Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Blood of Flowers - Anita Amirrezvani

'In the spring of the year, a comet launched itself over the skies. It was brighter than any comet we had ever seen, and more evil. Night after night, it crawled across our skies spraying its cold white seeds of sorrow".. Villagers have noticed mysterious signs and the misfortunes caused by the comet. Plague had stuck northern Iran, an earthquake rattled the earth, rare insects invaded the fields and destroyed the corps.. '

Our protagonist, a 14 year old girl, un-named, lived happily with her parents this time. As every family in her village, they had a good life, with father working at the fields, and she learning the great art of making the carpet, mixing the paints, and doing errands at the family. The ill-effect of the comet stuck her family too, in the form of death, taking away her father. Sudden demise of her father, toppled her hope of getting married ( as she is already 14) and a decent living. The family left with no one had to move to Isfahan ( the capital city of Shah) to her uncle who is the chief designer of Carpets at Shah's court. Everything wasn't as good for the mother and daughter as they were housed in the servant quarters, and having to work in the kitchen for a living, often eating the left over of the family along with other servants. However, the girls interest in carpet designing got the curiosity of her uncle and he was willing to help her. The uncle-niece relation has now been moved into a guru-disciple relation, she learning the trick of the trade under his guidance.

The luck had taken a positive turn as one wealthy horse trader, recently widowed, seeking her under 'sigheh' ( temporary marriage contract - prevalent in Iran during those time). Compelled into accepting the contract, for the want of money and the commission for a large carpet, she is now had to prepare herself for his summon and surrender to his needs as a wife. The contract , which lasts for three months, had to be extended for the flow of money, and had to be remain a secret for her future. The initial relationship, soon changes into one of the raging sexual and physical encounters between the two, only to be extended by the beneficiary. Unable to conceive and convinced that he will not legalise the contract by marrying her ( as she is from a poor family from north), she discontinues the contract at the end of 3rd season. The fact that he had married again, to her close friend had influenced her decision. The break of contract did not go well with her adopted family, and soon the mother and daughter was thrown out of the house. Nowhere to go, and no money to survive, they moved into the slums with another poor family. The situation get worse with the mother falling ill, to the brink of death, and no money to neither feed her nor to get any medicinal help. She had to turn to the street begging, often returning empty handed. All that begins well ends well, with she finding her midas touches with her carpet being chosen by the ladies of Shah's harem and a reconciliation with her uncle.

Medieval Persia is interesting place with its rich culture and arts. Persia with its age old tradition of oral narrative (Scheherazade), the famous Persian Carpets and the age old custom of 'short term marriage contract' are wedged together into this novel by Iran-American writer Anita Amirrezvani. While the author had done a decent job in combining the 3 facts together with considerable effect, the novel by itself does not deliver beyond the obvious. It remain in the ordinary narrative and does not turn into a tour de force. Average novel.


The Blood of Flowers ( 2007 )

Anita Amirrezvani

Little Brown & Company

378 Pages

Other reviews : Popmatters, Persia Mirror ( Interview with the author)

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