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Our Books > Romance and Revolution: A Leap of Faith at the Iranian National Ballet, by Clair Symonds
Romance and Revolution: A Leap of Faith at the Iranian National Ballet, by Clair Symonds

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Prod. Code: ISBN 9780986941429

Set against the glamorous backdrop of the Iranian National Ballet Company in 1970s Tehran, awash with money thanks to the generous patronage of the Shah’s wife Farah Pahlavi known as the Shahbanu, ROMANCE AND REVOLUTION is the true story of Clair Symonds, a naïve 19 year old Jewish ballet dancer who grew up in South Africa during the era of apartheid and who sets off to Iran without even knowing where that country is, let alone anything about its rich history and culture. 

Within a few months of her arrival she has met and fallen in love with Arash Alizadeh, a dashing student of architecture five years her senior and whose passion in life, much to his father’s disdain, is classical dance - in addition to being a fierce critic of the Shah’s dictatorial regime.  

Nothing, it seems, can prevent Clair and Arash’s romance from moving rapidly towards marriage - even the opposition of their respective fathers. Having been seduced by the charm and allure of her dashing Iranian knight, Clair fails to take a stand against the Alizadeh family’s policy of keeping her Jewishness strictly under wraps. There were dark mutterings, even from Arash, of the Holocaust being a myth to justify the existence of Israel and to dampen down sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians.

Not that such grand issues are of much concern to Clair - she is preoccupied with dancing the role of Zarema in The Fountain of Bakhchesarai and the great ballet classics which are part and parcel of the company’s lavish repertoire. Besides, she is hopelessly in love and any criticisms of Arash’s increasingly erratic behaviour fall on deaf ears.

But Arash proves to be considerably more charming in courtship and seduction than in wedlock and matrimony - Clair seeing herself thrown into the arms of her new family rather than those of her husband. And in accepting the status quo she reluctantly becomes more sister than wife. Undeterred, Clair decides to marry Arash for a second time.

Does love conquer all? Are religious and cultural differences insurmountable, as many would have us believe, meaning that any union between Jew and Muslim is doomed to failure from the outset?

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