The Black Wave (Kim Ghattas) and Aria (Nazanine Hozar), two books, two feminine authors, standing shoulder to shoulder
Two weeks ago I bought “The Black Wave” from Kim Ghattas at the neighborhood bookstore. In her journalistic book she reports on the reality that completely changed in 1979 in different countries and in different places in the Middle East. She focuses in particular on the rivalry between Iran and Sudi Arabia, the radicalization of religion in both countries in which other countries have been sucked. As a result, the original diversity in the population and the relatively peaceful society of Muslims (in their diversity), Jews, Christians, has been pushed aside by Salafism and Wahhabism. And that while the vast majority of people sigh underneath. Each of the chapters is associated with individuals, including scholars and journalists, who dared to express their critical views and who had to pay with imprisonment or even their lives like Jamal Kashoggi.
The Black Wave made a lot clear to me about the situation in the Middle East. At the end Kim Ghattas sighs that the choice is between despair and hope. But she cannot escape the choice of hope despite all the misery she has described
After finishing Ghattas’ book I found among the recently published books the novel Aria by Nazanine Hozar. She tells about a girl who grew up in Tehran in the years before the revolution, before the arrival of Komeini in 1979. These books complement each other for me. One reports the facts and interprets them, the other weaves the events into a story.
Nazanine Hozar tells the story of Aria, a girl who is being abandoned after birth. Then she has three mothers in different backgrounds who have a big influence on her life. Despite this childhood, Aria develops as an independent and headstrong person.
The peers she associates with all have different religious roots (Jewish, Zoroastrian, Muslim, Christian, agnostic). In this way they represent the population in Tehran before the revolution of 1979.
A gray veil falls over Aria and her generation. Friends from her childhood turn out to be enemies. A good friend of hers is executed innocently by a childhood friend. While all women now wear dark-colored garments and headscarves, there is one unknown woman in the centre of Tehran who is completely dressed in red. Color of love and hope. She does not give up. Aria admires her. She feels related to this woman. As if this unknown woman is her real origin.
This novel – for a fascinating novel it sure is – tells the story of Tehran and the Iranian people in the decades . But it is not an allegory. Aria and the people in her life are flesh and blood.
Yet it is significant that Nazanine Hozar gave her main character the name Aria. A lovesong that echoes at night. The name for Iran, albeit a woman this time with a masculine name.
The Black Wave and Aria, two books, two feminine authors, standing shoulder to shoulder, on the brink of despair both stil choosing for hope.