The story of The House of the Mosque is based around the family of Aqa Jaan, who live in a house next to a mosque in Senejan, Iran, and have taken care of that mosque for generations.
In the first half of the book, the reader gets acquainted with this family. In the second half of the book, all of that changes. The Iranian revolutions tears the country apart, as is shown through the devastation of the family living in the house of the mosque.
There is a definite shift between the first and second half of the book and the reader is left in no doubt of the author’s opinion on the revolution. And yet, Abdolah doesn’t spell it out for you. It feels as if he shows rather than tells. The prose, which is sparse and simple and yet manages to paint this world that is almost magical in the first half of the book, is interspersed with descriptive, but very direct, passages, in the second half of the book.
I find this very hard to explain, just like the premise of the story is hard to summarize, but Abdolah’s style feels very different from that of ‘regular Dutch authors’. Maybe it is because he is an Iranian refugee which makes him look at the Dutch language differently? I don’t know. It is just.. He manages to paint whole worlds through the use of such short sentences..
There is a lot I could remark on in this book: the fairytale-like grandmothers, the emotional journey this book takes you on, the surprise and almost awe I felt when I realised that the letter from Shahbal has a very autobiographical tone to it.
There is so much to this story, but I don’t want to analyse it, I simply want to treasure it. I think – or rather know – I have found my favourite book of this month, and definitely one of a few favourites this year. I do believe Kader Abdolah is slowly becoming a true favourite of mine. And you know what I just realised? As jealous as I often am of you UK bloggers, I have at least one advantage: I have a lot more books by Abdolah to look forward to, since unfortunately, not many of his books are translated yet.
Want to read a proper review instead of me simply stating that this is a favourite and that you need to read it and that I cannot explain it, but that I loved it? Try the reviews at Savidge Reads and Lizzy’s Literary Life. Lizzy also posted an interview with Kader Abdolah last year.
And if it turns out you’d like to try the book yourself, be sure to post a link to your post on Dutch Lit Month on the Giveaway Post, where you’ll be able to win this book.