cover image In Case of Emergency

In Case of Emergency

Mahsa Mohebali, trans. from the Farsi by Mariam Rahmani. Feminist Press, $16.95 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-1-952177-86-6

Iranian author Mohebali’s English-language debut, vividly translated by Rahmani, paints a brilliant and jarring portrait of contemporary Iran, rife with unrest, drugs, and destruction. The book opens as Shadi, a young wealthy woman, wakes after a night punctuated by earthquakes and the screams of her family. To her dismay, she realizes she’s running low on opium, which leads her on a hunt across Tehran to find her suppliers, Rahim and Siamak. As she makes her way from dealer to dealer, the city crumbles around her and the reckless and rebellious youth take control. At one point, a crowd of “boys and birdlike girls” crowd the main drag, cheering as riot police watch on: “The city is ours!” Fast-paced and sharp, the novel manages to capture the voice and tone of its troubled and cynical cast, though the pace comes at the cost of depth, leaving the characters—their lives, emotions, and histories—unknown to the reader. As a portrait of a disintegrating city, this succeeds, but as a story about the people caught in the destruction and chaos, not so much. Agent: Markus Hoffman, Hoffman & Assoc. (Nov.)