Dreams of a Lost Youth describes the story of the lives of several young passionate students, a playboy; a poet; four students with different ideologies; and a science student in Tehran, Iran, before and after the revolution that toppled the Shah in 1979. It describes how they joined these various groups that opposed the Shah's dictatorship and how they suffered after the revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeini government.
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"Dreams of a Lost Youth" is a book written by Esfandiar Sarfaraz, revealing a captivating
blend of personal memories and reflections on the author's tumultuous past, with a focus on
his teenage years spent in Iran in the 1970s. The book explores Sarfaraz's recurring dreams
that obsess him night after night, providing a fascinating journey through his history and
The novel begins with the confession of dreams that take him back to his past, starting from
childhood and reaching the turbulent college years marked by political events and heated
discussions. Sarfaraz vividly recalls significant people from his youth and events that defined
that period, including political activities and gatherings with friends where portraits of figures
like Che Guevara, Mao Tse-Tung, Lenin, and Stalin accompanied them.
A consistent theme in his dreams is his mother's voice, waking him up every morning at 6
and preparing him for school. This voice becomes a red thread connecting the fragments of
his youth memories. The author reveals his deep desire to rediscover those days of innocence
and enthusiasm but also feels the pain of the tragedies that marked that period.
As the narrative progresses, Sarfaraz explores how his dreams become more bitter, causing
him deep melancholy. He discloses that he started drinking wine on evenings when he felt
overwhelmed by dreams, and writing becomes a form of release and solace for him. The
process of writing about the past brings him not only inner peace but also a wiser perspective
on his own life.
The book unfolds at an uneven pace, traversing different periods of the author's life, yet it
offers a clear picture of the socio-political context in Iran at the time. Sarfaraz introduces us
to Babak and his hometown, Darab, from the very first chapters, providing details about daily
life, culture, and the specific landscape of the region:
“a small town, Darab, located approximately 240 kilometers South of Shiraz, the capital of Fars Province. It is situated between Shiraz and Bander Abbas, which is another 341 kilometers southeast of Darab. At the time of my childhood, Darab had four main streets and many side streets and alleys, but one could easily walk throughout the entire town within two to three hours. The population of Darab and its surrounding villages was around 35,000 back in 1961 when I was nine years old.”
An important chapter focuses on his father's attempt to convince the community to invest
more in local education, emphasizing the need for qualified teachers and a complete high
school in Darab. Through his father's speeches, Sarfaraz reveals dissatisfaction with the lack
of facilities for children, such as parks and cinemas, and underscores the challenging situation
of farmers and the need for modernization in agriculture.
The author expresses gratitude for those who began the fight for justice and peace,
highlighting the importance of reflecting on the past to better understand the present and
shape a brighter future.
The book explores Babak's journey from an unpleasant bus trip to Tehran to meeting Kourosh
and Ardavan in a luxurious apartment. It highlights Babak's choices regarding the decor and
his confrontation with violence at the National University. Continuing with memories and
experiences, the book provides an insight into the young author's life and the changes in
Iranian society. The encounter with Sara and Reza marks the transition to programming and
personal relationships, highlighting the struggle against repressed desires and loneliness.
Memories include details about Vivian cafe and Koorosh Park, revealing the everyday life in
Iran during those years.
The time spent with Ardavan and the story of his poetry bring a change in tone to the
narrative, exploring his sensitivity and differences from Kourosh:
“The sun is sleeping, its eyes have closed,
The night behind the window is awaking.
The fish in the crystal fishbowl is dreaming of the sea.
The dry orchards in the desert are dreaming of the rain.
The night bird with her wailing is singing a song, saying, goodness is dying, evilness is
The book reveals the evolution of the author's personal relationships and his friendship with
Sara. The vibrant narrative style and rich details bring the story to life, giving readers a closer
look into his life and how friendships and relationships have contributed to shaping him as an
Reviewing a significant moment in the life of the friend Ardavan, who becomes famous in
the music world, adds nuances of success and evolution to the story:„A few weeks after we
had our TV room, we were sitting in there, waiting to watch Ardavan on “Ranga Rang.” That
was his first appearance on the show. He wrote lyrics for the famous singer, Googoosh. Here
he came on with Googoosh, who introduced Ardavan as a new, talented songwriter.” The
separation of Ardavan from his roommates marks a shift in the group dynamics and indicates
different paths each character begins to take.
"Dreams of a Lost Youth" explores the author's life amid the tumult of the Iranian
Revolution, outlining personal experiences within the political changes. The protagonist's
relationships and concerns for his friends become central points, emphasizing tension amid
political turmoil, from Kourosh's arrest to the significant decisions of other friends. Profound
changes in the characters' lives add depth to the story, offering a captivating journey from
happiness to political persecution, keeping the reader engaged.
Esfandiar Sarfaraz delves into the complexity of post-revolutionary life in Iran, highlighting
the liberation and challenges brought by political changes. The portrayal of the emotional
impact of the revolution and the characters' struggle in the new political context provides a
captivating and profound perspective.
Furthermore, the author focuses on his father's health and brings to the forefront the
emotional meeting with politically imprisoned friends released from Evin prison. This
highlights their shared experiences and transformations in their post-detention lives, adding
an additional layer of emotion and narrative complexity.
The author explores the complexity of the post-revolutionary situation in Iran, highlighting
criticism of the liberal government and clerical interference. The story includes Keyvan's
painful experience, arrested and tortured for supporting the Mujahedin, highlighting the
tragedy of the July 1988 executions. The narrative continues with the narrator expressing the
desire to visit Khavaran to pay tribute to deceased friends, revealing the poignant content of
“Dear Babak Jan: I wish I was able to write more and more for you, but I don’t think that I am allowed to write more than my will and a goodbye letter to my dear friend.
[...] And do not ever think that I am disappointed about this revolution turning in an
undesirable direction. Even now, I am still fighting. Look at my fate as my share. I am hoping
that someone hears my voice. That is all I have left; I do not give up. Finally, I knew that you
had feelings for me. But we both had different aims in life and, consequently, different
lifestyles. I would have only destroyed the life you made for yourself. Yes, Babak Jan, I
needed a fighter, and you are a peaceful man. I hope that you understand the differences, and
I wish you a happy life. Best of Luck, Your Friend Forever, Sara.”
In the final chapter, the protagonist decides to leave Iran after eleven years under Islamic
dictatorship, embarking on a new chapter on March 1, 1991. He applies for a master's in
physics in the USA and gets accepted at the State University of New York (SUNY) in
Buffalo. Obtaining the visa involves a journey to Turkey, and with financial support from his
mother and a cousin in the USA, the protagonist prepares for his departure.
The epilogue reveals the protagonist's career in the USA, starting with the master's at SUNY,
progressing into the fields of physics and programming. However, haunting memories of his
Iranian past disturb him in his dreams.
The book's conclusion captures the protagonist in a dream full of symbols about the Tehran of
his youth. Trying to find his old roommates and the National University, the dream becomes a
confrontation with the ghosts of the past. In a taxi driven by a driver named Imam Ali, the
journey leads him to a desert instead of the university. This deep and symbolic dream
highlights the dramatic impact of political events on the protagonist and his struggle to
reconcile the past with the present. Despite successfully integrating into a new world,
memories and dreams follow him, emphasizing that the roots of the past can never be
forgotten. It's an emotional and profound conclusion that explores the complexity of a life
marked by dramatic changes.
"Dreams of a Lost Youth" by Esfandiar Sarfaraz receives four stars from The Historical Fiction Company
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