Reza Deldaar2 - Birthday of Reza Deldar-Nik published

Birthday of Reza Deldar-Nik published

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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.

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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
€ 11,00

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 ’79 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?

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Hazeover, or Toothbrush, Wrong Time

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Short story by Mohammad Tolouei published in Columbia Journal

Translated to English by Farzaneh Doosti

Addiction doesn’t disappear, it only changes forms. I was hooked on idleness, but now I’m hooked on work. I was hooked on weed, now I inject Ketamine. I was hooked on Azadeh, now I’m hooked on Jaleh. I was hooked on being free of family ties, but now I’m hooked on my father.

Why is addiction incurable? Why can’t I just head to a Laleh Park treatment session and proudly declare that I’ve been clean for a while and get heartwarming hugs from anonymous members of the addiction community, and then, once I’m liberated from their embraces, still feel clean? I don’t remember a single night when I haven’t asked myself what brought me to this point, but as morning approaches, I forget the question.

In the morning, I wake up with a hangover. Zia is fasting for Ramadan, so I don’t need to cook lunch. I sleep as late as I can before Zia feels bored and begins to fiddle with cabinet handles or turns on his mobile GPS. I go to the bathroom, turn on the faucet, take the Ketamine capsule and syringe out of the toilet tank, and inject it into my ankle. Where can I hide a sore? Among other sores. My ankles and legs are always marked with scars, I’ve had scars since childhood—I hit my legs on the walls and never know how it happens—so Zia would never suspect that the sores might be caused by shooting up.

Next, it’s time to immerse myself into water—it doesn’t matter if it’s warm or cold, it makes no difference on Ketamine, it disables your body’s thermostat. An addict can walk over red coals or jump into an icy lake. After that, I go out and sit under the breeze from the air conditioner.

Zia gets up and turns the AC off. “Get up. Don’t sit there or you’ll catch a cold,” he says. I don’t move, so he gets up himself and turns it off. Next I should ask what he has to do in Amir-Abad. My father has been staying with me since the first of Ramadan. Every morning he gets up, calls a taxi, and heads to Amir-Abad, leaving me to sleep till noon. When he gets back he fiddles with the cabinets and turns his GPS on. I don’t ask him why; I go to the refrigerator instead and take out a bottle of water, then I remember that Zia is fasting just as I’m about to guzzle it down. I should take it to my room, it’s better to drink it there as I turn on my computer and hunch in the chair.

Read the story here

Someone Without Peers 538 1 - Someone Without Peers

Someone Without Peers

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I have a friend who I see once in a while, and whenever we meet, we talk about our favourite books. Next time, we will take our words back. It’s always like this; we turn back and refine our opinions on books. We do so reluctantly, because ‘to refine’ implies that once we had talked crap and had even insisted that our crap talk was correct. Last night, for instance, my friend sent me a message stating that The Night Journey by Bahman Sholevar is not as compliment-worthy as he had once believed, and that Jalal Ale Ahmad’s criticism (which at the time had seemed like conservative nonsense written out of envy) now sounds thoroughly truthful. We used to enthusiastically praise Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being for how it changed the way we thought about time. Some twelve years later, when we met, the first thing we talked about was how amazing it was that thanks to Kundera we had once thought the world was reversible, and in any event, life was going to give us time for free. We went through a singular agony reading Ismail Kadare’s The Great Winter, and it was only when we next met that we realised all the hardships we read about could also have been part of our own lives.

Published in the October 2017 issue of Asymptote Journal (read the complete text in Persian and English here)

The piece has also been translated to Italian and published in Internazionale.