Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Sorry Scheme of Things

The Heart’s Desire by Nahid Rachlin

                                                             Ah, Love! Could thou and I with Fate conspire
                                                             To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
                                                             Would not we shatter to bits—and then
                                                             Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!

                                                                                    Omar Khayyám

The Iran-Iraq War lasted from September of 1980 to August of 1988, making it the longest conventional war of the 2oth Century. The death toll was staggering: more than a half a million Iranian and Iraqi soldiers were killed, and at least that many civilians, not to mention the millions of dollars in economic and structural damage incurred by both sides—and for what? Not only was there no winner in the war, and thereby no reparations, but there was no appreciable change in either the much-disputed national borders or the regional status quo. Yet the war was significant—gravely, even monstrously, so. In fact, of all the consequences of that bitter and miserable little war, arguably the most important, at least the most far-reaching in it implications, was the aggressive, nakedly mercenary role of the United States in staking its claim in the region. If you remember, long before we toppled Saddam Hussein in the name of Justice and Democracy, in the name of Women’s Rights and World Peace, he was one of our closest allies and friends. Indeed it is likely that he would never have attacked the newly minted Islamic Republic of Iran in the first place had it not been for his assurance of U.S. economic and military support, support only recently transferred to him and his megalomaniacal vision for the Middle East after the U.S.’s former henchman and regional toady, the Shah of Iran, was violently overthrown by his own people. While I risk of overstating the case, it is hard for me not to trace the bulk of the region’s current instability (the rise of Al Queda, the bombing of the World Trade Center, the U.S invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S invasion of Iraq, the rise of ISIS, the Syrian Civil War, and the desperate flight of Syrian refugees) to this, this iniquitous and barefaced ploy.

Nahid Rachlin’s novel, The Heart’s Desire, is set in Iran, in Teheran, immediately following the Iran-Iraq war when the country lies in ruins, the people are despondent, and anti-American sentiment runs high. 

everything in Iran  was touched by the tragedy of the prolonged eight-year war between Iran and its neighbor Iraq, which had ended only months ago. Though the fighting had gone on mainly around the western border, bombs had left their marks everywhere—you couldn’t miss the charred window frames and boarded-up doors, the families camping in quiet backstreets, soldiers passing by on crutches. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians, many of them mere teenage boys…had been killed and wounded in the war. Black flags hanging on almost every door designated that someone in the household had been martyred. On the main square was a fountain with dark red water surging up from it.

Filtered principally through the life and intelligence of an American woman, Jennifer Sahary, who has traveled to the newly opened Iran with her Iranian husband and their young son to visit his family and friends, as well as to give her husband the chance to take stock of himself in own beleaguered land. While partly the story of her husband’s struggles to come to terms with his guilt and longing for having left his homeland for a life in the United States, the novel is first and foremost about Jennifer’s own disillusionment as an American about Iran, about the husband she loves, and about the deep-seeded differences that divide them.      

Nahid Rachlin is an Iranian-American who had written numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, including Crowd of Sorrows, Foreigner: A Novel, Veils: Short Stories, Married To a Stranger, Jumping over Fire, and Persian Girls: A Memoir.

Peter Adam Nash

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