The House of the Mosque by Kader Abdolah
Finished reading on December 16th, 2013
“The House of the Mosque” tells the story of the people living in the house of the mosque in the city of Senejan in Iran.
The story starts in 1969 when a boy is trying to convince the old imam of the mosque that he has to keep up with the news of the world and that he should watch the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. We get to know the imam, his family and other people living in the house of the mosque who in the duration of the story have to deal with a lot of hardships as Iran is going through a lot in it’s history. For about ten years we get to know the inhabitants of the house and when revolutionary activities starting 1977 there are the young men who we first met as kids a few chapters ago.
There are the demonstrations against the shah Pahlavi who was supported by United States who gets overthrown in a few years and the dynasty is replaced by an Islamic republic.
The lives of the poeple of the house of the mosque aren’t easy as the young men take part in some of the revolutionary activities and even in communist movements and get stuck in the middle of events they couldn’t have thought would happen.
As the old imam of the mosque dies he is replaced by the young imam Ahmad, fresh from his studies. Ahmad is popular among the ladies and is unfortunately stuck in the claws of an opium addiction which helps him preach with the power and might to inspire people. However Ahmad gets framed by the secret police and in order to not end his career he has to agree to work for the secret police. He does get out of that incident without really becoming an informer thanks to his uncle Aqa Jaan, who is the caretaker of the mosque.
There seem to be so many storyline going on at the same time in the book so it’s a little difficult to navigate in it.
People get arrested because of being in a village called the Red Village as the people there are supporters of communism and that ofcourse is seen as a huge threat to the country.
As the revolution progresses there are other powers that come into play. Now there are a lot of executions of the people who committed crimes under the previous power and people who worked with the secret police are seen as criminals and Ahmad is tried for having been an informer although he really wasn’t one.
The story is really complex, the history and politics behind it need a lot of thought, as do the names of the people.
For me it was a bit difficult to follow the story as the names are from a different culture and it’s rather difficult to guess whether for example Khalkahl, Shahbal and Qodsi are male or female. Only by the end of the book it got easier (as there weren’t too many of the original characters left)
I think it is a good read, although a lesson in history about the 1960s-1980s in Iran would come in handy before reading the book, or maybe after. I would definitely recommend reading it to people who are interested in the countries and people of the Middle East.