A book review: On Doozakhrafat, on a Fine Parody!

19 Apr 2015

■ Mahmud Farjami
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DoozakhrafatParody, has a well-established tradition within Persian satire, and is often referred to as “naghizeh.” Through parody, the satirist would ridicule an original work, subject, or author, by imitating its style or content. The original work can be a famous poem, an encyclopedia entry, or even a theological myth. Occasionally, strong parodies can become as celebrated as the original, like Ubay Zakani’s “Akhlagh al-Ashraf” (Morals of the Aristocracy), which imitates Nasir al-din Tusi’s “Awsaf al-Ashraf” (Qualifications of Aristocracy), or in the case of Ubayd’s “Resaleh-ye Ta’rifat,” which in fact outshines the parodied work.

A successful parody requires mastery over the style of the work that it satirically mimics. Parodies that transcend a mere ridicule of the original work reflect their author’s thorough knowledge of not only the original style but also the topic that they touch. This mixture, combined with a dose of strong and creative humor can create a genuine work of satire – a hard and delicate process that Sorush Pakzad (penname) has achieved in its fullest capacity in “Doozakhrafat” (Craposyncrasies).

Doozakhrafat contains Sorush Pakzad’s mostly theological parodies in Persian. The collection, which is published in a fine paper-back print and is available on Amazon, was previously posted in his blog – 8sang.wordpress.com. I had been a keen follower of the blog, nonetheless, as soon as I received my copy of the book, I read the entire book again, which offered me hard laughter and deep thought.
In my opinion, Doozakhrafat is indisputably a masterpiece in Persian parody. The author is familiar with Islamic and Semitic religious texts as well as mythologies and symbolism related to Abrahamic religions. Not only does he playfully mimic these sources, but he often parodies a secondary style simultaneously.

In “Khish ra ta’vil kon” (Explicate Yourself) on page 44, his parody of academic reviews of a scientific article is so professional that one may think the author has spent a lifetime as an editor of a peer-reviewed journal. In his design of “Nazarkhahi” (evaluation sheet) on page 81, he obsessively draws the content form religious superstitions and presents it in the form of a typical questionnaire. In his “Khelghat-e adam: faz-e 2” (Genesis Creation: Phase II) on page 91, the imitation of the professional discussions between an architect and a contractor, one in charge of designing and the other constructing the human prototype, becomes twice as funny once the surprise ending is reached. The author’s proficiency in pyramid scheme terminologies especially when applied to his genuine idea of exposing the marketing structure of religious institutions through the ironic case of Moses (Moses, Egypt, Pharaoh, and yes, “pyramids”) makes this short story intriguing and enlightening (page 159).

The author’s objective is not limited to entertainment, negation, or ridicule. Beneath the non-stop humor lies a warning, a concern, and a proposition, maybe not a clear message, but a constant reminder – whispering, “dare to think.”
Like Khayyam, the 12th century Persian poet-philosopher, the author shows affinity to a skeptical/spiritual kind of atheism, yet shows caution not to replace religious superstitions with Sufi dogma. In “Me’raj-e mardan,” (Ascension) on page 127, the author gives Mansur Hallaj, the 10th century icon of Persian Sufism, a thorough mental examination, in a parody of modern psychology.

Sometimes, he injects a fair dose of imaginary events or simple ideas to a mythical text and generates a thought-provoking outcome. For example, in “Ayat-e sheitani” (Satanic Verses) on page 10, he simply makes a sign error in the mathematical logic of a Quranic chapter. Some of his references to contemporary political struggles in Iran, such as the post-election confession of 2009 and the abuses of Kahrizak detention center, are also enjoyable.
One strong feature of Doozakhrafat is its perfect dialogues, which are occasionally between two parties, one of which is often eliminated and the content is indirectly inserted into the responses of the other party.

Finding a coherent pattern for a book containing so many original ideas, polished masterfully and presented in, fortunately, short sections, is difficult. Some of the multi-layered ideas are so strong and well-crafted that had the potential to become a longer story or maybe even a book. Fortunately, Sorush has refrained from doing so and instead he has attacked the topic (i.e. the hidden superstitions of our mind) with quick, strong, and fast punches.
In fact, the invisible connection between the otherwise scattered stories of the book is “demystification of religious myths.” The author of Doozakhrafat blends the mythical theology with religious lumpenism, a task that the creators of such text had unconsciously performed way before bold satirists. All one needs to expose this sarcastic paradox is to look through its bombastic narration: the Almighty creator of heavens and earth who lives in stone box, previously rented to idols, and now depends on holy winged staff, who assist him run his daily errands: Israfil, whose main concern is blowing a trumpet for the resurrection day, while the other one, who is in charge of delivering messages, seems to be retired.

The book is published by H&S Media, with a fine print in 268 pages. I truly recommend buying and keeping and reading and lending this book, so trust in me with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Tehran Review
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