My Uncle Napoleon by Iraj Pezeshkzad
Finished reading on May 27th, 2016
Tehran, 1940s, a young boy falls in love with his uncle’s daughter, who lives in the same area with a large extended family. For the girl however, a better suitor has been found.
The story of the girl and the boy go through the book as a sort of foreground, as it’s narrated by the boy.
Most of the book is taken up by various humorous incidents and quarrels between the family members and their servants etc, with one of the running jokes being the patriarch of the family, who is called Dear Uncle Napoleon by everyone behind his back.
The nickname comes from the uncle’s tales of his time fighting the English, that remind everyone of Napoleon’s achievements. Now however, Dear Uncle Napoleon seems to be getting more and more paranoid by the day, being certain that the English are out to get him. That causes trouble for the boy, since Dear Uncle wants to leave with his family, and the boy and his other uncle – Asadollah Mirza, come up with ways to keep Uncle Napoleon around. That seems to agitate Uncle Napoleon even more.
And then there is the relationship between the boy’s father and Dear Uncle Napoleon, the first keeps fighting with him and causing problems between them (apparently just for fun).
The book has very colourful characters and unexpected situations that are almost tragic, but are more funny at the same time. There are also some unexpected twists in the story.
I enjoyed the book a lot, it is in a way a situation comedy, where the characters have access to guns and firecrackers and one might be threatened by a leg of mutton.
Also it’s interesting to see the family’s behavior towards Indians, the English and Arabs – the latter seem to be in the roles of ‘the guy who gets the girl’, the English are a threat and the Indians are probably spies.
What’s interesting in comparison to some other books that I’ve read (that is partly probably because of the time-period) is almost total absence of religion.
Also, although there are some female characters named, they have very minor parts, even the narrators love interest, Layli doesn’t seem to be really that much part of the story.