April 7, 2003

New novel is Parvin's Dardedel with readers

By Michael Terrazas

Do you know this Persian word, Dardedel?” So asks Manoucher Parvin in the introduction to his new novel, Dardedel: Rumi, Hafez & Love in New York (The Permanent Press, 2003). The word, he goes on to explain, is translated to mean “heart-to-heart talk,” but it is much more than that.

Darde means ache. Del means heart. But put together they mean one and another sharing the most private, sincere and important things,” writes Parvin, a visiting faculty member in economics. “Dardedel unchains us from the burdens of our isolation and loneliness. By uniting our soul with another soul, our deepest thoughts and feelings are set free, without the shame of judgment or fear of betrayal. It is this absolute trust that makes dardedel so special and so sacred.”

Written entirely in verse, Dardedel tells the story of Professor Pirooz, an Iranian-American from New York whose world weariness drives him to the Arizona desert, where he encounters the ancient Persian poets Rumi and Hafez, each “reincarnated” as a giant saguaro cactus. The two poets persuade Pirooz to postpone his plans for suicide, at least for one year, and the professor returns to Manhattan.

Three weeks later Pirooz discovers that Hafez has followed him to the big city, taking on corporeal form as a young taxi driver, and then the professor begins to encounter Rumi reincarnated in any number of modern New Yorkers. The rest of the novel examines this clash of cultures, old and new, East and West, and the lessons to be learned.

“By discussing the nature of modernity with the ancient poets, Professor Pirooz brings the reader in to the same discourse,” Parvin said. “After [Rumi and Hafez] become New Yorkers, I had to speculate how these two geniuses would react to modern life.

“This was not easy,” he continued. “But it was rewarding and fun. Remember, Dardedel is a fiction, although it required more research, thinking and imagination than any of my scientific work.”

A former professor of economics at Fordham and Columbia universities, as well as the University of Akron, Parvin has visited Emory each spring since 1999 to teach his “Political Economy of the Middle East” course. But Parvin has demonstrated a penchant—and a talent—for much more than economics. Dardedel is his third novel; he published Cry For My Revolution, Iran in 1987 and Avicenna and I: The Journey of Spirits in 1996. He’s never studied literature formally, but then he never took an economics course as an undergrad before beginning graduate work in the field.

“The identity of a person is defined by many factors: physical attributes, nationality, religion, ideology, intelligence, possessions‚ profession, etc.,” Parvin said. “Hopefully, identity is also liquid, not frozen. So my profession is, has been, only one aspect or dimension of my identity—I’m also a chess addict!”

Indeed, Parvin said he learned as a child to play several games of chess simultaneously—while blindfolded. This power of concentration no doubt helped him imagine how two poets who died in the 13th and 14th centuries would handle 21st century Manhattan.

“It is also fun to contrast their ancient lives, ideas and poems with the modern ones—not just for me for the readers, too,” Parvin said. “I think modern Iranian thinkers and poets are capable of—or hopefully are capable of—producing long-lasting masterpieces related to modern life.”

Parvin will hold a reading and booksigning of Dardedel on Sunday, April 13, at 7 p.m. in 207 White Hall. For more information, call Devin Stewart in Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at 404-727-4625.