Also, today on the "Behind the Book" feature for AMONG THE RUINS, I'd like to introduce you to the Siosepol bridge in Esfahan. Esa Khattak meets the young dissidents Ali and Taraneh near this bridge that spans Iran's Zayanderud River. "They disembarked at the south end of Siosepol Bridge, a Safavid construction mounted on a series of pontoons. Its thirty-three arches burned like the embers of a giant's torch, an auroral glow reflected in the river. If a sorcerer had flung open his hand, so might the arches of Siosepol have sprung up."
Today on 'Behind the Book', I'm skipping ahead in AMONG THE RUINS to the part where Rachel joins Esa in Iran. They meet in Tehran but soon Rachel finds herself on a group tour visiting the Nasir al-Mulk or Pink Mosque of Shiraz, where she's forced to confront her preconceived notions of Iran. In the Pink Mosque, she finds "ample tranquility, an amphitheater of joy", and she asks herself what such celestial beauty has to tell us about the culture and civilization of the Other. Here's a rendition of the Pink Mosque's unique architecture. If anyone recognizes the photographer, I'd love to include a proper credit.
Today I’d like to inaugurate a ‘Behind the Book’ feature , where I talk about certain moments, themes or places in each of my books. Given that an election is taking place in Iran, it’s the perfect time to chat a little more about AMONG THE RUINS, the third book in my Khattak/Getty mystery series. As RUINS opens, Khattak is in the city of Esfahan in Iran, a breathtakingly beautiful, former imperial capital. There’s a saying known to all Iranians, and possibly to all speakers of Persian/Farsi: Esfahan nesf-e-jahan…or Esfahan is half the world. In fact, it is with these words that RUINS begins. As Khattak seeks peace in the city’s gardens, he receives a mysterious letter urging him to read the poetry of no less a personage than the revered figure of Hafiz. Khattak’s correspondent observes that instead of reading Hafiz, Khattak has a different book. He's traveling his own ‘closed circuit.’ This is a reference to a book of poems by the Iranian poet, Shadab Vajdi. I was given this volume of poetry by a friend when I was in law school, and the haunting beauty of those poems has stayed with me. Though the poems in Closed Circuit reference a previous era in Iran, their themes of exile and oppression translate to the present moment Khattak finds himself in, and to the murder he’s asked to solve. Here’s a look at the Naqsh-e Jahan square in Esfahan, where Khattak passes his days.