cover image The Immortals of Tehran

The Immortals of Tehran

Ali Araghi. Melville House, $27.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-61219-818-7

Araghi’s impactful debut follows the rise of a poet with magical powers that emerge during the Iranian revolution. At 10 years old, Ahmad Torkash-Vand lives in the village of Tajrish. His father, returned from the front lines of WWII after serving with a group of British-led volunteers, is overcome with despair over the country’s future and fatally shoots himself, with help from his unwitting son. After his father’s suicide, Ahmad becomes mute and turns to poetry. As tension in Iran mounts and the revolution unfolds, Ahmad’s grandfather Khan, still living at an advanced age, cites a myth told decades earlier by Khan’s grandfather about a kingdom of cats as a prophesy of the country’s turmoil, and the omniscient narrator describes cats working behind the scenes to incite turmoil and even acting as snipers firing on government troops. Meanwhile, Ahmad, now in his 40s and estranged from his wife, writes a love poem so powerful that it burns through anything that it is written upon and becomes a tool for the revolutionaries. While certain cultural and historical references may be lost on readers not familiar with Persian history and mythology, the narrative of Ahmad’s journey is engrossing. Araghi’s skillful combination of revolutionary politics and magical realism will please fans of Alejo Carpentier. Agent: Alison Lewis, Zoë Pagnamenta Agency. (Apr.)