MODARRESI, Taqi

MODARRESI, Taqi (b. Tehran 1931, d. Baltimore 1997), Persian novelist and psychiatrist who made his literary debut with the publication of his first novel, Yakolyā wa tanhāʾi-e u (Yakolya and Her Loneliness, 1955). He was born to Esmāʿil Modarresi, a lawyer, and Rāżia Ṭabāṭabāʾi, a great grand daughter of Sayyed Moḥammad Ṭabāṭabāʾi, a noted progressive cleric of the Constitutional Revolution era (1906-11 q. v.).

Two years after the young Taqi had begun elementary school, his father passed away, leaving behind a widow and three sons who subsequently moved into Modarresi’s maternal grandfather’s house. In an interview with ʿAli Dehbāši, Modarresi speaks of the unfortunate convergence of family misfortune and the hardships visited upon Persia because of the Allied occupation of the country, as well as, his early exposure to an intellectual and literary world: “Those days, our home was a gathering place for a few opponents of Reżā Shah’s regime. Frequently I would sit and listen to them until I fell asleep. Other times, my mother would gather us around her and read to us from Neẓāmi’s Haft peykar” (Dehbāši. p. 272). Later his grandfather’s personal library provided him with a wealth of reading material, some of which inspired his literary creations.

Modarresi completed his schooling in ʿOnṣori Elementary and Rahnemā High School in Tehran. Although he would have preferred to continue his post-secondary education in literature, he was accepted in the medical Faculty of Tehran University where he completed his studies in 1959. His interest in writing fiction can be traced back to his high school years and the publication of a collection of short stories, Dāʾemolḵamr (Perpetually Drunk), in 1948. He went on to write another story entitled Sāyahā-ye vojud “Shadows of Being” which was however, never published.

Modarresi contemplated writing his first novel after the overthrow of the Moḥammad MosÂaddeq cabinet in 1953, to which Modarresi alludes in his interview with ʿAli Dehbāši as a period of political disillusionment (Dehbāši. p. 272). In addition to the personal and political sense of disenchantment, Modarresi identifies his familiarity with the Persian translation of the Bible, Ketāb-e moqaddas, as the motivating force behind the creation of Yakolyā and Her Loneliness. The language of the novel echoes that of the 1904 translation of the Bible, and Modarresi uses it effectively to create masterful turn of phrases and descriptions. He completed the writing of this novel within three months while he was a medical student and had taken a small position at a bank to better support himself during his studies. A newly established publishing house, Nil, founded by Abu’l-Ḥasan Najafi, one of Modarresi’s closest friends, published the novel which was awarded Soḵan Magazine’s literary prize that same year (Dehbāši, pp. 272-73).

Drawing on Biblical themes, the novel narrates the story of Yakolyā’s banishment from Jerusalem for having fallen in love with a shepherd. Her father, the king of Jerusalem, orders Yakolyā’s expulsion for fear that her single-minded devotion and passion would incite others to turn away from the worship of God and observance of His laws. In her wanderings through the desert, Yakolyā encounters a rather benevolent Satan who, while consoling her, explains that her loneliness and, in fact, that of all human beings has been pre-ordained by God. He tells Yakolyā that her longings stem from a desire to escape this pre-destined lot of loneliness and that she is being punished for disobeying the destiny of all of humanity to be and feel alone in themselves. As Peter Avery points out in a review included on the back-cover of the novel, Modarresi’s treatment of the figure of the Satan is itself worthy of note: “Modarresi’s Satan, who is not unlike Milton’s Satan, wins our respect. Although he is not above impunity and he does not shy away from resorting to ruse and overly prides himself on his original dissent, he is respectable and good natured” (Modarresi, Yakolia).

Both the subject matter and style of Yakolyā marked a departure from the currents of Persian prose fiction of the period. Writing in 1960 about the trends in modern Persian fiction, Ehsan Yarshater cites Modarresi’s first novel as a sign of emerging talent: “The author shows preoccupation with universal themes rather than with particular contemporary problems. Specifically, he deals with the personal question of good and evil. He takes up a Bible story and, including no lesser beings than God and Satan among his characters, skillfully dramatizes the human dilemma of choice between the appeal of pleasure and the call of duty” (Yarshater, p. 457). In his Modern Persian Prose Literature, Hasan Kamshad also emphasizes the innovative nature of Yakolia and Her Loneliness: “It was one of the few original works of literature to appear in the later fifties, when most prose fiction took the form of translations of foreign works, and when Persian writers, possibly apprehensive of official censorship, seemed chary of writing. By selecting a biblical theme, Mudarrisi was able to give his story a remoteness that enabled him to write about fundamental human problems in a manner that carried no political import” (Kamshad, p. 131). Kamshad also emphasizes the psychological depth of Modarresi’s novel: “What is surprising is the psychological insight shown by this young writer who is concerned with the problem of man’s loneliness, his fears of the consequences of wrong-doing, and his proneness to follow a beguiling Satan rather than a benevolent Providence. The symbolism of his first novel is unusual and expertly handled” (Ibid.). In this first novel, we see the core of Modarresi’s concerns, also illustrated in novels he published later in his career, with the themes of isolation and loneliness, which he continued to explore both through his fiction and his work as a psychiatrist.

Modarresi’s interest in the psychology of his characters is deeply rooted in his belief that “there was a connection between psychiatry and writing” (Steinbach, p. 4J). He developed a fascination with the field of psychiatry when a close friend and fellow student became afflicted with a psychosis: “That was a very traumatic experience. He was one of the brightest students of all of us. So I went to see him and got interested.” (Ibid.). His interest in psychology drew him to researching zār, the traditional means of treating psychological illness, practiced in the Persian Gulf region of Iran. While visiting villages and collecting material for his thesis, Modarresi had an encounter that changed the course of his life. Suspecting him of revolutionary and leftist motives, the secret police detained and questioned him and confiscated his tape recordings and notes: “It was a very bad experience, one that left me with a sense of rage and humiliation” (Ibid.). Modarresi left Persia in 1959 for an internship in Wichita, Kansas, followed by a residency in psychiatry at Duke University (1961-1963). At Duke University he met his future wife and now famous American novelist, Anne Tyler. They married in 1963 and, as Modarresi’s visa neared expiration, the couple moved to McGill University, Montreal, where he continued his work in the field of child psychiatry. In 1967 he was appointed to a faculty position at the University of Maryland, specializing in child development. In the late 1980s, Modarresi founded the Coldspring Family Center Therapeutic Nursery, whose work is focused on early intervention and healing of children who have suffered emotionally scarring traumas. In 1982 he also founded the Center for Infant Study at the University of Maryland, known for its pioneering work in exploring the psychological makeup of infants. True to his early intuition, Modarresi’s work as psychiatrist and novelist are deeply intertwined. His interests in pre-verbal communication in infants are reflected in his own experience of cultural transplantation that accompanied what Modarresi described in his essay, “Writing with an Accent,” as a loss of language: “If I wanted to say something, I compared Persian and English words, as dictionaries do. Persian and English words arranged themselves in two parallel lines like dancers in a nineteenth century ballroom, bowing to each other and trying to find a mate…It was almost two decades before I managed to resurface from the avalanche of these new experiences. During this period…I was silent and I felt no urge to write” (Modarresi, p. 8).

In the years that Modarresi devoted to settling into his new life and profession, the only significant literary work he published was Šarif jān, šarif jān (1961), a novel about the life of a traditional landowning family in a small town. It was not until after the 1979 revolution and the mass migration of Iranians to the United States that Modarresi found himself drawn back to fiction .He associates his return to writing with the discovery of what he calls a “new internal voice” which he compares to “the humming we do when we are alone or when we are intrigued by an idea” (Ibid.) This new voice enabled him to recover his literary voice in Persian and determined his approach to the translation of the two of his novels, Ketāb-e ādamhā-ye ḡāyeb (The book of Absent People, New York, 1986), and Ādāb-e ziārat (The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette, New York, 1989), that appeared almost simultaneously in Iran. (Ibid.) Rather than finding equivalent idiomatic expressions in English, for example, he provided literal translations that would be jarring and even incomprehensible to the English-speaking reader. These novels “may represent a special category in which it is difficult to speak of an original and a translation. The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette is not a so much a translation of his Persian Ādāb-e ziārat as a separate work emerging from the same creative process” (Beard, p. 448). The two novels have close thematic affinities with Yakolyā and Her Loneliness, but they also begin to link the theme of inner exile with the realities of cross-cultural existence. (ʿĀbedini, II, pp. 944-51, Rahimieh, pp. 34-36; Yavari, p. 586).

The Book of Absent People chronicles the life of a family through the eyes of a young male protagonist at once in and apart from the family and its secrets. The central character of The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette, Hādi Bešārat is a retired Iranian university professor who immerses himself in the study of ancient languages and history. Set against the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war, the novel explores Bešārat’s increasing withdrawal from reality into a distant past and dead languages. Paradoxically, Bešārat’s only interlocutor is an American colleague who had once urged him to move to the United States and to whom he admitted that away from his culture he would become barren like a quince-orange tree. The letters exchanged between the Iranian and the American reveal traces of a journey within, associated with angels and the world of the spirit.

Modarresi’s last, and as yet unpublished novel, ʿAzrā-ye ḵalwat nešin (The Virgin of Solitude), also revolves around the themes of loneliness and inner exile that runs through Modarresi’s fiction. The novel is about a young boy, Nuri, who along with his sister moves into his grandparents’ house at the age of twelve after his father is killed in a car accident and his mother moves to New York. Nuri’s grandfather is from an old and well-connected family who worked his way into the Pahlavi establishment by becoming a Senator. For the young Nuri, his Austrian grandmother is a source of immense mystery. After many years of living in Iran and speaking Persian, even the closest members of the family call her Madame. This is a sign of respect, but it becomes a perennial reminder of her being different and other. Nuri wants to know more about his grandmother, but is also frustrated by the distance between them. She speaks a very formal, albeit accented Persian. The reams of proverbs and verses she has memorized she casually throws into conversation, making it difficult for Nuri to understand and know her. As Nuri grows older he develops a fondness for Madame’s bizarre Persian and enters into a different relationship with her. Toward the end of the novel, Madame becomes ill and begins to lose her command of Persian, but this gradual loss of language does not constitute a rupture in the relationship between Madame and Nuri. Interestingly Madame’s decline coincides with the turmoil of the revolution in Iran, and the narrative depicts members of Nuri’s family who are equally caught off guard and, like Madame, have no language for describing the radical changes sweeping their lives. Ironically, it is no longer only Madame who is a stranger in the family, as other members of the family find their identity and sense of belonging challenged. The loneliness and aloofness they had always associated with Madame and explained away as rooted in her status as a foreigner now pervades their own life. Modarresi enjoyed favorable reviews of his fiction in American literary magazines. Most critics remarked on the uniqueness of his voice that served as a constant reminder of the linguistic and cultural gulf between the English reader and the world described in his novels. In her review of The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette, for instance, Anita Desai writes: “There are constant reminders, in Modaressi’s prose, that the writer is not a native speaker of English” (p. 45). Christina Robb also comments on the nature of his writing style: “Modarressi writes like a poet in translation, with idiomatic grace and yet with a hint of grief about what is being lost or only stabbed at because the language is not Persian or at least Arabic” (p.12). Some Iranian critics have also detected signs of his distance in his prose style. In his review of The Book of Absent People, for instance, Mašiyat ʿAlāiʾi points to “evidently non-Persian expressions” which “carry the essence of their origin in English” (p. 54). One particular Persian editorial lambasted him for ridiculing Islam and misrepresenting post-revolutionary Iran in The Book of Absent People (Šariʿatmadāri, p. 19). By and large Iranian and American reviewers of Modarresi’s fiction would appear to have picked up on the sense of alienation Modarresi describes as the lot of all those who straddle two languages and cultures: “[M]ost immigrants, regardless of the familial, social, or political circumstances causing their exile, have been refugees all their lives. They leave because they feel like outsiders. Perhaps it is their personal language that can build a bridge between what is familiar and what is strange” (p. 9)

Modarresi’s novels have also reached international audiences through translations. The Book of Absent People has been translated into French (Paris: Editions Stock, 1987), German (C.H. Beck: Frankfurt, 1988) and Danish (by Viby J.: Centrum, 1988). The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette was also translated into French (Paris: Editions Stock, 1994) and Danish (Viby J.: Centrum, 1990).

As Modarresi was engaged in writing The Virgin of Solitude, he was diagnosed with chronic lymphoma. In 1996 he retired from the University of Maryland and devoted more time to his fiction. He succeeded in completing The Virgin of Solitude before his death on April 23, 1997. Modarresi is survived by his wife, Anne Tyler, and two daughters, Tezh and Mitra. His private library was donated in his memory to Duke University.

Bibliography: Ḥasan ʿĀbedini, Ṣad sāl dāstān nevisi dar Irān, 3 vols. Tehran, 1998. Mašiyat ʿAlāi, “Gozāreš-e yek marg.”, Donyā-ye Soḵan, 23, Tehran, 1988, pp. 52-55. Michael Beard, “English iv. Translation of Modern Persian Literature,” EIr, VIII, p. 448.ʿAli Dehbāši, “Goftogu bā Taqi Modarresi,” Kelk, 61-64, Tehran, 1995, pp. 270-286. Anita Desai, “Head to Come,” review of The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette in The New Republic, 4 December 1989, p. 44. Hasan Kamshad, Modern Persian Prose Literature, Cambridge, 1966, p. 131. Taqi Modarresi, “Writing with an Accent,” Chanteh 1 (1992), pp. 7-9. Nasrin Rahimieh, “Personal Reading of Alienation in Taghi Modarresi’s Novels,” Chanteh no. 14, Spring 1997, pp. 34-36. Christina Robb, “Immersed in Persian Culture,” review of The Book of Absent People in The Boston Globe, 7 March 1986, p.12. Ḥosayn Šariʿatmadāri, “Siāsatgorizi-e našr-e ketāb wa zāviya nešinān-e forṣat ṭalab.” Keyhān havāʾi, 27 June 1990, p. 19. Alice Steinbach, “The Secret Life of Babies,” in The Baltimore Sun, 10 November 1996, pp. 1J -4J. Ehsan Yarshater, “Persian Letters in the Last fifty Years (1910-1950), in Critical Perspectives on Modern Persian Literature, ed. Thomas M. Ricks, Washington D.C., 1984, 448-457. Houra Yavari, FICTION, ii-Novel, EIr IX, p. 572.

t and psychiatrist who made his literary debut with the publication of his first novel, Yakolyā wa tanhāʾi-e u (Yakolya and Her Loneliness, 1955). He was born to Esmāʿil Modarresi, a lawyer, and Rāżia Ṭabāṭabāʾi, a great grand daughter of Sayyed Moḥammad Ṭabāṭabāʾi, a noted progressive cleric of the Constitutional Revolution era (1906-11 q. v.).

Two years after the young Taqi had begun elementary school, his father passed away, leaving behind a widow and three sons who subsequently moved into Modarresi’s maternal grandfather’s house. In an interview with ʿAli Dehbāši, Modarresi speaks of the unfortunate convergence of family misfortune and the hardships visited upon Persia because of the Allied occupation of the country, as well as, his early exposure to an intellectual and literary world: “Those days, our home was a gathering place for a few opponents of Reżā Shah’s regime. Frequently I would sit and listen to them until I fell asleep. Other times, my mother would gather us around her and read to us from Neẓāmi’s Haft peykar” (Dehbāši. p. 272). Later his grandfather’s personal library provided him with a wealth of reading material, some of which inspired his literary creations.

Modarresi completed his schooling in ʿOnṣori Elementary and Rahnemā High School in Tehran. Although he would have preferred to continue his post-secondary education in literature, he was accepted in the medical Faculty of Tehran University where he completed his studies in 1959. His interest in writing fiction can be traced back to his high school years and the publication of a collection of short stories, Dāʾemolḵamr (Perpetually Drunk), in 1948. He went on to write another story entitled Sāyahā-ye vojud “Shadows of Being” which was however, never published.

Modarresi contemplated writing his first novel after the overthrow of the Moḥammad MosÂaddeq cabinet in 1953, to which Modarresi alludes in his interview with ʿAli Dehbāši as a period of political disillusionment (Dehbāši. p. 272). In addition to the personal and political sense of disenchantment, Modarresi identifies his familiarity with the Persian translation of the Bible, Ketāb-e moqaddas, as the motivating force behind the creation of Yakolyā and Her Loneliness. The language of the novel echoes that of the 1904 translation of the Bible, and Modarresi uses it effectively to create masterful turn of phrases and descriptions. He completed the writing of this novel within three months while he was a medical student and had taken a small position at a bank to better support himself during his studies. A newly established publishing house, Nil, founded by Abu’l-Ḥasan Najafi, one of Modarresi’s closest friends, published the novel which was awarded Soḵan Magazine’s literary prize that same year (Dehbāši, pp. 272-73).

Drawing on Biblical themes, the novel narrates the story of Yakolyā’s banishment from Jerusalem for having fallen in love with a shepherd. Her father, the king of Jerusalem, orders Yakolyā’s expulsion for fear that her single-minded devotion and passion would incite others to turn away from the worship of God and observance of His laws. In her wanderings through the desert, Yakolyā encounters a rather benevolent Satan who, while consoling her, explains that her loneliness and, in fact, that of all human beings has been pre-ordained by God. He tells Yakolyā that her longings stem from a desire to escape this pre-destined lot of loneliness and that she is being punished for disobeying the destiny of all of humanity to be and feel alone in themselves. As Peter Avery points out in a review included on the back-cover of the novel, Modarresi’s treatment of the figure of the Satan is itself worthy of note: “Modarresi’s Satan, who is not unlike Milton’s Satan, wins our respect. Although he is not above impunity and he does not shy away from resorting to ruse and overly prides himself on his original dissent, he is respectable and good natured” (Modarresi, Yakolia).

Both the subject matter and style of Yakolyā marked a departure from the currents of Persian prose fiction of the period. Writing in 1960 about the trends in modern Persian fiction, Ehsan Yarshater cites Modarresi’s first novel as a sign of emerging talent: “The author shows preoccupation with universal themes rather than with particular contemporary problems. Specifically, he deals with the personal question of good and evil. He takes up a Bible story and, including no lesser beings than God and Satan among his characters, skillfully dramatizes the human dilemma of choice between the appeal of pleasure and the call of duty” (Yarshater, p. 457). In his Modern Persian Prose Literature, Hasan Kamshad also emphasizes the innovative nature of Yakolia and Her Loneliness: “It was one of the few original works of literature to appear in the later fifties, when most prose fiction took the form of translations of foreign works, and when Persian writers, possibly apprehensive of official censorship, seemed chary of writing. By selecting a biblical theme, Mudarrisi was able to give his story a remoteness that enabled him to write about fundamental human problems in a manner that carried no political import” (Kamshad, p. 131). Kamshad also emphasizes the psychological depth of Modarresi’s novel: “What is surprising is the psychological insight shown by this young writer who is concerned with the problem of man’s loneliness, his fears of the consequences of wrong-doing, and his proneness to follow a beguiling Satan rather than a benevolent Providence. The symbolism of his first novel is unusual and expertly handled” (Ibid.). In this first novel, we see the core of Modarresi’s concerns, also illustrated in novels he published later in his career, with the themes of isolation and loneliness, which he continued to explore both through his fiction and his work as a psychiatrist.

Modarresi’s interest in the psychology of his characters is deeply rooted in his belief that “there was a connection between psychiatry and writing” (Steinbach, p. 4J). He developed a fascination with the field of psychiatry when a close friend and fellow student became afflicted with a psychosis: “That was a very traumatic experience. He was one of the brightest students of all of us. So I went to see him and got interested.” (Ibid.). His interest in psychology drew him to researching zār, the traditional means of treating psychological illness, practiced in the Persian Gulf region of Iran. While visiting villages and collecting material for his thesis, Modarresi had an encounter that changed the course of his life. Suspecting him of revolutionary and leftist motives, the secret police detained and questioned him and confiscated his tape recordings and notes: “It was a very bad experience, one that left me with a sense of rage and humiliation” (Ibid.). Modarresi left Persia in 1959 for an internship in Wichita, Kansas, followed by a residency in psychiatry at Duke University (1961-1963). At Duke University he met his future wife and now famous American novelist, Anne Tyler. They married in 1963 and, as Modarresi’s visa neared expiration, the couple moved to McGill University, Montreal, where he continued his work in the field of child psychiatry. In 1967 he was appointed to a faculty position at the University of Maryland, specializing in child development. In the late 1980s, Modarresi founded the Coldspring Family Center Therapeutic Nursery, whose work is focused on early intervention and healing of children who have suffered emotionally scarring traumas. In 1982 he also founded the Center for Infant Study at the University of Maryland, known for its pioneering work in exploring the psychological makeup of infants. True to his early intuition, Modarresi’s work as psychiatrist and novelist are deeply intertwined. His interests in pre-verbal communication in infants are reflected in his own experience of cultural transplantation that accompanied what Modarresi described in his essay, “Writing with an Accent,” as a loss of language: “If I wanted to say something, I compared Persian and English words, as dictionaries do. Persian and English words arranged themselves in two parallel lines like dancers in a nineteenth century ballroom, bowing to each other and trying to find a mate…It was almost two decades before I managed to resurface from the avalanche of these new experiences. During this period…I was silent and I felt no urge to write” (Modarresi, p. 8).

In the years that Modarresi devoted to settling into his new life and profession, the only significant literary work he published was Šarif jān, šarif jān (1961), a novel about the life of a traditional landowning family in a small town. It was not until after the 1979 revolution and the mass migration of Iranians to the United States that Modarresi found himself drawn back to fiction .He associates his return to writing with the discovery of what he calls a “new internal voice” which he compares to “the humming we do when we are alone or when we are intrigued by an idea” (Ibid.) This new voice enabled him to recover his literary voice in Persian and determined his approach to the translation of the two of his novels, Ketāb-e ādamhā-ye ḡāyeb (The book of Absent People, New York, 1986), and Ādāb-e ziārat (The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette, New York, 1989), that appeared almost simultaneously in Iran. (Ibid.) Rather than finding equivalent idiomatic expressions in English, for example, he provided literal translations that would be jarring and even incomprehensible to the English-speaking reader. These novels “may represent a special category in which it is difficult to speak of an original and a translation. The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette is not a so much a translation of his Persian Ādāb-e ziārat as a separate work emerging from the same creative process” (Beard, p. 448). The two novels have close thematic affinities with Yakolyā and Her Loneliness, but they also begin to link the theme of inner exile with the realities of cross-cultural existence. (ʿĀbedini, II, pp. 944-51, Rahimieh, pp. 34-36; Yavari, p. 586).

The Book of Absent People chronicles the life of a family through the eyes of a young male protagonist at once in and apart from the family and its secrets. The central character of The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette, Hādi Bešārat is a retired Iranian university professor who immerses himself in the study of ancient languages and history. Set against the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war, the novel explores Bešārat’s increasing withdrawal from reality into a distant past and dead languages. Paradoxically, Bešārat’s only interlocutor is an American colleague who had once urged him to move to the United States and to whom he admitted that away from his culture he would become barren like a quince-orange tree. The letters exchanged between the Iranian and the American reveal traces of a journey within, associated with angels and the world of the spirit.

Modarresi’s last, and as yet unpublished novel, ʿAzrā-ye ḵalwat nešin (The Virgin of Solitude), also revolves around the themes of loneliness and inner exile that runs through Modarresi’s fiction. The novel is about a young boy, Nuri, who along with his sister moves into his grandparents’ house at the age of twelve after his father is killed in a car accident and his mother moves to New York. Nuri’s grandfather is from an old and well-connected family who worked his way into the Pahlavi establishment by becoming a Senator. For the young Nuri, his Austrian grandmother is a source of immense mystery. After many years of living in Iran and speaking Persian, even the closest members of the family call her Madame. This is a sign of respect, but it becomes a perennial reminder of her being different and other. Nuri wants to know more about his grandmother, but is also frustrated by the distance between them. She speaks a very formal, albeit accented Persian. The reams of proverbs and verses she has memorized she casually throws into conversation, making it difficult for Nuri to understand and know her. As Nuri grows older he develops a fondness for Madame’s bizarre Persian and enters into a different relationship with her. Toward the end of the novel, Madame becomes ill and begins to lose her command of Persian, but this gradual loss of language does not constitute a rupture in the relationship between Madame and Nuri. Interestingly Madame’s decline coincides with the turmoil of the revolution in Iran, and the narrative depicts members of Nuri’s family who are equally caught off guard and, like Madame, have no language for describing the radical changes sweeping their lives. Ironically, it is no longer only Madame who is a stranger in the family, as other members of the family find their identity and sense of belonging challenged. The loneliness and aloofness they had always associated with Madame and explained away as rooted in her status as a foreigner now pervades their own life. Modarresi enjoyed favorable reviews of his fiction in American literary magazines. Most critics remarked on the uniqueness of his voice that served as a constant reminder of the linguistic and cultural gulf between the English reader and the world described in his novels. In her review of The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette, for instance, Anita Desai writes: “There are constant reminders, in Modaressi’s prose, that the writer is not a native speaker of English” (p. 45). Christina Robb also comments on the nature of his writing style: “Modarressi writes like a poet in translation, with idiomatic grace and yet with a hint of grief about what is being lost or only stabbed at because the language is not Persian or at least Arabic” (p.12). Some Iranian critics have also detected signs of his distance in his prose style. In his review of The Book of Absent People, for instance, Mašiyat ʿAlāiʾi points to “evidently non-Persian expressions” which “carry the essence of their origin in English” (p. 54). One particular Persian editorial lambasted him for ridiculing Islam and misrepresenting post-revolutionary Iran in The Book of Absent People (Šariʿatmadāri, p. 19). By and large Iranian and American reviewers of Modarresi’s fiction would appear to have picked up on the sense of alienation Modarresi describes as the lot of all those who straddle two languages and cultures: “[M]ost immigrants, regardless of the familial, social, or political circumstances causing their exile, have been refugees all their lives. They leave because they feel like outsiders. Perhaps it is their personal language that can build a bridge between what is familiar and what is strange” (p. 9)

Modarresi’s novels have also reached international audiences through translations. The Book of Absent People has been translated into French (Paris: Editions Stock, 1987), German (C.H. Beck: Frankfurt, 1988) and Danish (by Viby J.: Centrum, 1988). The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette was also translated into French (Paris: Editions Stock, 1994) and Danish (Viby J.: Centrum, 1990).

As Modarresi was engaged in writing The Virgin of Solitude, he was diagnosed with chronic lymphoma. In 1996 he retired from the University of Maryland and devoted more time to his fiction. He succeeded in completing The Virgin of Solitude before his death on April 23, 1997. Modarresi is survived by his wife, Anne Tyler, and two daughters, Tezh and Mitra. His private library was donated in his memory to Duke University.

Bibliography:

Ḥasan ʿĀbedini, Ṣad sāl dāstān nevisi dar Irān, 3 vols. Tehran, 1998.

Mašiyat ʿAlāi, “Gozāreš-e yek marg.”, Donyā-ye Soḵan, 23, Tehran, 1988, pp. 52-55.

Michael Beard, “English iv. Translation of Modern Persian Literature,” EIr, VIII, p. 448.

ʿAli Dehbāši, “Goftogu bā Taqi Modarresi,” Kelk, 61-64, Tehran, 1995, pp. 270-286.

Anita Desai, “Head to Come,” review of The Pilgrim’s Rules of Etiquette in The New Republic, 4 December 1989, p. 44.

Hasan Kamshad, Modern Persian Prose Literature, Cambridge, 1966, p. 131.

Taqi Modarresi, “Writing with an Accent,” Chanteh 1 (1992), pp. 7-9.

Nasrin Rahimieh, “Personal Reading of Alienation in Taghi Modarresi’s Novels,” Chanteh no. 14, Spring 1997, pp. 34-36.

Christina Robb, “Immersed in Persian Culture,” review of The Book of Absent People in The Boston Globe, 7 March 1986, p.12.

Ḥosayn Šariʿatmadāri, “Siāsatgorizi-e našr-e ketāb wa zāviya nešinān-e forṣat ṭalab.” Keyhān havāʾi, 27 June 1990, p. 19.

Alice Steinbach, “The Secret Life of Babies,” in The Baltimore Sun, 10 November 1996, pp. 1J -4J.

Ehsan Yarshater, “Persian Letters in the Last fifty Years (1910-1950), in Critical Perspectives on Modern Persian Literature, ed. Thomas M. Ricks, Washington D.C., 1984, 448-457.

Houra Yavari, FICTION, ii-Novel, EIr IX, p. 572.

(Nasrin Rahimieh)

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