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The Colonel

A Novel

Translated by Tom Patterdale

Ten years in the writing, this fearless novel—so powerful it’s banned in Iran—tells the stirring story of a tortured people forced to live under successive oppressive regimes.

It begins on a pitch black, rainy night, when there’s a knock on the Colonel’s door. Two policemen have come to summon him to collect the tortured body of his youngest daughter. The Islamic Revolution is devouring its own children. Set over the course of a single night, the novel follows the Colonel as he pays a bribe to recover his daughter’s body and then races to bury her before sunrise.

As we watch him struggle with the death of his innocent child, we find him wracked with guilt and anger over the condition of his country, particularly as represented by his own children: a son who fell during the 1979 revolution; another driven to madness after being tortured during the Shah’s regime; a third who went off to martyr himself fighting for the ayatollahs in their war against Iraq; one murdered daughter, and another who survives by being married to a cruel opportunist.

An incredibly powerful novel about nation, history and family, The Colonel leaves no taboo unbroken.

MAHMOUD DOWLATABADI is one of the Middle East’s most important writers of the last century. The author of numerous novels, plays and screenplays, he is a leading proponent of social and artistic freedom in contemporary Iran. Dowlatabadi pioneered the use of the everyday language of the Iranian people as suitable for high literary art, and often examines the lives of the marginal and oppressed in his work, such as in his previous Melville House title, Missing Soluch, his first work translated into English.

“Mr. Dowlatabadi draws a detailed, realist picture of Iranian life, especially that of the rural poor, in language that is complex and lyrical, rather than simplistic.” —The Financial Times

The Colonel is a remarkable and important book … a masterpiece.” —The Globe and Mail

“Iran’s greatest writer.” The Millions

“[A] masterpiece.” —Quarterly Conversation

“An affecting and beautiful novel.” —The Literary Review

“The nature of authoritarians is not to learn from mistakes but to attempt to erase them. The Colonel is a very thorough accounting of those mistakes, and of their cost, and a demonstration of the necessity, for humanity’s sake, of overcoming them.” The Rumpus

“Dowlatabadi combines the poetic tradition of his culture with the direct and unembellished everyday speech of the villages. With this highly topical new novel Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Iran’s most important novelist, sheds light on the upheavals, which haunts his country until today.” —Man Asian Literary Prize nomination citation

”A demanding and richly composed book by a novelist who stands apart.” Kirkus Reviews

“An outstanding master achievement.” —Der Spiegel

The Colonel is a page-turning panorama of Iranian mental anguish, producing visions and nightmares like dark exotic blossoms.”  —Neue Zurcher Zeitung

“This novel has what it takes to become a strong and irresistible window into Iran.” —Die Zeit

“… a very powerful work.” —Michael Orthofer, The Complete Review

“Because of its honesty and indeed brutal clarity of language the novel has so far not been published in its original language, Persian…[an] honest and truly literary account.” —English Pen

”Yes, it’s a good book.” Vice-chairman of the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance (although the book is still unavailable in Iran) in the New York Times

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