Filling a long-neglected gap in the travel writing of the region, Mirrors of the Unseen is a rare and timely portrait of the nation descended from the world's earliest superpower: Iran. Animated by the same spirit of exploration as its acclaimed predecessor, An Unexpected Light, and drawing on several years of independent travel and research, this thought-provoking work weaves together observations of life in contemporary Iran with history, politics, and a penetrating enquiry into the secrets of Islamic art. Generously illustrated with the author's own sketches and photographs, Mirrors of the Unseen is a rich, sensitive, and vivid account of a country and its culture.
In this penetrating account of a series of journeys to Iran, Elliot reports on the “double life” of the Persians he meets, who unanimously denounce the ruling mullahs. One insists that you’re nobody in Iran if you haven’t been imprisoned; another rolls his eyes at the author’s obsessive trawling of mosques, protesting, “People will think I’m with a fanatic.” The book is replete with historical arcana (such as the second-century Parthian tactic of catapulting jars of bloodsucking flies at enemies), ruminations on the “turbulent calligraphies” of Islamic architecture, and labyrinthine footnotes that threaten to leap off into tomes of their own. Elliot is a travel writer of the old school: untethered to an itinerary, eager to be led astray, and as ardent an observer of the experience of travelling as of his destination.