iweb counter

Mirrors of the Unseen

Journeys in Iran


Shortlist, Macmillan Book of the Year 2006

Winner, Chatwin Prize 2007 (ITALY)

A work of profound thought, passion and ambition

Sara Wheeler

(Click for the full review)

One of the most serious and imaginative books about Iran to have appeared in many years

Colin Thubron

Fascinating from beginning to end and touched by magic, which grows as the pages turn over

Patrick Leigh Fermor

‘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.’

New Yorker

‘Beneath the surface of this seeming conventional travelogue there is a questing spiritual enquiry. Immersing oneself in it is like placing one’s trust in a charming, highly literate scholar... Elliot provides one of the most fluent, original and sublime appreciations of Islamic culture.

Times Literary Supplement

Not The Iran We Imagine...

Books of the Year 2006

Sunday Telegraph – Doris Lessing

Travel Books of the Year 2006

Guardian – James Daunt

‘Three years of travel and research pay off in the gripping illumination of the tensions between past and present Iran. Elliot’s sumptuous prose reveals Persia’s many enigmas’

Rory MacLean

‘This thoughtful and controversial book strives to understand Iran by embarking on a passionate enquiry into the nature of Persian and Islamic art.’

Sunday Times – Anthony Sattin

‘Jason Elliot’s first book, the award-winning An Unexpected Light, depicts Afghans before they became a news item. This sequel attempts to do the same for Iranians. Elliot hopes to avoid politics, but although he travels in search of the historical, the poetic and the everyday, he soon discovers that Iranian life is infused with politics. His obsessions can be infuriating, but book is richer for all of them’

Book of the Month - It

There can be few writers as well equipped as Jason Elliot to explore the modern face of ancient Persia, to wonder at temples and mosques of such exquisite, refined beauty his descriptions leave you gasping… this is a book you will not readily forget: it is a memorable, intoxicating read.

‘An Unexpected Light was a stunning debut and a hard act to follow, but Elliot has succeeded admirably. This is quite a different book: a mature traveller’s adventures through a vast country. The result is a portrait of a nation, and a survey of its long history and heritage . . . a perfect antidote to the current image of Iran in the West’


‘By interweaving the rich history of the country and scenes of contemporary life, Elliot affords a rare glimpse inside this complex, subtle, misunderstood country – and this is Elliot’s real achievement. Full of literary allusions and rich with intellectual musings, this is a book on Iran that presents something approaching an accurate picture of the country’


‘In these days of demonisation and prejudice, few books could be more apposite than Jason Elliot’s thoughtful portrait of Iran. Focusing on the tradition and spirit of the Persian people, Elliot deploys a guileful blend of traveller’s tales, topographical description and history – spiced up with a treatise on the meaning of Islamic art – to guide the reader towards an understanding of what that ancient country is, and, perhaps more importantly, what it is not’


‘Fluent in the Persian language, Elliot is an engaging guide: he is no friend of the rich and powerful, but is batted around Iran like a pinball by force of circumstance . . . He is brilliant at capturing the jasmine-scented breath of Iran’s ancient civilisations while filtering out the petrol fumes of the modern state’

Daily Telegraph

‘The brilliance shines through as, over the course of three years’ travelling, he takes you through every aspect of a beguiling, troubled land’

Condé Nast Traveller

‘Brilliant. Mirrors of the Unseen deserves to take its place among the very best books about Iran . . . Elliot is the perfect guide: admiring without losing his sense of perspective, patient, above all endlessly curious. His evident charm, intelligence and good humour stand him in good stead time and again’


‘Engaging and revealing, Mirrors of the Unseen is a travel book from the inside out’

New Statesman

‘Shattering every western stereotype about Iran, this is an enchanting blend of travel anecdote and history. It creates a vividly humorous and beguiling portrait of this much demonised nation’

FT magazine

‘Timely, perceptive and important . . . Elliot offers some stunning descriptions of the ancient cities of Persia like Isfahan, Persepolis and Shiraz, skilfully uncovering the beauty and cultural wealth of the country.’


‘Mirrors of the Unseen is a revealing tour of mysterious and maligned Iran. Writing with equal facility about the arcane and the everyday, Elliot transports the reader in time and place’ Independent

‘Destined to be as widely celebrated as Byron’


‘He has an extraordinary, fecund sense of context, of Iran’s history and its many legacies to the West. His understanding of Islamic architecture is profound. He is also capable of great insights…let us hope there will be more.’

The Times, Books

‘Mirrors of the Unseen establishes Jason Elliot as one of the great travel writers of our time’

Daily Mail

Mentioned In Despatches