Remembering Akbar

sub-heading:
Inside the Iranian Revolution
£15.74

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  • 266 pages
  • Paperback ISBN 9781682190548
  • E-book ISBN 9781682190555
  • Publication 8 November 2016

about the book

Set in the tumultuous aftermath of the Iranian revolution in 1979, Remembering Akbar weaves together the stories of a group of characters who share a crowded death row cell in Tehran's notorious Evin prison. A teeming world is evoked vividly through the relationships, memories, and inner lives of these political prisoners, many of whom were eventually executed.

Told through a series of linked memories by the narrator, Akbar, whose striking candor is infused with a mordant sense of humor, the story takes the reader beyond mere political struggles and revelations, to a vibrant alternative history, written, as it were, by the losers.

The characters whose stories Akbar recounts are brought to life within the mundane rhythms of a bleak institution, in its simple pleasures as well as its frequent horrors, and in the unexpected connections that emerge between the world inside and a past before imprisonment.

Rather than exalting the heroic, or choosing to focus merely on despair or redemption, Remembering Akbar reveals eloquently how life unfolds when death is starkly imminent. It is a deeply moving story of great camaraderie, biting humor, and soulful remembrance.

"Behrooz Ghamari's extraordinary memoir is unlike anything I've read: he bears witness to the terrible suffering and the loss of so many in Iran's infamous Evin Prison in the wake of the revolution; but he does so with tenderness, humor and dignity. This book will change the way you understand the world." - Claire Messud, author of The Emperor's Children and The Woman Upstairs

"With his keen sensibility and rich personal experience Ghamari has crafted an unforgettable book, charting a course through the bitterness of oppression and survival into a resonant form of resistance." - Elias Khoury, author of Gate of the Sun and The Broken Mirrors: Sinalcol

About The Author / Editor

Photo © Maurice Weiss/OSTKREUZ Behrooz Ghamari is Professor of History and Sociology at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Islam and Dissent in Postrevolutionary Iran and Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment.

Read An Excerpt

From the Prelude

I died at 7:30 in the morning, on December 31, 1984. I do not say this as a metaphor, but in a real existential sense. At that exact moment, I set foot into another world with a reluctant signature at the bottom of a page, a release form. The blurry lines from under my blindfold apparently granted me a medical parole with the proviso, as the guard clarified it, that my body had to be returned to prison for an official identification. It took me a few years to realize that I had actually died in that early morning. That had nothing to do either with survivor's guilt, or with the weight of life's banalities. I left behind the self I knew without any worldly means of retrieving it.

Death happens piecemeal. It devours one small part of life at a time. By signing that release form, I simply acknowledged that I had spent too many pieces of my life--a threshold was crossed. After three years on death-row, with a body enfeebled by cancer, I was to leave Tehran's infamous Evin prison. The euphoric leaders of the revolution had stood at its gates only a few years earlier, pledging to turn it into a museum bearing witness to atrocities of the past. "In Iran", they declared on that frigid evening in February 1979, "there will be no more political prisoners".

That was not meant to be.

The boisterous voices that called in unison for the end monarchy now only sang in dissonance. Communists, socialists, liberals, nationalists, women, workers, university students, ethnic and religious minorities, young revolutionary clerics, and grand cautious ayatollahs claimed with injudicious certainty the true meaning of the revolution. The thirst for power turned friends into foes, revolutionaries into security officers, prisoners into interrogators, community leaders into spies, urban guerilla fighters into assassins, teachers into morality police, students into snitches, friendly chats into insoluble quarrels, and family gatherings into political disputes. In less than two years, we saw with sober eyes that prison walls grew taller and behind them atrocity thrived virulently.

in the media

Remembering Akbar

sub-heading:
Inside the Iranian Revolution
£15.74

Add to Cart

Adding to cart… The item has been added

about the book

Set in the tumultuous aftermath of the Iranian revolution in 1979, Remembering Akbar weaves together the stories of a group of characters who share a crowded death row cell in Tehran's notorious Evin prison. A teeming world is evoked vividly through the relationships, memories, and inner lives of these political prisoners, many of whom were eventually executed.

Told through a series of linked memories by the narrator, Akbar, whose striking candor is infused with a mordant sense of humor, the story takes the reader beyond mere political struggles and revelations, to a vibrant alternative history, written, as it were, by the losers.

The characters whose stories Akbar recounts are brought to life within the mundane rhythms of a bleak institution, in its simple pleasures as well as its frequent horrors, and in the unexpected connections that emerge between the world inside and a past before imprisonment.

Rather than exalting the heroic, or choosing to focus merely on despair or redemption, Remembering Akbar reveals eloquently how life unfolds when death is starkly imminent. It is a deeply moving story of great camaraderie, biting humor, and soulful remembrance.

"Behrooz Ghamari's extraordinary memoir is unlike anything I've read: he bears witness to the terrible suffering and the loss of so many in Iran's infamous Evin Prison in the wake of the revolution; but he does so with tenderness, humor and dignity. This book will change the way you understand the world." - Claire Messud, author of The Emperor's Children and The Woman Upstairs

"With his keen sensibility and rich personal experience Ghamari has crafted an unforgettable book, charting a course through the bitterness of oppression and survival into a resonant form of resistance." - Elias Khoury, author of Gate of the Sun and The Broken Mirrors: Sinalcol

About The Author / Editor

Photo © Maurice Weiss/OSTKREUZ Behrooz Ghamari is Professor of History and Sociology at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Islam and Dissent in Postrevolutionary Iran and Foucault in Iran: Islamic Revolution after the Enlightenment.

Read An Excerpt

From the Prelude

I died at 7:30 in the morning, on December 31, 1984. I do not say this as a metaphor, but in a real existential sense. At that exact moment, I set foot into another world with a reluctant signature at the bottom of a page, a release form. The blurry lines from under my blindfold apparently granted me a medical parole with the proviso, as the guard clarified it, that my body had to be returned to prison for an official identification. It took me a few years to realize that I had actually died in that early morning. That had nothing to do either with survivor's guilt, or with the weight of life's banalities. I left behind the self I knew without any worldly means of retrieving it.

Death happens piecemeal. It devours one small part of life at a time. By signing that release form, I simply acknowledged that I had spent too many pieces of my life--a threshold was crossed. After three years on death-row, with a body enfeebled by cancer, I was to leave Tehran's infamous Evin prison. The euphoric leaders of the revolution had stood at its gates only a few years earlier, pledging to turn it into a museum bearing witness to atrocities of the past. "In Iran", they declared on that frigid evening in February 1979, "there will be no more political prisoners".

That was not meant to be.

The boisterous voices that called in unison for the end monarchy now only sang in dissonance. Communists, socialists, liberals, nationalists, women, workers, university students, ethnic and religious minorities, young revolutionary clerics, and grand cautious ayatollahs claimed with injudicious certainty the true meaning of the revolution. The thirst for power turned friends into foes, revolutionaries into security officers, prisoners into interrogators, community leaders into spies, urban guerilla fighters into assassins, teachers into morality police, students into snitches, friendly chats into insoluble quarrels, and family gatherings into political disputes. In less than two years, we saw with sober eyes that prison walls grew taller and behind them atrocity thrived virulently.

in the media