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About the Author: David Morisset is an Australian writer who lived in Iran in the late 1970s. In March 2010 his poem, 'Persian Princess' was commended in the John Shaw Nielson Poetry Award run by the Fellowship of Australian Writers.
Conquest of the Persian Garden
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (October 7, 2010)
We asked the author to tell us more about his inspirations and motivations for writing this book.
David Morisset: My novel, 'Conquest of the Persian Garden', was written from my heart. It begins as a story of cross-cultural love between a naive Western man and a young Iranian woman in seemingly impossible circumstances. When Iran is transformed by its Islamic Revolution, the novel becomes a romantic thriller with twists and turns in the plot driven by the contradictions and divisions of the emerging Islamic Republic.
The narrative was partly inspired by Ferdowsi's legend of "Manijeh and Bijan". However, it was also motivated by my desire to make a statement about aspects of the ongoing political unrest in Iran and, most particularly, to call attention to the continuing distressing human rights situation facing the country's women.
As a result, the principal character of 'Conquest of the Persian Garden' is Manijeh, a beautiful Persian girl of nominal Muslim affiliation, whose thwarted love affair with Ben, an Australian diplomat stationed in Tehran, steers her into a deadly dispute between Mojahedin radicals and the Islamic Republic's brutal security forces. Although he returns to Australia in the wake of the Revolution, Ben cannot forget his Persian lover. When he learns from a former consultant to the Shah's secret police that Manijeh has spent time in Evin's murderous political prison and is likely to be arrested again, Ben returns to Tehran to mount a rescue attempt. He enlists the help of two sympathetic Mojaheds - Shaheen and Parvaneh - as well as Carrington - an opportunistic British consular official - all of whom have their own reasons for contemplating a risky overland escape through northwestern Iran and across remote regions of Turkey.
'Conquest of the Persian Garden' is my first novel under my pen name, David Morisset. I lived in Tehran during most of the period covered by the narrative when I was a member of Australia's diplomatic service. In recent years, I have published a collection of short stories and a book of poetry. In March 2010, one of my poems, 'Persian Princess' was commended in the John Shaw Nielson Poetry Award run by the Fellowship of Australian Writers (see http://davidmorisset.blogspot.com).
Recent events in Iran and the ongoing diplomatic challenges posed by the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions suggest that English-speaking readers throughout the West will continue to have an appetite for books about this unique country and its extraordinary people. In addition, the children of millions of Iranians who fled Revolutionary Iran to live in the USA, Britain, Canada, Europe and Australia are now adults and are intensely curious about the circumstances of the Shah's demise and the dilemmas faced by their parents' generation. While academic works and personal memoirs are readily available, it is arguable that many potential readers would prefer to explore Iran through entertaining fiction firmly embedded in a historical context.
Because the historical setting of the narrative drives many of the decisions taken by my characters, I had to undertake extensive research to make sure that I got the basic facts right. As well as my work diary from the time, I consulted a number of learned studies of the era. I found particularly useful the writings of Ervand Abrahamian, especially his book on the Mojahedin. In addition, quite by chance, I found a website maintained by the Iran Chamber Society. The site featured remarkable photographs of street battles and other events of 1978-79. I also benefited from reading accounts of spells in Iran's prison system including those written by Marina Nemat and Zarah Ghahramanli.
Several Iranian friends with firsthand knowledge of the times were very generous with suggestions and encouragement. They showed me magnificent photographs, coached my Farsi, and told me things I had either forgotten or never knew. Above all, they welcomed my abiding interest in their country, and, as is the Iranian way, honored me with their hospitality. Some of my expatriate friends and former colleagues from my time in Tehran were similarly gracious with their memories.
Finally, exposure to English translations of Forough Farrokzad's poetry provided me with emotional encouragement as I worked on successive drafts of my work. Eventually, it seemed to me only natural to adopt as a title for my novel a slight variation of the name of one of her most famous pieces, "Conquest of the Garden".
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