Abdolah, Kader 1954-

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Abdolah, Kader 1954-


Born 1954, in Iran; emigrated, 1985; immigrated to the Netherlands, 1988. Education: Studied physics in Tehran, Iran.




Freelance writer and journalist.


Award for best debut short story collection, 1993, for De adelaars; Dutch media prize, 1997, for Mirza; recipient of other Dutch awards for journalism and literature.


Wat willen de Koerden zeggen, [Tehran, Iran], 1980.

De adelaars (stories; title means "The Eagles"), 1993, De Geus (Breda, Netherlands), 2000.

De meisjes en de partizanen: Verhalen (stories; title means "The Girls and the Partisans"), De Geus (Breda, Netherlands), 1995.

De reis van de lege flessen (novel; title means "The Journey of the Empty Bottles"), De Geus (Breda, Netherlands), 1997.

Buitenspeigels: verhalen over Nederland (stories), Van Gennep (Amsterdam, Netherlands)/Novib (The Hague, Netherlands), 1998.

Mirza (collected newspaper columns), De Geus (Breda, Netherlands), 1998.

Spijkerschrift: Notities van Aga Akbar (main title means "Cuneiform"), De Geus (Breda, Netherlands), 2000, English translation by Susan Massotty published as My Father's Notebook: A Novel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.

Een tuin in de zee: Mirza (collected newspaper columns), De Geus (Breda, Netherlands), 2001.

De koffer, 2001.

Kélilé en Demné, 2nd edition, B. Bakker (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 2002.

Portretten en een oude droom, De Geus (Breda, Netherlands), 2003.

Het huis van de moskee, De Geus (Breda, Netherlands), 2005.

Also author of novel published in Tehran before 1985. Contributor to Dutch newspapers, including De Volkskrant; newspaper columnist.


A native of Iran, Kader Abdolah witnessed the end of the reign of the shahs in 1979 and the rise of the oppressive regime led by radical Shia Muslim cleric Ayatollah Khomeini. Abdolah began publishing his fiction and nonfiction in the 1970s, while also actively participating in the resistance against the government. Finally deciding to leave his homeland in 1985, with the help of the United Nations he settled in the Netherlands three years later. Quickly becoming fluent in Dutch, Abdolah began a career in journalism, regularly contributing to the newspaper De Volkskrant. He has also continued to publish fiction, this time in his adopted language.

Both Abdolah's fiction and his nonfiction draw on his own life experiences. As a newspaper writer, he has gained a reputation for fearlessly questioning some of the Dutch government's practices, a daring thing to do for an immigrant; as an author of novels and short stories, he often writes about Iranians who, like himself, have fled their country and are trying to adjust to being expatriates. De reis van de lege flessen, for example, features a character named Bolfazl who is an Iranian living in the Netherlands. Culture shock is a large part of the story as Bolfazl tries to adjust to the food, surroundings, and much looser social standards in a country that has legal red-light districts, marijuana use, and even public nudity.

Spijkerschrift: Notities van Aga Akbar also has an Iranian immigrant as the protagonist. When Ismael receives the diary of his deaf mute father, Aga Akbar, he sets out to translate the difficult scribblings about his father's life in Iran. The result, according to an Economist contributor, is a "poignant and colourful picture of a humble life set against Iran's recent history."

In 2006, the English translation of Spijkerschrift was published in the United States as My Father's Notebook: A Novel. Critics and readers alike found much to praise in Abdolah's first U.S. novel, citing the author's skillful portrayal of the complex and intimate relationship between Ishmael and his father. My Father's Notebook "proves enlightening and moving," wrote Booklist contributor Donna Chavez. Others lauded the writing style of the author. Abdolah has given us a "beautiful and poetic work," noted Sarah Conrad Weisman in a review for the Library Journal.



Booklist, March 1, 2006, Donna Chavez, review of My Father's Notebook: A Novel, p. 60.

Christian Science Monitor, February 28, 2006, Marjorie Kehe, review of My Father's Notebook, p. 14.

Economist, February 24, 2001, review of Spijkerschrift: Notities van Aga Akbar, p. 141.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2005, review of My Father's Notebook, p. 1285.

Library Journal, January 1, 2006, Sarah Conrad Weisman, review of My Father's Notebook, p. 92.

Manchester Guardian, April 22, 2006, Sebastian Groes, review of My Father's Notebook.

New Internationalist, June 1, 2007, Peter Whittaker, review of My Father's Notebook, p. 31.

Publishers Weekly, November 21, 2005, review of My Father's Notebook, p. 24.

Times (London, England), April 22, 2006, Shusha Guppy, review of My Father's Notebook.