and beautiful novel." —The Literary Review

" ... Instructive ... a stirring tale replete with the hideous viscera of violent confrontation." 
—Booklist

“An outstanding master achievement.”—Der Spiegel

The Colonel is a page-turning panorama of Iranian mental anguish, producing visions and nightmares like dark exotic blossoms.”
—Neue Zurcher Zeitung


“This novel has what it takes to become a strong and irresistible window into Iran.”—Die Zeit

“…a very powerful work."—Michael Orthofer, The Complete Review

“Because of its honesty and indeed brutal clarity of language the novel has so far not been published in its original language, Persian…[an] honest and truly literary account.”
—English Pen

Praise for Missing Soluch

“Beautifully and incisively rendered, and imbued throughout with hope.”Publishers Weekly

“There are some brilliantly tough pieces of writing…[The original’s] vigour comes through in translation.”Times Literary Supplement

“Brings East of Eden to mind… Dowlatabadi knows a world that has seldom overlapped with the modern novel."The New York Sun

"Dowlatabadi has created a masterpiece."Words Without Borders

About the Author

MAHMOUD DOWLATABADI is one of the Middle East’s most important writers. The author of numerous novels, plays, and screenplays, he is also a leading proponent of social and artistic freedom in Iran.

Born in 1940 in a remote farming region of Iran, the son of a shoemaker, his early life and teens were spent as an agricultural day laborer until he made his way to Tehran, where he started working in the theater and began writing plays, stories and novels. He is the author Missing Soluch, published by Melville House and his first work to be translated into English, and a 10-book portrait of Iranian village life, KelidarThe Colonel has been shortlisted for the Haus der Kulturen Berlin International Literary Award and longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House; Reprint edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612191320
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612191324
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jane Botsman on October 17, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It is lovely to read something which tries, at least allegorically, to discuss the complexities of Iranian political life in the last half century. On one level this is a fable of the political agenda's and affiliations of the past 40 years in Iran. The colonel and his children are characters only as representatives of the organisations they represent. The links it makes to the great and loved literature of Iran puts it in a broader cultural context. In many respects it is an elegy for what might have been and despairing of all the hope that has been lost. The incessant rain feel like tears for a great nation in the wilderness.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Larry Hedrick on September 29, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you want to understand the extreme traumas that the Iranian people have suffered first under the shah and then under the ayatollahs, you really must read Mahmoud Dowlatabadi's 'The Colonel.' Iranian politics has been a rolling disaster to its people ever since the CIA and Britain's MI6 overthrew the great Dr. Mossadegh in 1953, and Dowlatabadi's short book is probably the best introduction to the events of this very tragic period, which continues to this day and will only be prolonged by any Israeli or American attack on Iranian soil. At times the intensity of 'The Colonel' is overwhelming, akin to something that Dostoyevsky wrote in one of his darkest moods. Still, Dowlatabadi, who is almost certainly Iran's greatest living writer (but is, alas, approaching the end of his life), also knows how to tell a riveting story that comes complete with a ghost and a supernatural character or two, if only as a sign of how close several of his novel's major characters are to madness. Here we see the great and noble nation of Iran forcing some of its bravest idealists to resort to self-destruction, while its present political regime triumphs in their disappearance from the scene--but only for a season. In time, I am sure, it will be the turn of the Islamic Republic of Iran to be sucked into the hell of its own creation. Only then will there be an opportunity for true Iranian democracy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Roberts on January 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Colonel" by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi is a dark, demanding and shattering account of the immediate aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. The story plays out as nightmare/fable/hallucination pitting historic Iranian ideals of pride and social justice against the crushing reality of each new regime's ruthless quest for power. At its core this is a novel about betrayal and the madness it brings to all sides. For those not acquainted with Iranian history, this may be a maddening read too as you try to sort out all the characters, their allegiance's and how they relate to Iran's history.

The story unfolds in flashbacks, internal dialogs and nightmarish visions as the protagonist, "the Colonel" attempts to retrieve the body of his youngest daughter who has been tortured then hung for passing out leaflets against the regime. This is but a small tip of the iceberg of the horrors visited upon the Colonel and all five of his children. The novel switches views between the Colonel and his eldest son, Amir, who fought as a communist in the revolution, only to see his friends and comrades purged as the Islamists consolidated power leaving Amir guilt-ridden and on the brink of suicide.

The title "The Colonel" refers not only to the protagonist, who was an officer in the Shah's army (and a bit of a madman who murders his wife in a drunken rage), but also to a painting of the protagonist's hero, Colonel Mahhamad-Taqi Khan Pesayn, a famous Iranian nationalist from the early 20th century, and yet another victim of another Iranian regime. The protagonist `colonel' (always lowercase) has many conversations and confessions with "The Colonel" hanging on his wall. This can be a bit confusing at times, but again, this is a story of madness so confusion comes with the territory.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amin on November 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
This novel, in addition to having a great literature and strong structure by one of the best recent Iranian writers, in the form of a regular novel is also showing the reality of Iran's history in recent century which has always been hidden by the current regime; which is why it's not allowed to be published in Iran after 25 years that it's been written.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lorraine on January 3, 2013
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A very powerful novel where a retired Colonel and his devastated family attemp to live during Iran's revolutions and fight for freedom .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mehrdad on March 20, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My judgement is obviously based on English translation of the Colonel, unfortunately do not have access to original Farsi (Persian) text. There're problems with translation, textual & technical which have discussed it with Mr. Patterdale (the translator), hope to be noted for future prints.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
I read THE COLONEL after having read a review recently in the "New York Times" mostly because I am always intrigued when works of fiction are suppressed and also know practically nothing about modern Iran. (I believe I have only read one other book on the subject, Azar Nafisi's fantastic nonfiction book READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN.) According to the NYT review and as I later read in the extensive Afterward to the novel provided by the translator Tom Patterdale, the Iranian Mahmoud Dowlatabadi's novel that he worked on for over twenty years has yet to be published in his native land. In the words of Patterdale: "The descriptions of torture are taken from the experiences of the author himself, or from those of his friends. It comes as no surprise to learn that THE COLONEL has never appeared in its original language in the author's native country. The manuscript remains In the hands of the censor, who has demanded a number of deletions and revisions, which the author has refused to make."

Although reading this rather short (220 pages) novel takes some effort, the results are worth your trouble. For example, the story does not unfold in a linear manner and is told through a third person narrator with juxtapositions of the un-named colonel's voice in italics. Patterdale also states that while Dowlatabadi is essentially self-educated that he has read widely including the "great Persian poets like Hafiz and Rumi." One wonders if he is also influenced by the South American giants of magic realism since he uses that technique in this novel. The passage where his dead wife Forouz--how she met her death is one of the many interesting paradoxes of this complex novel-- prepares the body of the colonel's and her fourteen-year-old daughter Parvaneh for burial is a brilliant and beautiful example.
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