One of the great pleasures of journalism is that it allows one to encounter people with a wide variety of interests who can then share with us their passion, knowledge and original outlook on a given subject. When that subject in question happens to be related to one’s country and history both of which we think we are familiar with, it is all the more refreshing to find out how little we actually knew and how much we still have to discover. It is all the more flattering when someone deemed a foreigner showers you with such a deep knowledge and understanding of one’s rich heritage whilst managing to connect it with that of his or her own country’s equally rich history and culture brought together in a universal bond, thanks to years of research, travel, personal and academic experience.
This was the impression I got after meeting French novelist Mrs. Danielle Digne whose passion for history, thirst for adventure, and far away lands, particularly Iran (Once Known as Persia) prompted her to write about the real life adventures of Jean Chardin, one of the most famous French travelers and Jewel Hunters of the 17th Century.
A man of many talents to whom historians owe much for his descriptions of Persia under Safavid rule at the time of Shah Abbas II as well as that of his son Shah Soleiman III. During his time in Isfahan he became intimate with the city; he was invited into people’s houses and entertained; he visited gardens and participated in hunts; his knowledge of court affairs was extensive, and he travelled many miles, visiting other towns and villages. Chardin’s accounts and sketches are invaluable sources of information for all those interested in Middle East history, and they provide a vivid portrait of life in seventeenth-century Persia.