Friday, February 06, 2015

Finished Reading No one Ages in Magadan

I finally finished this memoir by late Dr. Ata Safavi, called No one Ages in Magadan and the reason why I finished it fast, of course, was because the book is in Persian. Before going to any detail I should say that I am completely disappointed both at the guy who is claimed to be the author and the late doctor. I give the book 1.5 out of 5 stars. I have written about the book previously but it was before I read it and based on the available videos on the web. I need to point briefly here that Ata Safavi was a supporter or member of Tudeh Party of Iran, a pro-Soviet party in the country which was active before the WWII days to mid 80's, during the WWII days in northern province of Mazandaran, Iran who intended to immigrate to the former Soviet Union with the hope that he could help his own people to come out from poverty and misery that the ruler of the country had imposed on them for years (Pahlavi Dynasty, the first King).
They travel to the most northern part of the country and intend to cross in to where is known as Republic of Turkmenistan today but before even reaching the border, actually a few ten meters from the borderline, Soviet guards arrest them, take them to the other side and accuse them of unlawful crossing to Soviet Union! With that in place the guys later are taken to the court and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment and labour. He works in a brick factory (not The Brick!) a very physically challenging work where he suffers daily. This is a job for only a few grams of bread and a stable-like sleeping spot. Then the catastrophic earthquake of Ashkhabad happens (1948) which destroys the city completely and many die but he survives. He then faces a new challenge: He and his buddies are now accused of espionage for Iran and the US and he suffers more as a result of long, nightly interrogations and beatings. They deny the allegation but are not able to prove their innocence and all sentenced to 25 years to labour camps of the former Soviet Union or better to say Stalin Hotel! From there he is separated from his buddies and sent more than 10,800 Km away to eastern Russia, a small town called Magadan to work in Coal mines. He and all of his friends plead innocent and dispute the sentence at the time but that does not give him much. His sentence then would be reduced to 10 years in labour camps.
This is the first part of the book and this separation is by me. Neither the intelligent author nor the narrator has done this. In fact what these two guys did was the doctor wrote him letters based on what had been left in his mind and this idiot, called Atabak who lives in Sweden, took them to a publisher and get them published without any edit or effort at all! The other thing you realize shortly after he starts his story is that he nags constantly about whatever happens to him. I have not read many memoirs and I understand this is the story of someone’s life who suffered a lot in the notorious labour camps of the former Soviet Union but would you shut up and finish the damn story already?!
His story from beginning smells fishy! If he intended to go the Soviet Union to study and learn a better life why didn't he apply through their embassy? This was due to the Soviet propaganda conveyed to them through Tudeh Party, according to him. This nagging is continuously bugs you throughout the book in a way that even the author complains about it but he instead of doing a little edit and separating the useless parts from the useful parts, just sits still and waits for the money to come to him, the poor bastard! Then the story reaches this stage that Stalin dies and the majority of the prisoners are forgiven. He struggles to leave North Pole, as he indicates repeatedly but manages to get himself a bit further south to another town where he is helped by K. G. B. to get a job and stays there for a little more than a year. The book lacks a structure and for an emotional guy like Ata, it is extremely difficult to follow a certain path, tell a story and moves on to the next time period. He loses the track of the time and at times mixes the events and dates. At each and every stage he indicates that this part of story requires a separate book to be told because he has so many things in his mind that he cannot organize and categorize them. This actually is the job of the author to sit with the narrator to help him to get this organization done but obviously he’s a jerk who has no clue as what he has to do. I read a big part of It Doesn't Take a Hero and although its a complete different type of story you see a structure that the whole story is based upon. 
Anyways the next step in his life is moving to Tajikistan and while many prisoners leave the country to go back to their homeland he stays in Dushanbe and goes to the medical school to become a physician. He continuously calls the former Soviet Union the Stranger-Killer Country but instead of going back to Iran and continues his life in there, stays in Tajikistan and according to him starts the medical school, again, I insists and repeat here, with the help from K. G. B.! What a jerk conspirator! Although he never provides any reason as why he decides to stays he indirectly states that he believed he should get something from this country that had taken everything from him, most importantly his youthful! He accuses many others to be K. G. B. informants but never states whether he had to give anything in return to the K. G. B. for letting him stay in the country!
There are so many contradictions and incorrect information in the book, particularly after he finishes working in the coal mines of Magadan and that increases throughout the second part of the book. There were pages that I passed quickly without reading through mainly because he basically nags and complains without telling the story and brings poems! One thing I have in mind is although these books of labour camps and Gulag and such are old now and there are many available in the market, maybe I should translate and edit the book and make it ready to be published. I came across a similar book the other day called Within the Whirlwind which a movie has also been made based on that although not a very famous one. Maybe I read the book to see if the prisoner who was Russian woman nags as much as this conspirator or not and then make a wise decision!
(Photo: This map shows where town of Magadan is located in Russia. Someone apparently loves it!)

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