This is a fiercely clever work of fiction.
Magical realism’s reach in literature is long and persistent. Its use as a device through which to filter the horrors of totalitarian regimes, whether in Latin America or Europe, is compelling: think of the better novels of the Chilean-American writer Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits, Eva Luna); any number of the works of the Colombian Gabriel García Márquez; and more recently the Polish Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk (Primeval and Other Times).
It is also a way of exerting authorial autonomy, an act of resistance against revisionist attitudes to history and culture and draconian clampdowns on education, equality, sexuality and gender identity, such as those in Iran from the late 20th century onwards. Shokoofeh Azar’s The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree, set directly after the 1979 Iranian Revolution and recently shortlisted for the International Booker Prize, owes as much to Persian and Arabic lyric storytelling as it does to any political fable, and its central family saga can be found across world literature. (...)