I am not among those who believes that the truth can only be conveyed in fiction – there are too many examples to the contrary. However fiction from writers like Koestler and Solzhenitsyn can inform a wider audience in ways that nonfiction does not – in the latter case far more have read A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich than the four volumes of the Gulag Archipelago. Both are important works of the literary giant of the twentieth century and the facts presented in Gulag give an authority to the story told in A Day. We do not now, and may never, have a Gulag for Iran but there is no doubt it would be as long and as horrifying a testament as the original was. We have been gifted with the equivalent of A Day by this author and will have to make do until a free Persia may again visit her literary gifts upon a larger world.
The bathhouse Seattle, Wash.: Black Heron Press, c 2001 Farnoosh Moshiri Iran, Prisoners Hardcover. Inscribed by author. 182 p.; 23 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
Like the young male protagonist of Moshiri’s big first novel, At the Wall of the Almighty, the 17-year-old high-school graduate who tells of her time in an old bathhouse used as a prison remains nameless throughout this tersely reportorial short novel.
She is arrested and her home ransacked one hot August night on account of her brother’s involvement with revolutionary leftists in Iran in the early 1980s, when Khomeini’s Shiite revolution became more resolutely authoritarian. Taken to the bathhouse, she suffers her first humiliation. She is put in a cell with several others — the pregnant wife of a leftist, a professor and her aged mother, the mother of a young rebel, a surgeon, a young teenager, and a madwoman — and let out only to be interrogated and tortured, to go to the toilet, or to shower once a week.
One by one, her companions are taken away for good. At last, she gets new cellmates, female leftist guerrillas, with whom she suffers further torture and is nearly executed. Released at last, she collapses on a street bench. Written with the simple authority of an oral deposition, packing the punch of All Quiet on the Western Front, this is both a resolutely nonpartisan anti-revolutionary brief and a gripping, harrowing story of personal courage and endurance.