A review of The Drum Tower, a new novel by Farnoosh Moshiri
By Ezzat Goushegir
Farnoosh Moshori’s new novel The Drum Tower gives us a delicious taste of secrets, the delight of fear, the treasure of dreams, the sweetness of humor and glimpse of fictionalized history.
Written scrupulously with the fluidity of prose and scrutiny; Moshiri journeys into the depth of Iranian culture, through the core principles of Persian poetry, mythology, fairy tales, folktales and legends, in order to write a story full of poignant mysteries. The result is a masterful portrayal of a family in Iran living during the times of social and political upheaval in 1979. Growing up with Persian poetry and literature she shapes her novels with the wealth of literary traditions as well as the richness of contemporary American novels.
Consisting of multiple plot strands, the essence of this multilayered novel is devoted to the analysis of a diluted aristocratic family shattered by the collapse of former dynasty and later ending the old tradition of monarchy by people’s uprising through 1978. To portray the effect of this critical period, Moshiri constructs to reveal the entanglement of her characters’ personal lives through family negligence, sexual and emotional abuse, madness, the insanity caused by revolution, the rise of religious dogmatists and ultimately war. She creates absurd images, settings and spaces to unveil the incongruity of her characters’ behaviors; their vulnerability and strength, peculiarity and intelligence, illusory and sense of reality. With all their absurdity, her characters surprisingly are amiable, pleasant and delightful to the readers!
Moshiri intentionally chooses her characters’ names and characteristics based on symbolic meanings and literary factors. Her main character Talkhoon is originated in an old folktale “The story of Talkhoon and Ah” which in 60s and 70s regenerated and shaped a generation of women in Iran who were in search of new identity. These women formed an underground revolution in mind, in theory and practice through literature and art to follow certain principles: Freedom, justice, equality, bravery, curiosity, autonomy, audacity, knowledge, and wisdom!
Although Moshiri’s Talkhoon is considered mentally ill, she in fact is an astute observer and fully aware of her surroundings. In her reclusive cell, she carefully absorbs, learns and practices the lessons of life, protests in her own way, wears men’s clothes and falls into deliberate silence to overcome her agony, her unbearable situation.
Resembling Emily Bronte’s life dealing with her own creation of Heathcliff, Talkhoon, discovers the plans and schemes to escape from Assad, the compulsive illiterate servant, half-uncle and later a thug, a sickening torturer who puts his revenge on her with violence and rage. His complicated obsessive love and hatred had been accumulated through years of degradation, contempt and class inferiority. In another way, Khanum-jaan a crazy matriarch is portrayed beautifully.
Although the illustration of Baba-ji is a bit ambiguous but his complicated coma represents a generation who had fallen into a symbolic and metaphorical oblivion. Symbolic; because they had lived under tyranny for a long historical time, and their only opportunity was to dream of freedom and wish for an imagery bird of liberty. Although Baba-ji’s obsession on writing a book about mythical Simorgh, the bird of knowledge, sheds light on the importance of the collectivity of global wisdom, yet his anticipation of the bird’s appearance and the search for sapphire feather remain ambiguous.
In writing style, Moshiri’s story is intimate. She deliberately focuses on the surface of description and lets the reader to be completely free in taking an active role in the formation of her novel and go beyond the depth of her story. She invites the reader to take the liberty to imagine the events, travel with the characters, judge them or not judge them or react to the situation. This absolute freedom helps the reader to choose, to analyze or take sides. Her dialogues are smooth as well as the narrative technique which is fluent and fully demonstrative.