By Elaheh Rostami-Povey
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Tehran Noir

This article is over 7 years, 6 months old
Issue 399

In this collection of stories the interlinked narratives are set in Iran’s capital city, Tehran. The victims experience different forms of violence and crime and in the process become corrupt, violent, cynical and alienated. The writers are famous for publishing many novels in Iran. But the noir stories in this book, published in the US, will be blocked by the censorship in Iran.

These fictions slip in and out of reality to describe the lives of women and men who rebel against the rules and laws of the world around them. They challenge poverty, male domination and racism. The petty criminals know that they will get caught one day and will be hanged. But they have no option. Vali Khalili’s story is about a journalist who reports and analyses these crimes. Censorship has driven some writers out of the country. But for him, “I need to be in the belly of the beast and sit in the tea houses where petty criminals sit and smell the stink of desperation and poverty, even if I have to deal with the maddening everyday censorship.”

Lily Farhadpour’s story is about the life of two women who committed the crime of killing their husbands for freedom. They wanted to choose to live in Tehran and not be forced by their husbands to leave the city where, for all its ugliness, it has the beauty of giving them the opportunity to be themselves. In this context, she cleverly weaves together different issues: women’s struggle against male domination; the writers’ imaginative ways of dealing with censorship and raising their voices against gender injustices; and the campaign to end capital punishment.

Majed Neisi challenges Iranian racism against minorities and Afghan refugees: “They forget not a building would get finished and not a restaurant could stay open if it weren’t for us doing their dirty work. Lazy fucking Iranians!” Similarly, Salar Abdoh writes about the grievances of the Azari Turks: “These bastard Persians don’t want to do a day’s honest labour.” The most horrific crimes take place in the north of Tehran, where the millionaires live, compete with each other in driving fast their Porsches, Camry, BMW and Mercedes, and serve expensive alcoholic drinks at their parties, in this supposedly dry country.

Mahsa Mohebali tells the story of a woman who takes revenge on her paedophile husband by sexually abusing and horrifically killing a boy sex worker in order to frame her husband.

No doubt, Tehran Noir has a valuable place in today’s literature. However, the adoption of violence and pornography into art and literature demonstrates the degeneration of a society in which intellectuals have become individualistic, isolationist and egocentric. Women’s liberation is not about equality of women and men in sexual exploitation and killing. Anti-racism is not about being racist to the perpetrators. The struggle for a world free of class, sexual and ethnic oppression and exploitation requires standing by the victims and fighting side by side with them.

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