All memoirs bring the past into the present, but only a few manage to illuminate both simultaneously. French Hats in Iran, a quietly insightful masterpiece of remembrance, belongs in that select group.
Heydar Radjavi's evocations of growing up in Tabriz in the 1930s and 1940s describe a traditionalist Iran grappling with modernity, a process as fraught with contradictions and stresses then as it is in Iran today.
In a series of mini-tales, we meet a rich cast of characters: the elderly father who works in the Tabriz bazaar and runs his household according to unbending religious precepts; the resourceful mother who finds ways to enjoy such forbidden frivolities as music; the female playmate who marries at the age of nine; the teacher whose personal journey takes him from strictest piety to political radicalism; and many more.
Finding a path through all the complexities is Radjavi himself - a wide-eyed little boy in some episodes, an adventurous teenager in others, and finally a young man preparing to enter a fast-changing world. The tone is always light, the memories wonderfully vivid, and the underlying theme of tension between old and new truly timeless.
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Painfully enunciated English reading by the author
Listening to the book was barely tolerable because of the authors reading in English is not great. While his pronunciation of each word is fine it is noticeable making the pace of the reading unpleasant to listen to because it doesn't sound comfortable.
Not unless his English reading style gains a more natural, comfortable sounding pace.
The stories are good but the reading takes away from the various stories and makes a listener struggle through if they can stand it
Someone other than the author should do the English narration