Moon Brow Discussion Questions
Moon Brow Discussion Questions
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From “one of Iran's most important living fiction writers” (The Guardian) comes a fantastically imaginative story of love and war narrated by two angel scribes perched on the shoulders of a shell-shocked Iranian soldier who’s searching for the mysterious woman haunting his dreams.
Paperback List Price: $21.99 • ISBN: 9781632061287• Publication: 4/24/2018 • 5.5” x 8.25” • 464 pages • Fiction: Iranian / Literary / War • Territory: World English • eBook ISBN: 9781632061294
About the Book
Before he enlisted as a soldier in the Iran–Iraq war and disappeared, Amir Yamini was a carefree playboy whose only concerns were seducing women and riling his religious family. Five years later, his mother and sister Reyhaneh find him in a mental hospital for shell-shocked soldiers, his left arm and most of his memory lost. Amir is haunted by the vision of a mysterious woman whose face he cannot see—the crescent moon on her forehead shines too brightly. He names her Moon Brow.
Back home in Tehran, the prodigal son is both hailed as a living martyr to the cause of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Revolution and confined as a dangerous madman. His sense of humor, if not his sanity, intact, Amir cajoles Reyhaneh into helping him escape the garden walls to search for Moon Brow. Piecing together the puzzle of his past, Amir decides there’s only one solution: he must return to the battlefield and find the remains of his severed arm—and discover its secret.
All the while, two angels sit on our hero’s shoulders and inscribe the story in enthrallingly distinctive prose. Wildly inventive and radically empathetic, steeped in Persian folklore and contemporary Middle East history, Moon Brow is the great Iranian novelist Shahriar Mandanipour’s unforgettable epic of love, war, morality, faith, and family.
“History and politics, Islam and Morality Police permeate without overwhelming the narrative as it shifts between Amir’s present and past. His relationship with his sister is also a rich, tender thread throughout. Mandanipour, an Iranian writer whose first novel in English, Censoring an Iranian Love Story, elicited allusions to M.C. Escher and Rubik’s Cube, does not do things simply here in his second, either. Sections alternate between a scribe ‘on his right shoulder’ and one on his left, like good and bad angels, providing both omniscient narrative and Amir’s first-person reveries. The device suggests Amir’s unsteady grasp of reality, his own story, as his damaged, drifting mind tries to paste together dimly recalled shards of a broken life. The prose also reveals a writer in total control, easily moving from the banter of youth to lyrical or sensual flights befitting Amir’s former liking for poetry and seduction, to Persian folktales or hallucinatory fever dreams from a brain unhinged by battle, medication, and remorse. A remarkable vision of the elusiveness of redemption and love.”
“In dazzling flashbacks, Amir gradually pieces together the narrative of his past as a womanizing Casanova and a soldier who sees the horrific casualties of war up close. Mandanipour uses this love story, ably translated by Sara Khalili, as the canvas for a larger picture of a country routinely disrupted by revolution and war. In a sense, Khan’s fractured mind might just as well be a stand-in for Iran’s own fragile history…. [A] dazzling mosaic of a troubled young man and a troubled yet gloriously rich nation.
— Poornima Apte, Booklist, Starred Review
“Written in the heightened language of dreams, if dreams were always so dark, this long-anticipated work from exiled Iranian award winner Mandanipour (Censoring an Iranian Love Story) features Amir Yamini, a young wastrel given to drinking, womanizing, and blasphemy, who shames his devout Iranian family and is finally carted off and flogged by the Revolutionary Guards. He ends up a soldier fighting against Iraq, is hit by shrapnel, and after losing an arm and much of his memory, is confined to the mental hospital from which his mother and sister rescue him after years of searching. Frustrated but loyal sister Reyhaneh is willing to help him recall his life and find Moon Brow, the woman he repeatedly envisions, her face hidden by the glow of a crescent moon, and the novel winds toward that goal through a labyrinth of gorgeously rendered scenes. These scenes are ingeniously imparted by two scribes: Amir’s more manageable self, reputedly perched on his right shoulder, and a demonically angry self perched on his left, mirroring his split soul and that of his country. VERDICT: Highly recommended for literary lovers.”
—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal, Starred Review
“Mandanipour's prose is graceful and poetic, curving and weaving like the recurring swans, their necks wrapped gracefully around one another in a sensual embrace. In this too, the grotesqueries of what war does to a mind, a body, reveals itself in shards of shrapnel, bone, and a flash of something gold in the swirling sands of the desert. There's a rewarding repetition to this tale, partial memories one catches occasionally like the scent of ripe, persimmon whirled about in a breeze that constantly shifts direction. One warms to it—but the heat increases, uncomfortably. Amid eddies of hot dust and gas, Mandanipour drags us to higher ground, gasping burning air. Amir is a horrified witness to Saddam Hussein's gassing of the Kurdish people in 1988 and my heart pounds as I read this account. Mandanipour served in the Iran-Iraq war and often wrote, with admirable determination, while buried within dusty trenches. This is how Mandanipour's story moves me: the dance of the masculine and feminine is slow and dangerous with ignorance and assumptions, and in the dance there's a haunting search for something elusive amidst the broken seashells, broken swans beaks, broken bodies, broken memories.”
—Karen Zarker, PopMatters
“Countless narratives have portrayed the way back to life and living after war, since The Odyssey. Shahriar Mandanipour's extraordinary Moon Brow is the story of one broken man's way back—not only from having fought in the horrific Iran-Iraq War, but also from a scattered, purposelessly lived life beforehand. Mandanipour's portrayal of this man's shattered psyche—he literally is grasping at fragments, coping with all manner of wounds, physical and otherwise—and the parts others play (his sister, his parents, other characters coming and going), is haunting, harrowing, disturbing, deeply powerful. One senses it is not only the story of a man who is lost and seeking the way back, but also of his country, and the forms of reckoning, no matter who is said to have prevailed or lost. It is ultimately loss for all. And yet, this book holds a door open, a glimmer, for possible healing, redemption, a way to beyond. The act of reading it all the way through feels like such a step.”
—Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle, WA)