“Her eyes” by Bozorg ‘Alavi

This article is also available in: Italiano

Many things could be said about Bozorg ‘Alavi’s “Her Eyes”, all of which can be summarized in: it is one of the most beautiful novels I have ever read in my entire life.

“Her eyes” by Bozorg ‘Alavi

Published in 1952 ̶ one year after the coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mossadeq, who had nationalized Iranian oil ̶ Cheshhmhayash (Her Eyes), generally considered a milestone in the development of modern Persian fiction, is the novel with which Bozorg ‘Alavi concludes, and consecrates, his too short literary career. The story revolves around the painting of an unknown woman entitled Her eyes and the narrator assumes the role of a detective in search of a truth to discover: the eyes belong to Farangis, a fascinating and complex woman from an aristocratic family, who in the course of the novel reveals her particular relationship with Makan, the famous artist who painted her and a key figure in the clandestine opposition to Reza Shah.

Art, mystery and resistance under the monarchy of the shahs

“Her eyes” by Bozorg ‘Alavi is one of the most beautiful novels I have ever read and for this very reason it is not easy to talk about it, but it has touched my heart and my mind with countless touches of mastery, passion and elegance and precisely for this must be talked about, in order to share these sublime strokes of genius.

The novel is set in Iran in the 1930s and 1940s and tells the story of an extraordinary painting painted by Makan, the greatest Iranian artist of the time, in which he depicted the eyes of a mysterious woman that no one has managed to identify. The narrator is precisely the deputy director of the museum dedicated to him who, with cunning and self-sacrifice, will be able to meet who they belong to; it is Farangis, an aristocratic woman with an extraordinary story, who, with her story, will take the reader from Paris to Tehran to discover the incredible mystery and passion that are enclosed in that canvas.

To complete this magnificent fresco of Bozorg ‘Alavi, there will also be the brutal repression of the Shah Reza Pahlavi, which will force each character to make choices that will change their existence forever.

One of the most elegant novels I’ve ever read

In addition to this plot that already smells like a masterpiece from afar, “Her Eyes” has one of the most elegant and poetic prose I’ve ever read, such an absolute quality of beauty that, I repeat it once again because it’s the truth, I struggle to talk about it. The fact that the center of the plot is a wonderful canvas shows us the way, but it is Bozorg ‘Alavi himself who paints an extraordinary canvas with this novel, setting himself to the highest standards even with regard to Persian literature as a whole. Every single sentence is endowed with an unparalleled elegance and refinement, never forgetting, not even for an instant, to place the most absolute passion behind each scene.

Bozorg 'Alavi
Bozorg ‘Alavi

This is a living novel, the kind that can take your heart and your mind and bring them into the scene, making you feel emotions of such an intensity that you will remember for a lifetime. Bozorg ‘Alavi doesn’t say “he had a beautiful smile”, Bozorg’ Alavi says: “His smile was like the spring sun that melts the snow on the mountain tops, gladdening people’s hearts”; pure poetry in prose, words that remind the world of the wonder of writing.

Perfect characters

As if that weren’t enough, “Her eyes” is also one of the novels in which the psychology of the characters is best told, allowing us to penetrate their soul to depths never seen before; Farangis, then, is told so well that I have repeatedly refused to think that this book was written by a man.

“Look better into my eyes! There is nothing but you.”

I could go on, but every single sentence I uttered would be praise and therefore it is enough for you to know that, even if I do not give votes, this could not be less than 9 and a half, if not even 10. A truly unforgettable novel that I will not get up never from the heart, congratulations to the translator Giulia Ansaldo for the extraordinary work and to the publishing house Ponte33 and Giacomo Longhi for having decided to bring this masterpiece to Italy; only applause.

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