Strange Times, My Dear

At the suggestion of my author friend (who happens to be from Iran), I picked up Strange Times, My Dear: The Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature and really enjoyed the short stories, novel excerpts, poetry, and essays it contains.

Since I’m interested in the intersection of fiction and politics, I found the introductory essay by editor Nahid Mozaffari very illuminating, and I also appreciated the short biographies of each author included before the selection of his or her work.  While I don’t generally enjoy book length collections of short stories by one author (it seems like a cop-out when they could have used the space to write a novel), I do find that I like collections of stories by a variety of authors.  It’s a great way to look at an issue or area from a wider range of viewpoints, and also a good chance to discover new authors.

Strange Times, My Dear contains both short stories and poetry, and I found that I enjoyed the poetry especially as I considered how translation complicates understanding poems.  Since I’m studying Farsi on my own currently, I tried in a few cases to figure out what lines would sound like in the original language, but I am not very good so I didn’t get far with that (motasefam, Dina-joon!).  In any case, I find I enjoy poetry much more now that I read it aloud daily to my children – although my intent is to help them learn to appreciate poetry, apparently it was a case of “physician, heal thyself.”

The title of the collection is taken from a poem by Ahmad Shamlu that I think is beautiful and poignant:

They smell your breath
Lest you have said: I love you,
They smell your heart:
These are strange times, my dear.

In this crooked blind alley, as the chill descends,
They feed fires
With logs of song and poetry.
Hazard not a thought:
These are strange times, my dear.

As the Kindle version is available for only $3.99, Strange Times, My Dear would be an excellent book to have on hand for reading this summer – the writing is excellent and interesting, you will learn about another culture that may be unfamiliar to you, and the selections are short enough to fit the sort of reading pockets summer generally offers.  In any case, no matter what time of year you take it up, I’d highly recommend Strange Times, My Dear and I’d love to hear your thoughts if you read it.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.


2 thoughts on “Strange Times, My Dear

  1. Oh my Gosh, I didn’t see these posts about your reading!! You have to email me when you post this stuff 🙂 lovely review. and I love that poem.

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