As US-Iran relations continue to make headlines, Stranger’s Guide: Tehran brings readers to the streets of a city few outsiders have had the opportunity to explore. Through a number of up-and-coming authors, including Mohammad Tolouei, the issue explores the public and private lives of residents of the Iranian capital. Go to a night of avant-garde theater where political discourse comes cloaked in artistic metaphor; journey with two sisters as they traverse the city to attend a soccer match for the first time; discover the generation gap between old revolutionaries and young students pushing for a new future. It’s a deep and nuanced look at this complex city.
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.