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Aga Akbar, the youngest of seven children and the illegitimate son of a Persian nobleman, is a deaf-mute. He makes use of a rudimentary sign language to get by in the world, but his deepest thoughts and feelings go unexpressed. Hoping to free the boy from his emotional confinement, his uncle asks him to visit a cave on nearby Saffron Mountain and to copy a three-thousand-year-old cuneiform inscription -- an order of the first king of Persia and the destination of many pilgrimages. Through the rest of his life, Aga Akbar uses these cuneiform characters to fill his notebook with writings only he can understand.
Years later, his political-dissident son, Ishmael, has been forced to flee Iran. From his new home in the Netherlands, he attempts to translate the notebook, and in the process he tells his father's story, his own story, and the story of twentieth-century Iran -- from the building of the first railroad to the struggles for power among the shah, the communists, and the mullahs, and ending with the revolution.
Rich in the myths of Persia and peopled with characters of rare archetypal power, this stunning and ambitious novel by Kader Abdolah masterfully charts a culture's troubled voyage into modernity. Just as poignantly, it is a magnificent, timeless tale of a son's love for his father.
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