Persia is a land of cultural diversity and rich scenic beauty. Unfortunately, the country is often neglected and misrepresented by Western media, except the usual propaganda. There are only a few writers who understand the country’s true history, and Bahman Akhavan is one of them.
Persia, also known in modern times as ‘Iran’, has had its fair share of sanctions and problems. When people hear the country’s name, the first image that comes to mind is of a war-torn country with a population of illiterate, conservative, and fundamentalist people. This could not be farther from the truth. Even though the culture and traditions are deeply rooted in almost every Persian household, they are fairly modern and fashionable.
This sense of modernization is further cemented by the fact that Persians who left the country during the Islamic Revolution of 1979 have transitioned well into the Western culture. Even though there has been a cultural shock, each family has been adaptive and open to change. This concept is explained beautifully in Akhavan’s book ‘Persian Wars’, where each story is connected to the history, culture, and modern era.
The book Persian Wars contains a theme that connects the reader with history, culture, and the contemporary lifestyle of the Persians, especially of those who have left the country to live in a completely different one. Stories in the book are unrelated to one another but are still brilliantly connected in a way that depicts a common theme; every character(s) in the story is going through some sort of crisis or cataclysmic change in their life.
The book perfectly analyzes how people experience cultural shock when they move to an entirely new place altogether; everything needs to be started from scratch, new things have to be learned, and new friends have to be made. Sometimes, one has to leave their family members behind as well. ‘Persian Wars’ explains different varieties of relationships. Akhavan adds:
“In the end, most of these realizations and transformations are universal; relationships with family, contrast of modern social behavior with traditional family values, realizing personal goals and ambitions within family pressures and expectations.”
When talking about any country or its culture, there is a plethora of prejudice. It is important to understand that one must look at the bigger picture to grasp the present. Otherwise, one will most likely fail to adapt. Another thing to remember is that there is no specific source for enabling individuals to transform; this influence can come from anywhere, often from places that one least expects. This further emphasizes the fact that the concept of destiny is all relative. Most of the time, it is decided by being open-minded and non-judgmental.
Bahman Akhavan’s book, PERSIAN WARS VOL. 1: HOME AND AWAY consists of 4 stories that are unrelated yet carry a similar theme when looking at the context; Iranian individuals struggling in their day-to-day lives but finding inspiration to move ahead in life one way or another. Every element in one’s life adds up to affect the individual’s goals and aspirations.
The stories in ‘Persian Wars’ also teach us that several institutions help shape a person’s life, and perhaps, the most important out of these is the institution of the family. Depending on the upbringing and support, one can either become a successful person or lead a life full of struggles. The book perfectly enables us to understand that no matter how ‘advanced’ you become, it is important to not let go of your roots but rather incorporate your cultural background with your present environment. This will help you adapt and translate the efforts into your success.
One crucial aspect of the book is that it helps the readers understand the importance of self-love and acceptance. It is not just about the validity of the society but about identifying yourself as an individual, your thought process, and your sexuality. The stories in the book allow readers to accept that they can differ from what society deems ‘normal’ because sometimes, the cultural biases and stigma cause one to become a ‘deviant’ in the eyes of society. In contrast, the reality, most often than not, is completely different.