Poets & Pahlevans - A Journey Into the Heart of Iran
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LikeReading Lolita in TehranandHoneymoon in Purdahbefore it – an evocative exploration of the vibrant heart of Iran, and the paradoxes that reside in its history and contemporary life. Long fascinated by Iran’s history of poetry and wrestling, Marcello Di Cintio sets out on a quest to find out how two such seemingly disconnected activities flourish together. In small towns and large cities, he visits wrestling halls or “zurkhanes” and small community clubs, where he meets many pahlevans, “master wrestlers,” and attends matches in halls adorned with art and preambled by the reciting of poetry. Di Cintio portrays the rich history and contemporary life of Iran, a country most often considered inaccessible and forbidding. From smoky teahouses to sacred mosques, he finds a country divided, literally segregated, by the Islamic Revolution of 1979. His journey is a collection of unforgettable moments and images: a long ride with a philosophical cab driver, a reverie with a pair of drunken students; a night spent among the mourning inhabitants of a mountain village; an encounter with ancient bronze treasures destined for foreign museums; a last ramble in the ancient quarters of Bam, and a subsequent visit there after a tragic earthquake. As in his award-winning first book,Harmattan: Wind Across West Africa, Di Cintio finds himself relying on the kindness of strangers, and drawn into their stories. In seeking out the ideals of the pahlevan, he searches for the link between art and physical masculinity. Along the way, he even finds himself on a wrestling mat or two. As in the best travel literature,Poets and Pahlevansexplodes long-held preconceptions, and humanizes a place by revealing the contradictions at its heart.
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