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Publisher's Summary

Set in Iran in the decade following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, this moving, richly imagined novel is narrated by the ghost of Bahar, a 13-year-old girl, whose family is compelled to flee their home in Tehran for a new life in a small village, hoping in this way to preserve both their intellectual freedom and their lives. But they soon find themselves caught up in the post-revolutionary chaos that sweeps across their ancient land. Bahar's mother, after a tragic loss, embarks on a long, eventful journey in search of meaning in a world swept up in the post-revolutionary madness. 

Told from the wise yet innocent gaze of a young girl, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree speaks of the power of imagination when confronted with cruelty and of our human need to make sense of trauma through the ritual of storytelling itself. Through her unforgettable characters, Azar weaves a timely and timeless story that juxtaposes the beauty of an ancient, vibrant culture with the brutality of an oppressive political regime.

Shortlisted for The Stella Prize 2018 

Shortlisted for The University of Queensland Fiction Book Award 2018 

Shortlisted for The International Booker Prize 2020 

Longlisted for The National Book Award for Translated Literature 2020  

©2017 Shokoofeh Azar (P)2020 Dreamscape Media, LLC

What listeners say about The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree

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Challenging but not rewarding

I coped OK with the brutality and corruption conveyed in this book (it wasn't enjoyable, but I know it's important to write about such things), but not so much with the magic realism that dominates it. For me, it wanders around too much, from magic story to magic story, with no apparent rhyme or reason. I don't doubt that there is some underlying rationale or message, but it was hidden from me.

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dismal

magical realism - nightmare. the brutality of life in Iran under Ayotollah Khomeini is presented as a 'fairytail' where the dead continue to live among the living and mermaids are raped.

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  • Sfatib
  • 02-06-2020

An HONEST story about modern Iran

Azar opens her novel with the powerful image of a mother's intuition about her young boy's execution: “at 2:35 pm on August 18, 1988, Sohrab was hanged with no trials and unaware that his body would be buried en masse with hundreds of other political prisoners in a long pit in the deserts south of Tehran.” I believe "The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree" is an homage to World Literature, and a celebration of Persian Literature and mythology. Azar has employed several elements of the ancient Persian Zoroastrian culture to tell us a fascinating and tragic story. She creates an impossible but realistic world with meticulous attention to details about the beautiful nature and hardworking people of Northern Iran. This Marquezian magical realist novel has constant references to authors, poets, and also literary characters. For instance, Sohrab Sepehri, the celebrated Iranian poet, shows up in a scene of the book. As for the content, I love her absolutely HONEST account of the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution and the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war. By picking an innocent thirteen-year-old girl, Bahar, as the narrator of her story, Shokoofeh Azar convinces her readers that she is a candid storyteller. Although she is telling us a magical story, her novel has deep roots in the bitter reality of what most Iranians have experienced in the past few decades. "The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree" is only 245 pages, but it took me over two months to finish it, most probably because Azar's powerful and fascinating writing made me want to taste her lyrical, mystic narrative like fine wine, slowly and patiently. Moreover, since I have personally witnessed most of what is presented in the book, I had to stop reading several times. Then it would take me a few days to gather my courage to resume reading and be thrown back to those heart-wrenching and painful memories. I am confident that several moments of this story will always stay with me, for example, chapter 6, chapter 8, and especially chapter 17. Azar's confident and powerful writing awes her readers in chapter 17 when she depicts a heartbreaking rape scene when a group of Revolutionary Guards assaults a mermaid. She masterfully highlights the layers and depth of the misogynistic culture that exists even around a mythical creature. I highly recommend this novel to those of you who like magical realism, especially if you are interested in learning more about contemporary Iranian history through literature. I sincerely believe that Ms. Azar has done a great job of depicting a raw, uncompromising portrait of my generation's life experiences. I admire her courage for not giving in to censorship. I am proud of her for keeping these stories safe in her mind and for writing and publishing them in the free world so everyone can hear them. I read both the Persian and English copies of the novel and I think the translator has done a fantastic job of recreating the lyrical style of Azar in the English version. **Although this novel is banned in Iran, it has been being published underground and has been a best seller since last year.

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  • J
  • 25-06-2020

Too much magical realism

Left hankering for more insight into culture, politics, lives which sadly comprises 10% of the text. What there was of this was well told but the constant ventures into seemingly arbitrary fairy tale was just monotonous, colourless and repetitive.

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  • Lizzy h
  • 19-04-2020

Mystical folklore

I loved this poignant story of love, loss , culture and history set in Iran.

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