Ghazaleh Alizadeh's novel THE HOUSE OF THE EDRISIS to be published ...

Ghazaleh Alizadeh(1947-1996)

Ghazaleh Alizadeh was born in Mashhad, the central city of Northeastern province of khorasan , Khorasan province with a long history of literature has been noted for a number of prominent poets and a literary school featured for its high range of archaic vocabulary, diction and poetic aspects which has left a great influence on Alizadeh’s style of writing.
Alizadeh studied law, politics, illumination philosophy and mysticism both at Tehran University and Paris. She became a prolific writer in the 70s, 80s and 90s, quite an influential figure in Iranian association of writers.
The House of the Edrisis, her main work is best known for its rich and poetical language, surrealistic aspects, powerful characterisation, narrative techniques, wealth of descriptions and discourse analysis through different classes of society.Moreover, quite a number of current slangs and colloquial expressions have been adopted parallel to some layers of intertextuality with the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz.
Although the novel doesn’t infer a certain time or place, still it has seemingly taken place in Ashkabad, a city built on the ruins of Nisa, the capital city of Ashkanid dynasty.
The novel depicts a group of learned people living with an old culture and literary treasury invaded by commoners and military people.
The house is the metaphor of the land taken by others, it could definitely refer to 1979 revolution of Iran and larger properties confiscated by the government.
Through the narrative techniques implied by the writer we get to know about the life of the generation past. People lived in the house many years before and how they are attached in a mysterious network of relationships. Also some mystical and mythological aspects of codes and symbols can be traced in the novel.
THE HOUSE OF THE EDRISIS and Alizadeh’s portrait have been partly pictured in Daruish Mehrjoei’s film “Banoo”.
Alizadeh committed suicide in 1996, her body was found hanging on a tree in a green spot in Northern Iran which has been researched and cited as the temple of Anahita in ancient Persia.
Her death was widely reflected in the 90s poetry; among the elegies written on her death is Reza Baraheni’s elegy in which he describes her as the bride of Iran’s literature.
From the time of Roudaki to the contemporary poetry of Akhavan Sales , khorasan’s literature has been famous for its extravagant use of diction, elevated tone and authentic language, in poets like Manuchehri the descriptions are extremely rich and abundant , Shahnameh is a revival of Persian Mythology and chronicles of the kings and in Contemporary poetry Akhavan Sales experiences all these within his free verse. The off-spring of such a long-established literature can be the feminine voice of Ghazaleh Alizadeh and in this lecture I would try to shed light on multi-faceted literary values of her Great book “The House of the Edrisi”.
“The House of the Edrisis” is a dystopian novel, an allegory depicting the age of decline, the book starts with some sentences very much like Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina:
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
“No household experiences upheaval of a sudden. Dust settles softly in the cracks in the wood, in the folds of the sheets, in the cupboard doors, and the pleats of the curtains, in expectation that a wind will blow into the house through an open door and stir the scattered particles of dust, liberating them from the places where they lurk.”
“The House of The Edrisis”, Translated by Franklin Lewis & Rosa Jamali
“The House of the Edrisis” depicts the life of a family in the process of a change, A manor house is occupied by government militia and common people , the house ends up in confiscation, some die, some go to exile and others put up with the new situation… Mrs Edrisi lives with her grandson Vahhab and daughter Legha in a secluded mansion, an armed group who is called firing-squad band attack them and occupy their place, groups of people and strangers take refuge in the house; some are recognised to be common people and others are called spies. Vahhab who is a very educated young man is obsessed with the memory of his dead aunt Rahila, among the people who enter the house is a young actress who reminds Vahhab of his aunt . Vahhab falls in love with her,...Roxana turns out to be the spy of firing-squad band and helps them to loot the treasure in the house, the residents of the house leave and in a reversal of fortune their lives change dramatically,..
The title implicitly refers to prophet Idris and Shahab al-din Sohrawardi's theosophy who is the founder of Persian wisdom and illumination philosophy and a follower of prophet Idris, the title has also some significance in secret societies of mystics. Alizadeh had studied politics and as if the novel is giving credit to the old system of thought in ancient Persia ” ی هشیدنا و یناورسخ تمکح
ایرانشهری ” which is based on a system of hierarchy and the virtues of great Persian kings with all their Godlike figures on the earth.
The book's success is mainly due to its polyphonic structure of juxtaposing highly prestigious literature of Khorasan and street talk used by commoners. Some layers of intertextuality with Persian classical poetry are seen. There are many quotations of Persian classical poetry in the novel, the syntax structure in many dialogues of Mrs Edrisi , Younes, Ghobad and Vahhab reminds you of Persian classics and the literature of Khorasan but this doesn’t prevent the novelist of representing diverse voices in the society: while Mrs Edrisi speaks decent classy Persian , Shoukat who is a representative of labour party speaks vulgar Persian , speaks a lot of slangs. Characters like Luba , Rahila and Roxana have been created quite parallel as if one’s life has been reincarnated in the next generation , they are all from the species of talented and beautiful women, die young , experience unrequited love and live an eccentric life. Rahila ‘s room with all her white satin dresses and perfumes and the smell of lilacs and jasmine has been described in a surrealistic way , much like Sierva Maria in Marquez’ OF LOVE AND OTHER DEMONS , in which the character casts a spell on others’ life after her death. Roxana resembles Nina in Chekhuf’s THE SEA GULL and Luba has been depicted just like a fairy tale. Younes is a poet who has travelled a lot and experienced adventures in his life , he has got a very charismatic character. He knows much about alchemy, magic and occult. Lots of minor characters in season three are trapped in a magic web . Rahila’s room and the treasure in her room and Mrs Edrisis’ precious ring are other symbolic elements of the book. The way the author describes the house is very much like the descriptions in Gothic novels, the character Ghobad sounds like somebody out of this world.
The setting in the book is not specified , one might think the place is the Greater Khorasan , the region expands from Greece to Kashmir , as if the setting is the great ancient world or perhaps the Great Mesopotamia. In the beginning of novel Vahhab mentions the city of Nisa and the setting written at the beginning of the book is Ashkabad which was the capital city of Ashkanid dynasty in ancient Persia . Does the whole novel refer to a great land which was once called Great Persia,…?
--Ghazaleh Alizadeh / Translated by Franklin Lewis & Rosa Jamali
No household experiences upheaval of a sudden. Dust settles softly in the cracks in the wood, in the folds of the sheets, in the cupboard doors, and the pleats of the curtains, in expectation that a wind will blow into the house through an open door and stir the scattered particles of dust, liberating them from the places where they lurk.
In the house of the Edrisis, life went on as usual. The wall clock, framed in woodwork carved with birds and flowers by artisans from Bokhara, struck ten.
Legha glanced at her wristwatch, wound it forward to adjust the time, and got up from the breakfast table. She took the bread crumbs with her to feed the fish.
Vahhab, the son of the household, swallowed the last sip of tea from the azure Sevres tea-cup, suppressed a yawn, and turned to Mrs. Edrisi. “She’s feeling better today.”
The old lady adjusted the glasses on her nose; the eyes behind her glasses were deep blue. “Nothing she does makes any sense.”
[8] The fog descended half-way down the arched windows, rubbing against the glass, and turning away to face the pines and poplar trees. From the end of the corridor came the sound of washing dishes, the opening of the spigot, and bubbling of the samovar. Out in the kitchen Yavar coughed now and then and dragged his feet across the floor. Madame [xanum bozorg] furrowed her eyebrows. “The poor man’s growing old, his lungs are shot from all that pipe-smoking.”
Vahhab pushed himself up from the edge of the table. “I’m going to the library. I read an article about the ruins of a city called Nisa, that was once a magnificent place, now buried beneath the ground.”
Mrs Edrisi sighed. “Plenty of cities have been buried under ground and one day our city will be buried, too.”
Vahhab closed his eyes, turned back and walked away. Everyone in the household tried to keep the noise of walking, eating, and talking to a minimum. Vahhab was thirty but looked older, with thin hunched shoulders, a wan and droopy face, and solemn, dull eyes. He had studied at British boarding schools. With every word or movement, he seemed to sense an invisible whip poised above his back. He ate little and showered before noon. He clipped his nails every week, and filed them. There were bags under his eyes from lack of sleep. Sometimes he would sit in front of the mirror in his bedroom counting the white strands among his supple black hair. A few days before, there were twelve of them. He didn’t go out of the house much. He always said he wanted someone to look out for the place. Twice a month he would drop in on the Ashena Bookshop, where the fellow would put aside the newly arrived books for him. [9] Vahhab would collect them and pay, with tight lips and furrowed eyebrows, and come straight back home.
In the afternoons, if the weather was good, he would sit in a chair next to the garden pool, turn on the fountain, stare at the rippling patterns of the water, and think about the past—his childhood and youth, far away and long ago. Gradually, as it got dark, his reveries would fade away. The birds would fly from branch to branch in the garden. The milk cows at the end of the alfalfa pasture, woozy with the heat, would moo. On the second floor, his great aunt, Legha, would be sitting at the dormer window, hand under her chin, staring at the mulberry trees, the cob roofs and peeling gables until they would light the lamps [or until the lights went on one by one all around] around the property one by one, and draw the curtains. She would not light the lamp, but would lie down on the bed and close her eyes. On the back of her darkness-drenched eyelids, patterns would sometimes take shape – blue and yellow, like a glass flower – and keep her amused…


  1. my first visit here rosa, and it`s all a new world,
    i`m waiting for your translation of the whole book to be published,,,
    i`d love to read this novel(ther persian version of it i`ve not read) in ENGLISH

  2. waiting for the the whole translation in the form of a book dear rosa :)


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