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Alireza Taheri Araghi | The Immortals of Tehran


BLURB:

As a child living in his family's apple orchard, Ahmad Torkash-Vand treasures his great-great-great-great grandfather's every mesmerizing word. On the day of his father's death, Ahmad listens closely as the seemingly immortal elder tells him the tale of a centuries-old family curse . . . and the boy's own fated role in the story.

Ahmad grows up to suspect that something must be interfering with his family, as he struggles to hold them together through decades of famine, loss, and political turmoil in Iran. As the world transforms around him, each turn of Ahmad's life is a surprise: from street brawler, to father of two unusually gifted daughters; from radical poet, to politician with a target on his back. These lives, and the many unforgettable stories alongside his, converge and catch fire at the center of the Revolution.

Exploring the brutality of history while conjuring the astonishment of magical realism, The Immortals of Tehran is a novel about the incantatory power of words and the revolutionary sparks of love, family, and poetry--set against the indifferent, relentless march of time.
 

REVIEW:

In this stunning work of magic realism, Ali Araghi transports readers to Iran’s recent past, where an extended family deals with a legendary curse. Ahmad, the principal character, is as a child an unwitting and unwilling participant in his father’s suicide. As a result of the trauma, Ahmad is struck dumb, a permanent condition that only allows him to shape words with his mouth. His voice is gone. His great grandfather Agha tries to connect with the boy and tells the tale of the cats, creatures who have their own land. When the land is invaded by humans and an endless war begins. The cats seek revenge by trying to cause chaos and disrupt human society.

Khan, Ahmad’s father, son of Agha becomes convinced cats are behind Russian interference in his homeland and instigators of the social unrest that pits leftist forces against the Shah’s regime. Ahmad, who grows up to become a poet and then a politician doesn’t believe his father or his grandfather but is careful to not offend them. He becomes a member of Parliament and although he is sympathetic to the leftist cause to which his childhood friend Salman belongs, he allows himself to be controlled by people close to the Shah.

In relative anonymity, Ahmad writes rousing poetry, words that have the power to catch on fire and melt metal. The leftists use the poetry to advance their cause. Ahmad ends up betraying Salman to his shame.

The scope of this story is vast, covering decades of Iran’s turbulent past as a backdrop to the intimate history of Ahmad and his family, their loves, their enemies, and their struggles. The characters and situations seem so real and vivid, I didn’t even blink at the fantastic elements. It is a measure of the writer’s skill to make the reader believe in the magical parts and Araghi did this. The story left me feeling as if I visited a very real place during a dangerous time. After reading the book, I was both exhilarated and sad. Fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, magical realism, and literary fiction will love this book.

Comments

Anujashree Roy said…
That's a really detailed review. Also a very catchy cover.
Sounds like an interesting read
Unknown said…
Sounds interesting
sam said…
Amazing writeup ♥️
Bookish Utopia said…
Title itself seems intersting
Apurba23 said…
Lovely blog post!
Deepan Maitra said…
Great review, as always.

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