Review: Women Without Men by Shahrnush Parsipur
Title: Women Without Men
Author: Parsipur, Shahrnush
Translator: Farrokh, Faridoun
Length: 122 pages
Publisher / Year: Feminist Press / 2011, first published in Persian as Zanan bedoone mardan in 1989.
Source: Feminist Press subscription.
Why I Read It: Feminist Press published it and mailed it to me – that is always reason enough for me.
Date Read: 13/05/12
A magical realism journey through the lives of five different women in Iran, this book delves into the daily lives of different individuals at different class levels and discusses such issues as widowhood, marriage, virginity, and the sexuality of women. The five women who feature in this story are: a schoolteacher, two friends, a wealthy housewife, and a prostitute. Each has their own story, but each weaves in with the others as they rely on one another in a secluded orchard in Karadj, in the outskirts of Tehran.
Through each woman and her story we see some facet of life. Although the title claims that we are examining women without men, and indeed for most of the book very few, if any, men are present or around, at the same point each of the women’s lives were shaped around and by various men in their lives. What we see, rather, and especially in their mainly physical absence in the book, is the way in which the men are such a large concern to these women and the how and why of that. Although they all manage to escape men, they don’t all do it as successfully and they learn, as well, that there are possibly drawbacks to their decisions.
Although a short book, it is wonderfully written to contain the varying stories and lives. The prose is lyrical, and you almost find yourself believing the various magical things that happen – such as the lady who planted herself as a tree. Farrokh’s translation seems flawless as well, being easy to read yet still containing that taste of difference.