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estate84 1170x658 - Summer '84 published in Samovar

Summer ’84 published in Samovar

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“Summer ’84” is a short story by Mohammad Tolouei which was first published in the Persian short story collection Lessons by Father (Ofoq Pub).

The story is now published in the renowned Samovar of the American magazine of speculative fiction, Strange Horizons.

 

The Three-Twenty-Seven train from Tehran to Andimeshk left the station at 11.45 in the morning of July fifth, 1984, with my father in compartment number eight of its third car. My mother was not there to wave a handkerchief and cry, or to place a consoling hand on my head, or to hold up Sara to the window for a last kiss.  We were in Rasht and living through one of those calm periods that followed an all-out row between my parents. My father had left for Tehran out of spite and boarded the Andimeshk train with the intention of going all the way to the frontlines to get himself killed in the process. However, somewhere along the way he had changed his mind about dying and accepted a volunteer post instead, teaching the school-age soldiers behind the front. He returned home after three months, thinner than ever, sporting a full beard, with military fatigues and a trove of war stories.

All those stories, however, would prove to be fabricated if the signature I found in the train I once took on my trip to Esfahan would turn out to be my father’s. I was shaving in the train’s bathroom in order to look clean before arrival. It was just past five in the morning, and a frail light was showing in the sky. It was also high time for full bladders to line up behind the door and fidget with the bathroom door handle. I lathered my face and turned my back to the mirror. I have a habit of not looking in the mirror when I am shaving—because every time I do look in the mirror, I end up cutting myself, even though I use one of those triple-blade Gillette razors that you could not cut your face with even if you tried. I had my back to the mirror and was facing the door. Every time the razor filled up with hair I would clean it under the tap and turn my back again on the mirror and go on shaving.

It was then that I saw the signature. It had been carved on the red paint that covered the fiberglass wall of the toilet, written in an unlikely corner that was so high up it gave the impression that the signer must have been a very tall man. Under the signature it said: Ziauddin, August 1984.  The signature, too, seemed identical to my father’s. A drop of water cascaded down my wet hair onto my eyelid and made me squint. Yes, it was definitely my father’s signature. I was amused how he had managed to carve it as high up as he had. He must have climbed on the metal sink, and he must have carved it with the key to our first tiny apartment of Banisadr Housing Plan on Maryam Street.

I kept on shaving with my back to the mirror, but I did not take my eyes off the signature. It was a lop-sided signature, not straight and confident like his usual ones. He must have signed it while the train was moving. It would not have looked this way if he had signed it—having nothing better to do—while the train was stopped in one of the stations.

What was he doing on an Esfahan train in that summer while he was supposed to be teaching young soldiers behind the frontlines? I thought about dialing his number on my mobile and asking if he was in Esfahan in the summer of 84, but then it crossed my mind that this particular car could have been attached to any locomotive and travelled to any one of the many possible destinations. So I gathered up my shaving kit and left the bathroom. I did not call my father; I knew we would end up fighting over selling the family land. In my notebook I wrote Summer 84 and put a question mark next to it as a reminder for the time I would get back to Tehran.

 

You can read the complete story here on Samovar.

Capture - Internazionale Special Issue of Iran

Internazionale Special Issue of Iran

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Internazionale, renowned Italian print magazine, has just released a special issue of Iranian Stories for December 2021. In this issue you can read stories by different generations and voices of Iranian literature, including Mahsa Mohebali, Peyman Esmaeili, Ali Khodaei, Arash Sadeqbeigi, Razieh Mehdizadeh, Zoya Pirzad, and Hamed Esmaeilion, most of which are translated into Italian for the first time.This issue’s guest editor is Mohammad Tolouei.

Reza Deldaar2 - Birthday of Reza Deldar-Nik published

Birthday of Reza Deldar-Nik published

Birthday of Reza Deldar-Nik published 600 400 logos

Mohammad Tolouei’s short story “Birthday of Reza Deldar-Nik” (first published in Persian in the short story collection I’m not Janette, Ofoq Pub.) is now translated to English by Farzaneh Doosti and published in The Persian Literature Review (see here).

 

It happened in the middle of the ceremony. Although mom had made sure I went to the toilet just before leaving, I had to pee again. I knew the house well, but if I walked right to the toilet, I’d have made a scene, for then everybody would realize that Mojdeh and I had already been here together, and this would ruin the fiction – according to which I had accidentally met Mojdeh at the university, looked for her phone number, given it to my mother to call her mother and arrange for a marriage proposal (an absolutely traditional arrangement). Mojdeh had told me that her father would like me better this way, so I bent my head down like a modest stranger throughout the meeting. The new shirt’s brand label chafed my neck; I raised my head only in long intervals of silence and fruit servings; and then I had to pee.

I was going through one of those precocious pains of kidney stone expulsion when one struggles to sit still on the chair. I had taken three pills of Brufen 400mg to keep alert, yet Bruffen, no matter how solacing it might be, has no effect on bladder control especially when one is taking cup after cup of tea in a marriage proposal ceremony mingled with a blush of shame, excitement, and trembling hands (pure parade of manners). Nevertheless, when I refused to take sugar cubes with my tea, Mojdeh turned to her father and said, “Mr. Bridegroom is on diet; he never takes sugar cubes, Daaad!” It was inappropriately gaudy in juxtaposition with the strained silences, compliments, and prolonged ‘Yea’s.

I tried to hold it in, like I did in Reza Deldar-Nik’s birthday. Reza puffed up his cheeks and we lined up behind him as usual, ready to clap as he blew out for the photographer (his father, for sure). There were plain hemp curtains behind us, which hardly matched the embroidered cushions, crocheted cloth on the sofa or brocaded calicoes. I came out of the photo frame and went to Reza’s mother who was a vivacious, stone-faced woman. An aggregation of contradictions was manifest in her looks (she had a chubby face and a slender body). She was wearing a chintz dress embroidered with small violet flowers and yellow-green tendrils that circled under her breasts, and tapestry around sleeves. She held a lighted cigarette, sizing up the kids and wondering whether her cutlet snacks and donuts would serve everyone. She was a just woman, even to Reza, and she did not give him any more than one snack. Catching me fidgeting in front of her, she hid her cigarette behind her head and asked: “Won’t you take photos?”

I turned my head over and saw the children in the photo clapping for Reza. Reza’s mother put her cigarette on her lips and narrowed down her eyes so that the smoke would not get in, and began to clap with only two fingers as it was common in war times. I am not in that photo, nor in any other photos of Reza Deldar-Nik’s birthdays.

“Going to the toilet,” I replied.


Read the complete story here.

6145effe aaeb 4b99 9874 bc2176183f65 1 1080x658 - Le Lezioni di Papa

Le Lezioni di Papa

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Lessons by Father 

Lessons by Father is translated to Italian by Giacomo Longhi and published by Ponte33.


Le lezioni di papà

Novembre 2019
pp. 96
ISBN 978-88-96908-13-6
€ ۱۱,۰۰

Traduzione dal persiano di Giacomo Longhi

In questa raccolta di racconti Mohammad Tolouei compone una piccola saga attorno alla figura di suo padre, Ziya, improbabile capofamiglia che parte per il fronte dopo una lite coniugale, nasconde un passato da guerrigliero, sogna di trascinare la famiglia in Europa e tenta di approfittare del clima di incertezza seguito alla rivoluzione del ’۷۹ per compiere il salto sociale. Un personaggio animato da un idealismo rocambolescoe da un opportunismo un po’ ingenuo che la madre di Mohammad, donna dal carattere schivo e severo, controbilancia con entrate in scena tanto dosate quanto risolutive.
“Perché mai i papà pensano che la memoria dei figli sia solo dispari, come i rami di un Lucky Bamboo? Come mai credono che i figli si debbano ricordare soltanto il lato positivo?” si chiede l’autore che, ormai trentenne e intento a costruirsi una carriera nella capitale, cerca di tenere le fila di un rapporto non proprioidilliaco ma silenziosamente permeato da un affetto incontenibile.
Sarà forse un viaggio a offrire ai due l’occasione per riconciliarsi e accettarsi l’un l’altro così come sono?