… on The Bookshelf is that of Cyrus Massoudi. For his first book has just been published. And I’m looking for more.
Born in London and educated in Edinburgh Cyrus then spent three years in Iran. He was on a bit of a quest; roots. He left these shores as a westerner aware of his Iranian roots; and returned an Iranian who happened to live in the West.
The Massoudi family had left Iran as the 1979 Revolution gathered pace. Cyrus heard tales of the homeland when growing up, and went to see for himself. Land of the Turquoise Mountains – Journeys Across Iran is his account of what he found.
Over the years many fine words have been written of Persia, and on Iran. Massoudi’s bibliography is extensive, and includes the classic works from Freya Stark and Robert Byron; Jason Elliot as well, and many, many others. Several are on the festive book list. My own favourite has been Michael Carroll’s From A Persian Tea House, but he now has company at the top of the list.
What makes Massoudi stand out, even from Byron and Stark, is not so much the age in which he travelled, modern Iran as against the days of the Anglo-Persian Oil Co, and the Shah, but it is his ability to travel the land and to mix, to join in the festivities and celebrations. So he brings us accounts of New Year, and meets with Sufis, and he enjoys the famed hospitality more so than other westerners could, despite the best efforts of young travellers such as Nick Danziger and the aforesaid Elliott.
From Tehran Massoudi travels to the Caspian coast in the north, and to the Gulf far to the south. He takes us to tribal lands and villages on borders, by train, by bus, by taxi, and always meeting with locals who become part of the tales. As with all good travel books there is history through the narrative, and Iran has more of that than most. Massoudi gets the balance right, and the story flows, from place to place, from age to age.
I enjoyed this one, but if I have one little moan it is that he did not write about the marvellous city of Esfahan. I can’t imagine he didn’t visit. Perhaps it might be the subject of another work to follow. More please Cyrus.