Title: Saved By Beauty: Adventures of an American Romantic in Iran
Author: Roger Housden
Release Date: May 17, 2011
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Travel
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In an effort to understand modern-day Iran, Roger Housden travels to the country to appreciate its beauty, history, art, and culture, but also to understand the politics and mindsets of the modern day Iranians.
Iran is a country I’ve always been intrigued by. It seems like it’s exotic and cultured, yet that romantic view is tempered by the knowledge of its repressive religious regime. As a result, when I heard about Saved By Beauty by Roger Housden, I jumped at the chance to read a firsthand account of someone who took the time to journey to the country and get to know its people and history.
Housden is a poet, and it shows in every aspect of his travelogue. From his lyrical writing and lush, vivid descriptions to his constant discussion of the Iranian Sufi poets Hafez and Rumi, it’s clear that poetry is very important to Housden. What impressed me, though, was how crucial poetry is to the Iranians as well. It seemed like everyone Housden met was quoting Rumi or asking him for his favorite Hafez. It made for a wonderful common ground for Housden to really relate to the Iranians he met, and it also was a great example of how cultured a people the Iranians are.
I also appreciated how far and wide Housden traveled in order to get a sense of the Iranians, and to just have the chance to talk to people who interested him. Yes, he went to the expected Tehran and Shiraz, but he also journeyed to Kurdistan, to Ahwaz in Mesopotamia. I loved how much he wanted to soak in the country, how his curiosity and natural sense of adventure made him want to take advantage of every opportunity. His descriptions were wonderful, and I felt privileged to merely be along for his glorious ride.
Housden paints a picture of a modern Iran, bursting at the seams with culture and creativity. A new generation of young people are less willing to bend to the whims of a restrictive regime. They love America and want to be a part of the wider, secular world. It’s a really nuanced and detailed picture that Housden presents to the reader, but most of all it’s one of love. It’s clear he adores this country he visits, and though parts of it frighten and overwhelm him, he delivers a fitting tribute to its vibrant culture and history.