If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’re well aware of my longtime fascination with the Middle East. You might also know out of all the countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Israel and Iran interest me the most. (There’s probably a number of reason’s why this is so, but since I already discussed this in a post last May I wont go into it right now.) And while Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge has me scrambling to read stuff from France to Russia and everywhere in between, let’s just say it’s still hard for me to resist good books about Israel or Iran.
I guess that’s why I could not resist grabbing Salar Abdoh’s novel Tehran at Twilight when I came across it one evening at the public library. Heck, not only would it feed my addiction to Middle Eastern literature, but I could apply it towards Kerrie’s Global Reading Challenge. So of COURSE I took it. Seriously people, what choice did I have?
Published in 2014 by the good people at Akashic Books, Tehran at Twilight begins with a simple premise. Up and coming academic and Iranian-American Reza Melak has been asked by his childhood friend Sina to return to the land of his birth to help sort out a complex business matter. But like any good noir tale, things aren’t that simple. Soon Reza is reunited with a mother he thought was long dead, who has matters of her own that require his assistance. These involve helping her mother’s old friend, an elderly Holocaust survivor, originally from Poland, who ultimately wants to be buried in a local Jewish cemetery but technically can’t because she converted to Islam in order to marrying an Iranian. (After first converting to Christianity.) On top of it, his mother wants to immigrate to America, but the Iranian regime is reluctant to help since she’s a former Tudeh member (Communist) and dissident who spent years imprisoned by the mullahs. Upon his arrival in Tehran, Reza is surprised to learn his very secular buddy Sani is now working for the regime’s very religious zealots. Or is he? And why is that lowlife government informant Fani following Reza around day and night?
Abdoh’s Tehran is a mean and gritty place. It’s a world of corrupt clerics, wraith-like heroin addicts and dead-end neighborhoods so tough the police treat them as no-go areas. One would think a novel about Iran would be solely revolve around theocratic machinations and geopolitical conflict. Instead, Tehran at Twilight is a story of about greed, deception and murky moral choices. In other words, classic noir.