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The Bridge of Isfahan

The Bridge of Isfahan

Author(s): Nilla Cram Cook

Location(s): Isfahan

Genre(s): Historical

Era(s): 1940s

The Bridge of Isfahan is a love story, set in Iran during the postwar 1940s, a time of burgeoning hopes and dangerous conflicts — not the least among them the cold war. Shirene is the green-eyed granddaughter of the empress of Persia. Jamshid is the blue-eyed son of working class parents and an organizer for the socialist Tudeh Party. Shirene lives in the palatial Dove Tower near the ancient city of Isfahan, once the capital of Persia. She owns land and has feudal power over the local villagers. Jamshid has come to Isfahan to organize the local textile workers and to agitate against Shirene. They fall passionately in love with each other. Expect surprises. The Bridge of Isfahan is also a feminist fantasy. On her mother’s side, Shirene belongs to the matriarchal Baktiari Tribe — women make the important decisions, and daughters are taught to throw knives and lassos and to ride stallions. Shirene must negotiate her way through perilous situations. In this she gets help from her formidable nurse, Haidah, and from her mother, Muluk, a deposed queen and devoted reader of the columns of the American journalist Dorothy Thompson. Expect surprises. This book presents a dazzling array of aristocrats, scholars, generals, Mullahs, middlemen, factory workers, peasants, public officials, revolutionaries and reformers — not to mention foreign visitors and, of course, the Baktiari. Each of these individuals, including the two lovers, has strong opinions about the destiny of their country. On their honeymoon journey across Iran, Shirene and Jamshid spend much of their time arguing politics, religion, and art. Expect surprises. The Bridge of Isfahan is the story of a spiritual journey. Shirene is searching for her place in this Iran that she has returned to after being an art student in Paris and working in a hospital in Nice. Where does she belong? Where does Iran belong? To find the answers to these questions, she looks to Persian history and art, and immerses herself in the words of Persia’s great poets and the wisdom of the Koran.

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