The Bewildered Cameleer

Translated from the Persian by Pouneh Shabani-Jadidi and Patricia J. Higgins

Series: Bibliotheca Iranica: Persian Fiction in Translation 22
Availability: In stock
Published: 2023
Page #: xii + 320
Size: 5.5 x 8.5
ISBN: 978-1-56859-372-2
appendix, glossary


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Quick Overview

The Bewildered Cameleer is a novel by Iran’s first and best-known Iranian female novelist and short-story writer, Simin Daneshvar (1921-2012). Published in Tehran in 2001, it is the second book of what was intended to be a trilogy. The translation of the first book of the trilogy, Island of Bewilderment, has recently been published by Syracuse University Press (2022). Unfortunately, the manuscript of the third book has been lost since 2007. While The Bewildered Cameleer includes most of the same characters featured in Island of Bewilderment, it is not necessary to have read the first book in order to understand and appreciate the second. Each book stands on its own as a complete novel.

The Bewildered Cameleer takes place in Iran (primarily Tehran) during the last few years of the Pahlavi regime and the first years of the Islamic Republic (approximately 1976 to 1981). The story focuses on several young adults trying to work out their personal and familia relationships; to establish their particular stance with respect to political theory and action, philosophical positions, and spiritual beliefs; and to build satisfying lives for themselves in the midst of the significant social, economic, and political pressures of the era. The primary protagonist is Hasti Nourian, a college-educated artist in her late 20s who is somewhat unwillingly drawn into the politics of pre- and post-revolutionary Iran. It is a historical novel, recounting many events of the period vividly and realistically. 

As the book opens, Hasti is in prison largely because of her association with peers politically active in opposition to the Pahlavi regime. Meanwhile, Salim Farrokhi, a suitor whom she recently privately married, is grappling with his feelings about her, especially since she neglected to take advantage of his efforts to rescue her. In the next several chapters we learn more about the events leading up to Hasti’s arrest and her motivations in forgoing the rescue opportunity, and we meet most of the other major characters. We also get a glimpse into the treatment of prisoners, particularly political prisoners, during the Pahlavi era. 

When Hasti returns home, she finds her family life in disarray. Things have deteriorated in part due to her imprisonment and absence, but also due to the increasingly unstable political situation. Some of her friends and family members are packing up to leave the country, while others are becoming more involved in anti-regime political activities, secular and religious.

In the immediate post-revolutionary period, Hasti and her family are caught up in the enthusiasm of some to Islamicize the country and to upend social classes. Through her characters, Daneshvar criticizes the inefficiency, hypocrisy, and lack of compassion of those in power in the immediate post-revolution period, the results of which proved even more disastrous during the first years of the war with Iraq. 


Pouneh Shabani-Jadidi is Instructional Professor of Persian at the University of Chicago. She received a PhD in linguistics from the University of Ottawa in 2012 and a PhD in applied linguistics from Tehran Azad University in 2004. She has published books, book chapters, and articles on linguistics as well as translation and Persian language pedagogy. She is the co-translator of Ali Shabani’s The Thousand Families (2018), Iraj Pezeshkzad’s Hafez in Love (2021), Sohrab Sepehri’s The Eight Books: A Complete English Translation (2021), and Simin Daneshvar’s Island of Bewilderment (2022). She is the editor of The Routledge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition and Pedagogy of Persian (2020) and the co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Persian Linguistics (2018) and The Routledge Handbook of Persian Literary Translation (2022). She served as president of the American Association of Teachers of Persian in 2018-2020. In addition, she serves as a reviewer for the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, the Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science, Lingua, SAGE Open Journal, and Frontiers in Psychology.

Patricia J. Higgins is SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emerita at SUNY Plattsburgh. She holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1969-71 she spent eighteen months in Tehran researching socialization and education in the schools and homes of a lower-middle class community and in 1977-78 ten months as a Fulbright Lecturer at Tehran University. Her work has been published in several journals, as chapters in edited volumes, and as contributions to encyclopedias. She is the co-translator of Ali Shabani’s The Thousand Families (2018), Iraj Pezeshkzad’s Hafez in Love (2021), and Simin Daneshvar’s Island of Bewilderment (2022). She served as editor of Practicing Anthropology for six years and as monograph series editor for the Society for Applied Anthropology for three years, and she co-edited Classics of Practicing Anthropology: 1978–1998 (2000) and four collections of articles on anthropology and precollege education. She is also a co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Persian Literary Translation (2022). As a faculty member at SUNY Plattsburgh, she served eleven years as associate vice president for academic affairs and two years as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.


Simin Daneshvar

Simin Daneshvar was born in Shiraz, Iran, in 1921 and educated at a bilingual English-Persian school. She completed her education at Tehran University, from which she received a PhD in 1949. She is the author of three published novels and five collections of short stories. Her first novel, Savushun, was published in 1969 and soon became the all-time best-selling novel in Iran. It has been translated into dozens of languages. Many of her short stories have also been translated into English and other languages. In addition to writing, Daneshvar taught art history at Tehran University from 1959 to 1979. While many writers of her generation left the country after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Daneshvar continued to live, write, and publish in Tehran until her death in 2012.

Translators’ Introduction

The Bewildered Cameleer

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12


Characters and Persons Mentioned


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