Home > 1990, 20th Century, Challenges, Iranian Literature, Novella, Pirzâd Zoyâ > Space Between Us by Zoyâ Pirzâd – Meet Edmond and his family in the Armenian community in Iran.

Space Between Us by Zoyâ Pirzâd – Meet Edmond and his family in the Armenian community in Iran.

October 10, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

Space Between Us by Zoyâ Pirzâd (1997) French title: Un jour avant Pâques. Translated from the Persian by Christophe Balaÿ.

This is my last billet about the twenty books I read this summer for Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer challenge. It’s OK, it’s Indian summer at the moment, right?

I hoped to write about Space Between Us by Zoyâ Pirzâd for WIT Month but my TBW pile was too high. The French title of the book is Un jour avant Pâques, The Day Before Easter and it seems to be the direct translation of the original title. And it makes sense.

Born in 1952, Zoyâ Pirzâd is an Iranian writer from the Armenian community in Iran. Her book Space Between Us is set in this community and covers several decades of the main character’s life, Edmond. Three chapters, each set at a key moment of Edmond’s life, all three times around Easter day.

In the first chapter, Edmond is twelve. He’s an only child and lives in a small town by the Caspian Sea. His father is the director of the local Armenian school. Edmond’s best friend is Tahereh, the concierge’s daughter. She’s Muslim but goes to the Armenian school too, since its more practical. A drama will occur in the tight-knit community, forcing Edmond to grow up.

In the second chapter, Edmond is older, married to Marta and they now live in Teheran. They have a grownup daughter, Alenouche who announces that she’ll marry her Muslim boyfriend. Edmond accepts it willingly but Marta is rigid about it, a Christian devout and she takes it as a personal insult.

In the last chapter, Edmond is even older, a widower now. He hasn’t seen his daughter in four years, since her fight with Marta.

Space Between Us is a lovely book. It’s very poetical in its description of childhood, of food and smells. It has a melancholic ring that matches Edmond’s temper. He’s a quiet child, Tahereh is the daring part of their duo. He’s observant too and shares his thoughts about his family and the Armenian community around him. He knows that his mother is not the traditional Armenian mother, she’s not keen on housekeeping and she had to live with a formidable mother-in-law. Edmond’s father is a quiet man too who loves his wife the way she is and never pressures her to comply to traditions but the community, though helpful, is also stifling.

Marta was thick as thieves with Edmond’s grandmother. They shared the same sense of community, a strong will to keep traditions alive and not change anything in their vision of the place of men and women in a couple, the duties children had to pay or the fact that one remained in their community.

The grandmother never liked Edmond’s friendship with Tahereh and Marta didn’t take Alenouche’s engagement well. It felt more like a will to keep the Armenian community alive, not to have it dissolved into the Iranian society than anything else. They are survivors of the Armenian genocide and they have the duty to keep their community and their traditions alive not to lose their identity and lose their history. It would mean forget about their lost country, about the genocide and their tragedy as a people.

Zoyâ Pirzâd doesn’t write a political novel. She writes about the quotidian, its little beauties and the family traditions. She takes us into Edmond’s life, full of ladybugs, friendship, painted Easter eggs and Armenian dishes. He sees family politics with his child’s eyes and, as an adult, lives through it by avoiding conflicts. The French cover of the book, a watercolor is perfect for the book.

Pirzâd’s writing reminded me of Philip Roth’s when he describes the Newark of his childhood or when Peter Balakian remembers his youth in New Jersey among his Armenian family in The Black Dog of Fate, also published in 1997. A community of immigrants in a country with other traditions.

Highly recommended, both Space Between Us and The Black Dog of Fate.

  1. October 10, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    One of my older son’s closest friends at school in France was of Armenian origin and I think it taught my son a lot about maintaining cultural heritage at all costs (both its blessing and its curse), which we as ‘mixed heritage’ parents didn’t do quite so much.

    Like

    • October 10, 2021 at 10:56 pm

      I imagine that it’s different when you emigrated because your country “disapeared” and after a genocide. Keeping the traditions alive is also keeping alive the memory of the old country and the ones who died.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. October 10, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    Sounds extremely appealing (plus I also really like the French cover)! WIT or not, 20 Books of Summer or not, I’m glad you wrote about it. I wonder what the book would have looked like if she had chosen a woman for her main character.

    Like

    • October 10, 2021 at 10:57 pm

      I think you’d like it.
      I wonder too why she didn’t create a woman character and why he’s named Edmond, which sounds terribly French.

      Like

  3. October 11, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    This sounds lovely. The French cover is so appealing, it’s a shame they didn’t keep it for the English language cover too.

    Like

    • October 13, 2021 at 6:04 am

      It’s a great book and very good for WIT Month, it’s not a book from a Western country and it’s nice to read about somewhere else.
      I also think that the French cover is lovely. This publisher usually has great covers.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. October 13, 2021 at 7:44 pm

    Because it was a joint film production between France and Canada, I wonder if you’ve ever seen the 2002 film Ararat which addresses the Armenian genocide? I remember it being very effective and it certainly brought Armenia into my mind for the first time (other than a word on a page, I mean). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ararat_(film)

    Like

    • October 13, 2021 at 8:56 pm

      Sorry but 2002 was made of diapers, baby bottles, sleepless nights and toothing. 🙂 I remember nothing of all the films, books, plays that went out that year.
      I’ll check it out.

      Like

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