Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mirrors of the Unseen – Journeys in Iran

Mirrors of the Unseen – Journeys in Iran By Jason Elliot
Reviewed by Dean Badal

I’ve left the best for last.

Jason Elliot’s book is a distillation of a couple of trips that he made to Iran, to the cities of Tehran, Persepolis, Isfahan, Mazandaran, Yazd and a few other places. I’ve not used the word “trip” lightly – there’s something hallucinatory about the writer’s journey – as if he was chewing qat the whole time but still in possession of all his faculties.

The author’s font of knowledge is truly frightening. The bit where he reels of a list of Persian accomplishment to the store of human knowledge is breathtaking and all the sadder, now that this great nation is ruled by a bunch of religious thugs.

Although there are interesting vignettes of people and places, Elliot’s serious obsession is in the architecture of Iranian, mostly ancient architecture. He is very dismissive of modern construction, and rightfully so, as anyone who has ever travelled to the middle east and seen the horrors inflicted on the landscape of once great cities, knows.

Now, I’ve never been a lover of books as objects of beauty, but I have to say (at the risk of sounding metrosexual) that this book is ravishing.

Someone else wrote that this book would make a great birthday present for Tony Blair, and for George Bush - if only he wanted to learn. I concur, but doubt very much it’s going to happen, but hey Cherie, if you reading this, PLEASE slip it into your husband’s stocking.

Published by Picador - 2006

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