Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour

Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour

Shahriar Mandanipour comes to the blog today with a story full of history, magic and love in the turbulent setting of Iran. Translation provided by Khalili Sara, please read on for my review of

Moon Brow

Never quite sure what I was looking for, Mandanipour and this magical, fantastical tale dragged me into Iran, providing a tour through the good, the bad and even the heartbreaking moments. I have to admit to a fascination with the richness of Iranian and Persian culture – a history that predates most European countries, never mind the US. But the only way, I believe, to achieve that balance and sense of who the people are is (for me) in translation. While I can’t attest to the translation, this story is rich with characters who fairly breathe in the corners as you read, lush descriptions and turn of phrase that feels as “other’ as it is easy to understand.

Amir served in the war, lost a limb and was committed to an asylum for treatment of soldiers with shell-shock. Found by his sister, she brings him home to live and recover, perhaps regain his memories and somehow bring a sense of solace and repair to the family. Pre-War, he was a playboy, causing his parents much grief, although now he’s haunted by a vision of a woman that he believes is his fiancé – convinced the woman with the crescent-shaped mark on her forehead was imprisoned in his family home. Now he is determined to find her, this woman he’s named “Moon Brow”, an action complicated by the family guards – treating him as a hero of the Revolution, yet cautious and containing the madman he’s become. Enlisting help and friendship, his humor and two scribes – an angel of virtue and one of sin, sitting on his shoulders as the quest to find his missing arm, with engagement ring on a finger.

Mandanipour straddles a line between virtue and vice, sanity and madness, as Amir retells his story. A delicate balance for a man who was often dislikable, frequently selfish and now in search of a sort of redemption as he tries to pull the puzzle that is his life and memories into a cogent whole. Consistently challenging the easy and expected choices with ones far more nuanced and human – full of the flaws that make Amir all too human as the story becomes a quest not only for the girl but for himself and his place in the family, his country and the world beyond. The unique prose and narration does take some adjustment, and you will find yourself marking passages to delve further into the politics, folktales and histories mentioned, but this serves only to show the sameness in desires, failings and choices that we all experience throughout our lives.

Moon Brow by Shahriar Mandanipour

Title: Moon Brow
Author: Shahriar Mandanipour
Genre: Fantasy / Magical Realism, Literary Fiction, Magic, Political Elements, Setting: Iran
Published by: Restless Books
ISBN: 1632061287
Published on: 24 April, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Pages: 464
Rated: four-stars
Get Your Copy: Amazon Barnes&Noble IndieBound Book Depository
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From “one of the leading novelists of our time” (The Guardian) comes a fantastically imaginative love story narrated by two angel scribes perched on the shoulders of a shell-shocked Iranian soldier searching for the mysterious woman who visits his dreams.

Before shrapnel severed his left arm during the Iran–Iraq war, Amir Khan lived the life of a carefree playboy. Five years later, his mother and sister Reyhaneh find him in mental hospital for shell-shocked soldiers and bring him home to Tehran. His memories decimated, Amir is haunted by the vision of a mysterious woman he believes is his fiancée. He never sees her face: there is a shining crescent moon on her forehead, and he names her Moon Brow.

His sense of humor (though perhaps not his sanity) intact, Amir cajoles Reyhaneh into helping him find her. Reluctantly she agrees, if only to heal her ruptured family, reminding Amir that while he’d been tormenting their devout parents with his lovers and parties, she’d been a “headscarf-shrouded prisoner” in her powerful father’s house. Now Amir is the one who cannot escape the garden walls: his father’s guards hail him as a living martyr to the cause of Imam Khomeini and the Revolution, yet treat him as a dangerous madman. Amir decides there’s only one solution to his dilemma: return to the battlefield and find his severed arm—along with its engagement ring.

All the while, twin scribes—the angel of virtue and the angel of sin—sit on our hero’s shoulders and narrate the story in enthrallingly distinctive prose. Wildly inventive and radically empathetic, steeped in Persian folklore and contemporary Middle East history, Moon Brow is the great Iranian novelist Shahriar Mandanipour’s unforgettable epic of love, war, morality, faith, and family.


A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.


About Shahriar Mandanipour

Shahriar Mandanipour is one of the most accomplished writers of contemporary Iranian literature, the author of nine volumes of fiction, one nonfiction book, and more than 100 essays in literary theory, literature and art criticism, creative writing, censorship, and social commentary.

Mandanipour was born in 1957 in Shiraz, Iran, and started writing from a young age. He studied political science at Tehran University and bore witness to the 1979 revolution. After the onset of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, he joined the military and volunteered for duty at the front, where he served as a non-career officer in the 191st Infantry for more than fourteen months. In cement trenches or holes dug in earth and stone, he wrote in the light of a paraffin lantern, between the mortar attacks.

The first collection of his stories, Shadows of the Cave, was published in 1989, and the second, The Eighth Day of the Earth, in 1992. Though he continued to write in the years that followed, due to censorship he was not published again until 1997, following the election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, and four of his books were published one or two years apart. In 1999, he became Editor-in-Chief of the monthly literary journal Asr-e Panjshanbeh (Thursday Evening), and remained so until it was banned in 2007.

In 2006, Mandanipour moved to the United States and has held fellowships at Brown University, Harvard University, Boston College, and at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. Some of his short stories and essays have been published in anthologies such as Strange Times, My Dear: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literatureand Sohrab’s Wars: Counter Discourses of Contemporary Persian Fiction: A Collection of Short Stories and a Film Script; and in journals such as The Kenyon ReviewThe Literary Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. Short works have been published in France, Germany, Denmark, and in languages such as Arabic, Turkish, and Kurdish.

Mandanipour’s first novel to appear in English, Censoring an Iranian Love Story, translated by Sara Khalili and published by Knopf in 2009, was named by The New Yorker as one of the reviewers’ favorites of 2009, by the Cornell Daily Sun as Best Book of the Year for 2009, and by NPR as one of the best debut novels of the year; it was awarded (Greek ed.) the Athens Prize for Literature for 2011. The novel has been translated and published in eleven other languages and in thirteen countries throughout the world.


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