My enormous thanks to Nikki Griffiths for inviting me to participate in the launch celebrations for Ali Araghi’s The Immortals of Tehran. Although I wasn’t able to get round to reading The Immortals of Tehran in time for my stop, I do have it on my TBR and I’m thrilled to be staying in with Ali today to chat all about the book.
Staying in with Ali Araghi
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Ali. Thanks so much for agreeing to stay in with me. I rather think I know, but tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
It’s my debut novel, The Immortals of Tehran.
Congratulations on your debut. What is The Immortals of Tehran about?
It is about family under a curse. Every other son dies young and the other lives as if forever. The novel tells the story of this family from the 1941 invasion of Iran until the 1979 Revolution. One of these apparent immortals is Ahmad. He loses his ability to speak after a childhood catastrophic event. Later in life he becomes interested in poetry and writes verse so powerful that it gives off light. Some of his best poems even burn paper and cardboard.
Crikey. That has me completely intrigued Ali.
There are also cats in the novel. Some of the characters think that anything that happens in contemporary Iran is the doing of these cats, not people.
As a cat lover, I might just agree too!
The Immortals of Tehran is not your usual debut by the sound of it. What can we expect from an evening in with The Immortals of Tehran?
A fictional world that feels real with instances of the magical. A large cast of characters united by bonds of kinship and friendship, but also special in their unique ways of life. You can expect to read about Agha, an age-old, bent man who lives in a hollow plane tree, the ten-year-old Ahmad unable to speak but excited to teach Sara how to read and write, or a musician’s masterful solo performance bringing life to dead plum trees and making them blossom.
I think The Immortals of Tehran sounds both mystical and magical Ali.
What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?
I’ve brought a manual Ferris wheel. There is a scene in my novel with one of these and I thought it might be nice to see what they exactly look like. They were popular when I was a kid, perhaps as young as the ones in the photo. The men operating them would bring them to parks where kids rushed for rides.
What a brilliant memory. From what I’ve heard, reading The Immortals of Tehran is a bit like being on a Ferris wheel with lots of different perspectives and one heck of a ride! Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat all about it Ali. Let me give blog readers a few more details:
The Immortals of Tehran
A sweeping, multigenerational epic, this stunning debut heralds the arrival of a unique new literary voice.
As a child living in his family’s apple orchard, Ahmad Torkash-Vand treasures his great-great-great-great grandfather’s every mesmerizing word. On the day of his father’s death, Ahmad listens closely as the seemingly immortal elder tells him the tale of a centuries-old family curse… and the boy’s own fated role in the story.
Ahmad grows up to suspect that something must be interfering with his family, as he struggles to hold them together through decades of famine, loss, and political turmoil in Iran. As the world transforms around him, each turn of Ahmad’s life is a surprise: from street brawler, to father of two unusually gifted daughters; from radical poet, to politician with a target on his back. These lives, and the many unforgettable stories alongside his, converge and catch fire at the centre of the Revolution.
Exploring the brutality of history while conjuring the astonishment of magical realism, The Immortals of Tehran is a novel about the incantatory power of words and the revolutionary sparks of love, family, and poetry – set against the indifferent, relentless march of time.
The Immortals of Tehran was published yesterday, 15th April 2021, by Melville House and is available for purchase through the links here.
About Ali Araghi
Ali Araghi is an Iranian writer and translator. He earned his MA in Ancient Cultures and Languages at the University of Tehran and has translated Samuel Beckett into Persian. He won the 2017 Prairie Schooner Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing and is currently working on his PhD in Comparative Literature, International Writers Track, at Washington University. He lives in St. Louis.
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