Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I managed to finish 'House of Sand and Fog' while I was away in Donegal over the past few days. It is a brilliant read and at some points it was more like a thriller. The last 70 pages maybe aren't as good as the rest of the book but it certainly does raise some interesting questions. There is a good contrast between the characters, on the one hand the honest ex-colonel of the corrupt shah regime and on the other the corrupt US police officer from the supposed honest police force.

As I said before the Iranian viewpoint is intriguing, the author learnt persian and read about Iranian culture and it is quite perceptive the way the emigrant is always looking back to the old country, trying to figure out if he was right to have been doing the things he was doing.

Essentially the story is about the struggle to do the right thing, what is best, to fight for your family, or to help other people. I must admit I found myself supporting the main character and feeling that it was greatly unfair to force him out of the rewards that he had fairly achieved.

Another issue raised in the story is the idea of individual responsibility. Can an individual stay good in what is a thoroughly bad / corrupt institution. Is it not better to look around and accept that you cannot remain unblemished by surviving inside an organisation that has gone essentially wrong. Or is something like a government so large that there will always be corrupt sectors and good sectors. All this gets complicated when it is not only the individual but the family he / she is supporting. Also you might argue that the best way to change something is from inside rather than staying separate and trying to change it from outside. The impression from the story is that the main character felt he was a 'good' man working in a corrupt institution. Although he may have had suspicions that something was not right he was happy to accept a large salary and support his family. When the revolution came his best friend and all his family were shot and now as he looks back he has to wonder whether he was doing the right thing.

Aside from that I don't really want to tell the whole story here, it has to read and I must admit the writing is good but for me it was the story that made it - un-put-down-able!

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