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The Story of Javid
By Esmail Faseeh

Amir Kabir Press, Tehran, 1981

Book Review

Soroushian, Dr. Mehrborzin



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About the Author.
Esmael Faseeh is a late 20th century Iranian writer of historical novels and short stories. He has written a number of books in Farsi that have been very popular with the readers.  Not much is known about Mr. Faseeh’s personal life or what drove him to his literary career, but through his writings he has demonstrated a unique sensitivity for capturing the story of subjugated people.  His mastery in bringing to life the events in the lives of the subjects of his novels and to touch upon subtle details that properly capture the context for the story is very noteworthy. Mr. Faseeh’s talent in imparting background information is also praise-worthy as he does it so skillfully without digressing from the main topic of his story.

Other thought provoking books by Mr. Faseeh include:

  1. ‘Who destroyed the Truth?’

  2. ‘Unripened Wine’

  3. ‘Blind Heart’.

About the Book.
The Story of Javid is set against the background of late Ghajaric, Iran.  It is the tale of a young Zartoshty boy from a village close to Yazd in search of his missing father. The book captures a historical perspective on the living conditions of the small surviving Zartoshty community in Iran driven to economic destitution through the imposition of harsh and discriminatory rules against them.  It portrays the journey of an innocent young man brought up in a small village where truthfulness is the norm of behavior. He is suddenly thrust into a world beyond the village, filled with duplicity, intrigue and exploitation.  The interactions that ensue, bring out the contrast of two different cultures and outlooks.

The Story.
Javid’s father had been recruited and taken to the capital city of Tehran to work as a trusted house keeper for one of the members of the ruling Ghajar Clan. The job enabled the father to earn enough money to send back to the village for the upkeep of his family.  He came to visit his family every other year, but too much time elapsed since the last visit. Young Javid was uneasy that something bad had happened to his father, and was determined to go to the capital city in search of him. Venturing beyond his village, Javid is accompanied by his uncle.  As they walk in the direction of Tehran, they try to move closely along with the traveling caravans. All of this is new for young Javid, who is challenged to perform his religious rituals of renewing his Kushti in unfamiliar surroundings. Half way through, his uncle decides to turn back, and encourages Javid to do the same but Javid is determined to reach Tehran and find his father.  On arriving in the city of Shahr-e-Ray, he sees a motor car for the fist time in his life.  Motor cars were not to be seen in Yazd in the early part of the 20th century. 

Finally, Javid arrives in Tehran and with sheer determination and good luck, the simple minded Javid, (who gives every person a description of his father), manages to land at the house his father has been employed.  Although no one can tell him about his father, he ends up getting employed.  His youth, trustworthiness, simplemindedness and willingness to work are the factors that get him involved.

Working as a house hand, and staying in the servants’ quarters, a number of years pass by and Javid is still determined to find someone who can tell him about his father.  Amongst the many incidents that take place, an important one is about a teenage Moslem girl from the province, who is a maid and is raped by the landlord of the house.  His wives find out about the illicit relationship, and the ground is set for the execution of the teenage girl on immorality charges, unless someone is willing to marry her. Javid, who feels compelled to save the girl’s life, steps forward, unaware he will be forced to convert to Islam, once he declares his intentions to marry the girl. 

The unfolding of events continues with many twists and turns.  Finally, he finds out that his father was killed and his body disposed of in the capital. Sadly, he is not able to find out the culprit.  Javid finds out that his wife, who he saved from certain death, in a hidden underground room, having an affair with the landlord.  The conclusion of the story sees the girl and older man trapped in the underground room.  Javid, feeling estranged from his heritage, and being betrayed by the same individuals he did so much good for, walks away from the scene of fatal entrapment, feeling vengeful. He is a changed man from the young, truthful person he was when he first stepped into Tehran years ago.

The Story of Javid is a sad and gripping  tale of lost innocence.

Historical Perspective.
The Qajars who ruled Iran from 1794-1920 were a Turkic tribe.  They regarded Iran as their personal property, and moved the center of Iranian political power from Isfahan and Shiraz to a small village at the foot the Alborz ranges, that became known as Tehran.  At the beginning of the Qajar rule, the Zartoshties in Iran still numbered in 100,000 or more.  By mid-19th century during the rule of Nassir-ul-Dinshah, that number had decreased to about 7000, mostly in Kerman and Yazd, due to systematic persecution, and ongoing discrimination.  But in many ways, Nassir-ul-Dinshah’s 48 year long rule was a turning point for the Zartoshties whose fortunes started to turn around. The arrival of Manekji Limji Hataria from India (see Prominent Zartoshties) was an important factor. He managed to win favors with the court and was instrumental in getting the dreaded Jazya (head tax) rescinded.  Soon after, the Zartoshties were able to move up the economical ladder. 

Due to their reputation for honesty and trustworthiness, the ruling Qajar clan who were the first occupants of Tehran, employed Zartoshties to work as house-keepers, as they could trust them with their wives and children.  That is how some of the first generations of Zartoshties in Tehran came to be.  In many cases, their children became very successful in real estate and other businesses. That was the making of a prospering Zartoshty community in the growing capital city.  

Whether Javid’s story is real or not, cannot be known.  However, much of the factors in the story reflect the reality of the circumstances of those times for Iran and its Zartoshty community.