Tehran, Lipstick and Loopholes

Nahal Tajadod, trans. from the French by Adriana Hunter. Virago (IPG, dist.), $13.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-84408-514-9
Faced with the necessity of renewing her Iranian passport—a daunting prospect involving days-long waits in line, a mandatory Islamic dress code, and much bureaucratic hassle—before returning home to Paris, Tajadod (Rumi: The Fire of Love) turns to a succession of colorful characters to navigate the impenetrable world of Iranian officialdom. Tajadod’s indefatigable sense of humor and keen eye for cultural peculiarities enliven even the most tedious chores, and her chance interactions with pious grandmothers, officious clerks, entrepreneurial shopkeepers, and lecherous passersby introduce readers to a cross-section of Tehran society. However, her apparent disdain for Iranian culture and traditions wears thin, and she never tires of reminding her readers that she’s more cosmopolitan than the people at the passport office. She relates the admiration and envy of those who overhear her speaking French on the phone, imagining their shock should they discover that she possesses a French passport, “which I prefer not to use here,” she says. Given the difficulties faced by the average Iranian, it’s hard to muster much sympathy for her plight, and the question of whether she’ll make it to France in time to attend Cannes seems inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Agent: Editions Jean Claude Lattès. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/14/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
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