Rashidi (The Outcast, 2014, etc.) returns with a second volume of short stories about Iran.
As in his previous collection of short fiction, Rashidi offers a selection of stories of village life in pre-revolution Iran. In “Game Over,” a group of children awaits the death of a neighbor’s sick mother, hoping their neighbor will return their ball after she’s gone. In “Romance In The Lane,” a curious boy watches a harried man, continually humiliated by his wife, fall into the arms of another woman. In “Batool,” a lisping orphan girl appears suddenly in the life of a family, only to disappear again. Told from the perspectives of boys and young men, these stories observe daily scenes with a fresh energy that withholds moral judgment but revels in absurdity. At times poignant but more often funny and lighthearted, the tales resonate across rifts of culture and time. This volume is shorter than its predecessor; its stories, more polished and lean. Rashidi’s voice, while strong before, has become more assured, spinning sentences effortlessly: “The bulk of Agha Kamal’s body resembled one of those long, oval Persian melons, crowned by his small head, on top of which was a bald patch, bordered with thinning frizzy hair....His tiny feet stuck out from the bottom of his short crinkled trousers like a pair of dormice.” The prose is measured and distinctive, drawing the reader in with little more than rhythm and description. Narrators are generally stand-ins for the audience: the objects of interest are their neighbors, as unknowable to the reader as they are to the narrators (or as our neighbors are to us). Rashidi accomplishes much in these five stories.
A short, lively volume that will leave the reader wanting much more.