When he was a boy, Aga Akbar, the deaf-mute illegitimate son of a Persian nobleman, traveled with his uncle to a cave on nearby Saffron Mountain. Once there, he was to copy a three-thousand-year-old cuneiform inscription--an order of the first king of Persia--as a means of freeing himself from his emotional confinement. For the remainder of his life, Aga Akbar used these cuneiform characters to fill a notebook with writings only he could understand. Years later, his son, Ishmael--a political dissident in exile--is attempting to translate the notebook . . . and in the process tells his father's story, his own, and the story of twentieth-century Iran.
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