It is the nineteenth century and the kingdom of Persia is at a turning point. When a young King, Shah Naser, takes to the throne he inherits a medieval, enchanted world. But beyond the court, the greater forces of colonisation and industrialisation close in. The Shah’s grand vizier sees only one solution – to open up to the outside world, and to bring Persia into modernity. But the Shah’s mother fiercely opposes the vizier’s reforms and sets about poisoning her son’s mind against his advisor. With bloody battles, intrigue and extraordinary characters, The King brings a historical moment brilliantly to life. Reading as fairy tale and shedding light on a pivotal period in history, The King confirms Kader Abdolah as one of the world’s most engaging storytellers. (Goodreads)
I’ve loved Kader Abdolah’s writing since I first read The House of the Mosque many moons ago. His style of writing and use of language is unique, and whenever I read any of his works I feel as though I’m being taken on some sort of magical journey (and yes I do realise how cheesy that sounds). His books always have some connection to Iran, or take place entirely in Iran, and this one is no exception. The story takes us to 19th century Persia, a country ruled by the young Shah Naser. The country is on a turning point of modernisation and industrialisation, but the Shah is weary of these rapid changes, and prefers to pretend he’s still living in the medieval fairytale-like country whose throne he has inherited from his father. His grand-vizier, however, does realise that the country is in need of some much needed change, and that if nothing is done their power and autonomy will be threatened by colonial superpowers such as Great Britain. The story finds a perfect and harmonious balance between an historical account and a thrilling story, which makes for a great read. Abdolah has truly perfected the art of storytelling, and his books are always a joy to read.
I had the honour of meeting Kader Abdolah at the Edinburgh International Book Festival back in August, which I still need to write a blog post about. He’s a truly fascinating man with an incredible life story, and his novels are a testament to his achievements. I would urge everyone to read at least one of his books, even if you don’t have a special interest in Iran. I assure you that you’ll be swept away by his writing and beautiful turn of phrase.
As this was the first time I read one of his works in the English translation (I usually read them in the original Dutch), I need to acknowledge the translator, Nancy Forest Flier, who did an amazing job in maintaining his unique style of writing, and made the translation just as pleasurable to read as the original.