When Shokoofeh Azar was five she would play a game that involved jumping on squares drawn on the floor. If she landed on a particular one, she would have to say what she would do when she was an adult. Perhaps because her father was a poet and translator, she would always say she wanted to be a writer and a traveller.
Now Azar, who escaped Iran and came to Australia by boat in 2010, has been shortlisted for the International Booker Prize for her first novel, The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree. The prize, which is worth £50,000 ($102,000) and awarded to a novel translated into English, is shared between the writer and the translator of the winning book.
This poses a problem as the novel was written in her native Farsi and her translator remains anonymous. The translator travels frequently to Iran and would be banned if their name came out.
‘‘My translator actually said if the book wins then maybe they would reveal their name, which would mean they wouldn’t be able to go back to Iran.’’
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree is a magical realist novel about an intellectual family in Iran after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 which brought the theocratic regime to power. It has not been published in Iran because of its criticism of the government.