Book Review: 'Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran' by Azadeh Moaveni

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran

By Azadeh Moaveni

Random House. 340 pp. $26

Azadeh Moaveni's voice in "Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran " is at once personal and trustworthy, a hard balance to strike. A Middle East correspondent for Time magazine, Moaveni startled American readers in her first memoir, "Lipstick Jihad," by showing how prohibitions imposed by the Islamic Republic of Iran pushed its citizens to lead underground lives, often obsessed with sex.

This new memoir starts in 2005 with Moaveni returning to Tehran to cover the election that elevated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency. Many people told her they intended not to vote; they believed that the outcome would be manipulated in favor of candidates preferred by the Iranian spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei. Added to that cynicism was their growing apathy, burdened as they were by inflation, widespread corruption and tensions arising from the daily intrusion of government into their lives. Young people dealt with these problems by carving out hidden lives. They threw secret parties where men and women mingled, danced, drank, set up future dates. They obtained Western videos, alcohol and much else from the black market. But living this way came with a price: Any liberties they took were tainted by fear of being discovered and punished.

Moaveni describes her daily battles as a journalist in chilling detail. Throughout her visit she was watched closely by a government agent, Mr. X, who followed her to make sure she was not writing or saying anything against the government. By turns a bully and a prudent, insightful functionary, Mr.X seemed himself to be caught in all the contradictions of the society.

Moaveni's depiction of Iranian society, her keen eye for detail and her astute observations make for exhilarating reading. One finishes the book feeling sad for a people forced to battle against arbitrary and inconsistent rules, but confident that they will obtain the freedom they long for.

--Nahid Rachlin

© 2009 The Washington Post Company