The Prince

Hushang Golshiri

translated from the Persian by James Buchan
Vintage 2006 [1969]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2008
Published in 1969 but set in the 1920s, The Prince is a dark view of the Quajari dynasty that once ruled Isfahan, presented through the memories of the dying Prince Khosrow Ehtejab.

Ehtejab lives in a decrepit house with a maidservant whom he forces to dress up as, and to laugh like, his dead wife. He is haunted by his memories and the ghosts of his ancestors, who step out of the photographs on the walls to address him. His father, serving the usurping Pahlavis, used tanks to crush protesters, but that pales beside the more personal and intimate brutalities of his despotic grandfather and great-grandfather. And Ehtejab himself is ineffectual and feeble, but he has inflicted his own cruelties on his household.

The Prince is almost a study in the abuse of power and the use of violence against servants and women. But beauty also features in Ehtejab's memories, and the dominant emotion is nostalgia, for lost childhood, lost love, and a lost world. The past is more alive than the present for Ehtejab, and his dead have more life in them than he does, stretched to an end with his life ebbing.

Golshiri's matter of fact presentation gives all this immense power. The episodes are fragmented and unordered, like real memories, but they are easy to piece together and The Prince is a compelling read.

Note: The Prince was turned into a 1974 film, Prince Ehtejab.

July 2008

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%T The Prince
%A Golshiri, Hushang
%M Persian
%F Buchan, James
%I Vintage
%D 2006 [1969]
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9780099468394
%P 153pp