|Karolis Strautniekas. Courtesy New York Times.|
MAN OF MY TIME
by Dalia Sofer
“We were a skipped generation, a hiccup in history,” says Hamid Mozaffarian, the narrator of Dalia Sofer’s novel “Man of My Time.” He is on the phone with his brother, who left Iran for New York with their parents during the 1979 revolution, while Hamid, a once idealistic revolutionary, stayed behind. Life has not turned out well for either brother, in a world that is, as another character puts it, “inclining towards darkness.”
Sofer, who was raised in an Iranian Jewish family that left for the United States when she was 11, explored the years shortly after the revolution in her first novel, “The Septembers of Shiraz” (2007). She takes a much longer view in her follow-up, a layered portrayal of a man who through several decades has carried with him the conflicting pieces — beauty and brutality, revolt and repression — of his country’s history.
Hamid accompanies his boss, a government minister, to New York for the United Nations General Assembly, hoping to retrieve from a warehouse in Queens a stolen 16th-century drawing of a pilgrim by the Iranian artist Reza Abbasi. We soon learn the irony of Hamid’s hopeless quest for a work of art whose theft is “a matter of national indignation”: Once an aspiring artist and cartoonist himself, he has spent much of his life as a state interrogator, a “humorless arbiter of fates” silencing Iranian artists.