Comma Press are an indie publisher (a big yay on this blog) and The Book of Tehran is another part in an ongoing series where short stories about a featured city are collected.
My idea of Tehran is shakey and one sided. As Orkideh Behrouzan states in the introduction, most westerners view Tehran as a country plagued by war due to the media portrayal of it. In reality it is a vibrant city. Thus although I never approach a book with preconceptions, I did expect this anthology to present a full picture of Tehran.
Thankfully it does.
The first story Wake it Up by Payam Nasser and translated by Sara Khalili is a strong opener which sets the tone of the book, consisting of a loner who is visited by a boy on a daily basis, offering him household items, until one day the boy needs the man’s help in a big way. It is tender, slightly humorous and ditches all media stereotypes of Tehran that is pumped in our television sets.
However it is in the second story, The other side of the Wall (Goli Taraghi, Sholeh Wolpe, trans) where a true picture of Tehran emerges. As this tale is about a girl who escapes her piano lessons and spies on her neighbors. Although most of them are doing quotidian things albeit told through a child’s point of view, it is a snapshot of what Persian life is like.
I will not describe every story but there are funny moments Mohammed Half-Tenor is brilliant, in which someone mistakes opera for Oprah. This also shows the influence of western television as well. There are some tragic story, the closer The Last Night should bring a tear to one’s eye. However there is variety even in styles with one experimental story (In The light being cast from the Kitchen) in the collection.
For those who have been brainwashed by television, The Book of Tehran provides a refreshing alternative. Tehran, as seen through these stories is a city full of eccentricities and a population who like observing the lives of others. Sure there are moments of war but it is not something that is constant. Personally this is the first time I have been presented with a balanced view of this multi faceted city.
Many thanks to Comma Press for providing a digital copy of The Book of Tehran in exchange for an honest review