What's in a name? What's in a curse?

Porochista Khakpour: Darius and Xerxes, they are actually common names in . . . among Iranians, but . . . so I wanted to have that sort of level or reality. But they were both very interesting kings in Persian history, and I looked at a lot of … writings on the two. And they were men who were constantly wrapped up in comedies of errors – both very great kings. But they seemed like great muses for my actual characters in examining the sort of abstract accounts of their histories. They kind of became the ideal muses for them, because Xerxes particularly was a sort of corrupt and controversial king who was always tripping over his own foot. And so I liked the idea of toying with ancient history a little bit playfully. And there’s a sense in the novel of from the minute they were given their names – in particular Darius naming his son “Xerxes” – that they were cursed. And I like to toy with the . . . with curses and those sort of superstitions in the novel a bit, too.

Well to what degree, you know, is it sort of voodoo and hocus pocus to say a particularly turbulent time in history is causing a lot of the psychological warfare between two men? That in itself seems like magical thinking to me. But it’s thinking that I’ve always been very immersed in and interested in. And looking at these, you know . . . these accounts in ancient texts, it’s full of absurdities, and psychology is absent from it. And that became quite interesting. A lot of Persian proverbs . . . A lot of the Persian mindset is informed by superstitions, and historical superstitions, and magical thinking.

Recorded on: 1/18/08

The characters Darius and Xerxes were named after very interesting Kings in Persian history, who were wrapped up in comedies of errors.

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