Nassir Djafari’s novel “Mahtab” portrays the life of a migrant mother from Iran in Frankfurt during the late 1960s. Beyond depicting the protagonist’s adjustment to a foreign culture, the novel also provides insight into the transformative changes occurring in Frankfurt during that era. This review explores the novel’s portrayal of Mahtab’s adaptation and its parallel reflection of the evolving landscape of Frankfurt.
Character and Setting:
Mahtab is a nurse in her late 30s, residing in Frankfurt with her family for about a decade. Her husband Amin runs a modest store, while their children attend German schools. The family navigates their identity as immigrants while striving for a prosperous future. As Mahtab grapples with cultural differences, her family members engage differently with their surroundings.
Mahtab remains focused on her family, attending to her children and managing the household. She perceives a contrast between herself and her female colleagues, who prioritize appearance and male attention. Her husband remains informed about global events and pursues business opportunities, even as he exhibits behavior that strains their relationship. Meanwhile, their children adopt local perspectives and embrace the social changes around them.
Djafari deftly intertwines Mahtab’s personal transformation with the evolution of Frankfurt. The city undergoes substantial changes, including the construction of an underground metro system and increasing consumerism. Birth control pills alter social norms, and youthful rebellion gains momentum, fueled by awareness of global conflicts. Frankfurt becomes a multicultural hub, shaped by immigration.
Struggles and Empowerment:
As Mahtab grapples with her husband’s behavior, she seeks refuge with an elderly patient. This separation sparks a journey toward self-confidence and independence. The novel portrays Mahtab’s growing autonomy, as she learns to navigate challenges, such as opening a bank account and taking swimming lessons. The evolving Frankfurt landscape mirrors Mahtab’s own transformation.
As an immigrant himself, Djafari brings authenticity to the narrative. His background influences the portrayal of immigration, cultural adaptation, and family dynamics. “Mahtab” is Djafari’s second novel, following his exploration of a strained father-son relationship.
“Mahtab” offers a captivating exploration of an immigrant mother’s adaptation to a changing cultural landscape in 1960s Frankfurt. Djafari skillfully weaves personal and societal narratives, illuminating the challenges and triumphs of cultural integration. The novel stands as a poignant reflection of the complexities immigrants face while navigating evolving societies.