Women Without Men: A Novel of Modern Iran

Shahrnush Parsipur

translated from the Persian
The Feminist Press 2004 [1989]
A book review by Danny Yee © 2009 https://dannyreviews.com/
Women Without Men is a short novel made up of stories about five women who come together in a house with a garden in Karaj, outside Tehran. They include a wealthy middle-class wife and a prostitute, but differ just as much in temperament as in background.

Parsipur's stories involve the challenges women face in trying to live without men in Iran, featuring a debate about whether virginity is a curtain or a hole, rape, and the enforcement of notions of honour by women as well as men, as well as more everyday concerns. The stories are about people, not ideas, however, and in no way didactic.

Aspects of the stories are fantastic, involving women turning into trees, reborn and able to read minds, or able to fly. And only one is anchored in any kind of historical context, set during riots in 1953, and that only incidentally. They have something of the fairy tale about them, but like good fairy tales are psychologically and practically anchored — and Parsipur's characters are too immediate and idiosyncratic to be primarily symbolic or allegorical.

Women Without Men offers a storyteller's entertainment and a sampling of women's lives in Iran in the 1980s.

A forty page afterword by Persis Karim gives an account of Parsipur's life and offers a brief outline of the stories. Parsipur went into exile in the United States in 1994, five years after Women Without Men (Zanan bedun mardan) was published, and banned, in Iran.

May 2009

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%T Women Without Men
%S A Novel of Modern Iran
%A Parsipur, Shahrnush
%M Persian
%F Talattof, Kamran
%F Sharlet, Jocelyn
%I The Feminist Press
%D 2004 [1989]
%O paperback
%G ISBN-13 9781558614529
%P 179pp