by Marius Kociejowski
Kociejowski greatly impressed me with Zoroaster’s Children. I’m reluctant to compare him with Christopher Hitchens, mainly because most people undergo an almost churlish transformation when I mention Hitchens, and the last thing I want to do is discourage reading of this exceptional book. However, I can’t think of any more fitting comparison to Kociejowski; both have a similar confidence and honesty to their writing, and both write with a very clear and unique voice. (I also find myself walking away from Zoroaster’s Children with a huge addition to my reading pile, much like when I finished Arguably.)
Zoroaster’s Children is a collection of essays about Kociejowski’s experiences while travelling to such far-flung locales as Iran, Syria, Sri Lanka, France, Sicily, and Canada. While his descriptions of the places can be impressive or touching––I nearly wept at his descriptions of the once-lovely Syrian countryside, when considering how it must now look––at its heart, this book is about people. Kociejowski shows his incredible empathy throughout, and takes great care to learn whatever he can about culture, history, and religion in such widely different places; I suspect this lends something to the explanation of why he never seems to have any trouble locating kind and helpful people wherever he goes. People open up and share very intimate pieces of themselves with the author, and this is a major part of what makes Zoroaster’s Children so compelling: Kociejowski finds a similar compassion no matter where his journeys take him, and he contrasts it against the trials and cruelties people are forced to endure.
Zoroaster’s Children is heartfelt and poetic, written with a candid honesty, the likes of which are rarely seen in modern literature.