Sorbonne-educated and the author of almost 30 books, Ramin Jahanbegloo, a philosopher of non-violence in the tradition of Tolstoy and Gandhi, was arrested and detained in Iran's notorious Evin Prison in 2006.
A petition against his imprisonment was initiated, with Umberto Eco, Jurgen Habermas, and Noam Chomsky among the signatories. International organizations joined in, and media around the world reported his case extensively. Finally, after four months, he was released.
In this memoir Jahanbegloo recounts his confinement, his fear for his life, and his concern for the well-being of his family. With cockroaches his only companions, he is sustained by the wisdom of the great philosophers and by his memories of childhood in Tehran and coming-of-age in Paris.
Now exiled to Canada, Jahanbegloo wryly observes that he "traded the danger and violence of an Iranian prison for the mediocrity and hypocrisy of a late capitalist society" and finds himself struggling yet again--this time against banality--in his continued quest for freedom.
The scene is set in Iran in 2006, soon after the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The renowned Canadian-Iranian philosopher Jahanbegloo is arrested at Tehran's airport and taken into notorious Evin Prison, where he spends 125 days in solitary confinement wrongfully accused of helping to prepare a "velvet revolution" against the regime. Jahanbegloo sets out to tell the story of his imprisonment and does describe the anxiety and fears of isolation, the ludicrousness of exhausting interrogations, but the narrative shifts toward reminiscences of other parts of his life. Sketches of a happy childhood, family matters, romantic relationships with women, experience of living in Europe and India, connections with prominent intellectuals and politicians, overshadow the recollections of imprisonment and transform the whole account into a broader autobiography. Mingling reflections on his own personal destiny with the political, he dreams of freedom and for a better future for Iran where society conforms to his ideas of forgiveness and nonviolence. The book also includes some sharp reflections on Canada, "a country with no metaphysical foundation," where he moved after his release from prison in Iran, and describes his struggles with "the melancholy of immigration," mediocrity and conformism.