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This novel sucks you in like a story that relative of yours would tell. An uncle, maybe, who doesn’t bother telling it exactly like it happened. Still, you can’t stop listening. And eventually, you realize the stories are about something else entirely. This book is like that, if your uncle is Iranian, tells stories like Joseph Heller, and has some harrowing things to say about the power of the state on the soul.— Erin
An critically-acclaimed Iranian author makes his American literary debut with this powerful and harrowing psychological portrait of modern Iran—an unprecedented and urgent work of fiction with echoes of The Stranger, 1984, and The Orphan Master’s Son—that exposes the oppressive and corrosive power of the state to bend individual lives.
Yunus Turabi, a bus driver in Tehran, leads an unremarkable life. A solitary man since the unexpected deaths of his father and mother years ago, he is decidedly apolitical—even during the driver’s strike and its bloody end. But everyone has their breaking point, and Yunus has reached his.
Handcuffed and blindfolded, he is taken to the infamous Evin prison for political dissidents. Inside this stark, strangely ordered world, his fate becomes entwined with Hajj Saeed, his personal interrogator. The two develop a disturbing yet interdependent relationship, with each playing his assigned role in a high stakes psychological game of cat and mouse, where Yunus endures a mind-bending cycle of solitary confinement and interrogation. In their startlingly intimate exchanges, Yunus’s life begins to unfold—from his childhood memories growing up in a freer Iran to his heartbreaking betrayal of his only friend. As Yunus struggles to hold on to his sanity and evade Saeed’s increasingly undeniable accusations, he must eventually make an impossible choice: continue fighting or submit to the system of lies upholding Iran’s power.
Gripping, startling, and masterfully told, Then the Fish Swallowed Him is a haunting story of life under despotism.
Amir Ahmadi Arian started out as a journalist in Iran in 2000 and has since published a collection of stories, a nonfiction book, and two novels in Persian. He also translated from English to Persian novels by E.L Doctorow, Paul Auster, P.D. James, and Cormac McCarthy. Since leaving Iran in 2011 to complete a PhD in comparative literature at the University of Queensland, Australia, he has published short stories and essays in Michigan Quarterly Review, Guernica, The New York Times, and The Guardian. He currently lives in New York where he earned an MFA in the NYU Creative Writing Program as The Axinn Foundation/E.L. Doctorow Fellowship recipient, and teaches literature and creative writing at CUNY City College.