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As a child living in his family's apple orchard, Ahmad Torkash-Vand treasures his great-great-great-great grandfather's every mesmerizing word. On the day of his father's death, Ahmad listens closely as the seemingly immortal elder tells him the tale of a centuries-old family curse . . . and the boy's own fated role in the story. Ahmad grows up to suspect that something mus As a child living in his family's apple orchard, Ahmad Torkash-Vand treasures his great-great-great-great grandfather's every mesmerizing word. On the day of his father's death, Ahmad listens closely as the seemingly immortal elder tells him the tale of a centuries-old family curse . . . and the boy's own fated role in the story. Ahmad grows up to suspect that something must be interfering with his family, as he struggles to hold them together through decades of famine, loss, and political turmoil in Iran. As the world transforms around him, each turn of Ahmad's life is a surprise: from street brawler, to father of two unusually gifted daughters; from radical poet, to politician with a target on his back. These lives, and the many unforgettable stories alongside his, converge and catch fire at the center of the Revolution. Exploring the brutality of history while conjuring the astonishment of magical realism, The Immortals of Tehran is a novel about the incantatory power of words and the revolutionary sparks of love, family, and poetry--set against the indifferent, relentless march of time.


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As a child living in his family's apple orchard, Ahmad Torkash-Vand treasures his great-great-great-great grandfather's every mesmerizing word. On the day of his father's death, Ahmad listens closely as the seemingly immortal elder tells him the tale of a centuries-old family curse . . . and the boy's own fated role in the story. Ahmad grows up to suspect that something mus As a child living in his family's apple orchard, Ahmad Torkash-Vand treasures his great-great-great-great grandfather's every mesmerizing word. On the day of his father's death, Ahmad listens closely as the seemingly immortal elder tells him the tale of a centuries-old family curse . . . and the boy's own fated role in the story. Ahmad grows up to suspect that something must be interfering with his family, as he struggles to hold them together through decades of famine, loss, and political turmoil in Iran. As the world transforms around him, each turn of Ahmad's life is a surprise: from street brawler, to father of two unusually gifted daughters; from radical poet, to politician with a target on his back. These lives, and the many unforgettable stories alongside his, converge and catch fire at the center of the Revolution. Exploring the brutality of history while conjuring the astonishment of magical realism, The Immortals of Tehran is a novel about the incantatory power of words and the revolutionary sparks of love, family, and poetry--set against the indifferent, relentless march of time.

30 review for The Immortals of Tehran

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rob Holden

    A sweeping (if not entirely epic) family saga at heart, shot through with shades of magical realism and rooted in the rich and tragic history of post-World War II Iran, Ali Araghi’s IMMORTALS OF TEHRAN is a truly rare sort of debut novel from an author seasoned beyond his years. With powerful, engaging prose, Araghi weaves an intricate tapestry of interlocking narratives, relationships and timelines that beg us as readers to ask important and probing questions about this oft overlooked people an A sweeping (if not entirely epic) family saga at heart, shot through with shades of magical realism and rooted in the rich and tragic history of post-World War II Iran, Ali Araghi’s IMMORTALS OF TEHRAN is a truly rare sort of debut novel from an author seasoned beyond his years. With powerful, engaging prose, Araghi weaves an intricate tapestry of interlocking narratives, relationships and timelines that beg us as readers to ask important and probing questions about this oft overlooked people and the turmoil they’ve endured.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Smitha Murthy

    I am fatigued after reading this book. I felt I exercised a great deal of my limited intellectual ability in reaching the end. This was part of my “let me read a book set in a country I haven’t visited yet” series. I thought I knew a little bit of Iranian history, but Alireza’s use of magical realism in conveying that history left me confused. This is a sweeping bildungsroman, in the tradition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. We are told the story of an eccentric family with the protagonist, Ahmad, be I am fatigued after reading this book. I felt I exercised a great deal of my limited intellectual ability in reaching the end. This was part of my “let me read a book set in a country I haven’t visited yet” series. I thought I knew a little bit of Iranian history, but Alireza’s use of magical realism in conveying that history left me confused. This is a sweeping bildungsroman, in the tradition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. We are told the story of an eccentric family with the protagonist, Ahmad, being a poet who loses his voice after witnessing his father commit suicide. In the background is the fable of cats who want to take revenge for being driven out of their homeland. Therefore, Ahmad and all male members are cursed with immortality and watching their beloved sons die. The cats also foretell the chaos and confusion in Iran that began with the rise of Mossadegh, the Shah’s iron rule, and the eventual revolution. It’s this period that the book deals with. By itself, it’s a lot to take in, but add in cats, poetry through words that catch fire, secret affairs, revolutionaries, burning cats, cats with rifles, old men who die but are alive, and more cats riding army tanks, it became too much for my poor mind.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kim Lockhart

    Excellent presentation of the Iranian people's cyclical experience with struggle and triumph, seen through generations of a family's saga. Excellent presentation of the Iranian people's cyclical experience with struggle and triumph, seen through generations of a family's saga.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shamiram

    My high expectations left me disappointed 😔 All the components are there for me. Family saga, magical realism, a character who is a famous poet, an old dude who lives in a tree and never really dies, revolution, cats, etc etc etc. Somehow, though, it still fell short! Clearly, there are many compelling parts of this book, but I just feel like a lot of them were not fleshed out enough and I wanted more!!!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ti.Me

    Not a bad story, I got so horribly disinterested that I speed-read for a while then put the book down at 56%. I read another two books then came back to it. Finally finished and really regret it as a waste of time. No more of this author for me. 3 stars for mystical ideas and polished writing

  6. 4 out of 5

    Liz O'Neill

    I never wanted to stop reading it, but I wanted it to be over...if that makes sense. It wasn’t exactly as I expected and not the type of text I normally read (which is why I wanted to give it a try). Ali Araghi was able to intertwine magic and Iranian history, but not in a way that one overshadows the other. The characters and their relationships are complex and each important to the revolution and storyline. I enjoyed the book, but I know I would have liked and appreciated it more if I had more I never wanted to stop reading it, but I wanted it to be over...if that makes sense. It wasn’t exactly as I expected and not the type of text I normally read (which is why I wanted to give it a try). Ali Araghi was able to intertwine magic and Iranian history, but not in a way that one overshadows the other. The characters and their relationships are complex and each important to the revolution and storyline. I enjoyed the book, but I know I would have liked and appreciated it more if I had more prior knowledge of Iranian history. So if you’re going to read it, brush up on the history a little bit.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Terry Tessar

    I mostly enjoyed the depiction of Iran and the family relationships, the fantasy parts not so much.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Younkin

    In this stunning work of magic realism, Ali Araghi transports readers to Iran’s recent past, where an extended family deals with a legendary curse. Ahmad, the principal character, is as a child an unwitting and unwilling participant in his father’s suicide. As a result of the trauma, Ahmad is struck dumb, a permanent condition that only allows him to shape words with his mouth. His voice is gone. His great grandfather Agha tries to connect with the boy and tells the tale of the cats, creatures w In this stunning work of magic realism, Ali Araghi transports readers to Iran’s recent past, where an extended family deals with a legendary curse. Ahmad, the principal character, is as a child an unwitting and unwilling participant in his father’s suicide. As a result of the trauma, Ahmad is struck dumb, a permanent condition that only allows him to shape words with his mouth. His voice is gone. His great grandfather Agha tries to connect with the boy and tells the tale of the cats, creatures who have their own land. When the land is invaded by humans and an endless war begins. The cats seek revenge by trying to cause chaos and disrupt human society. Khan, Ahmad’s father, son of Agha becomes convinced cats are behind Russian interference in his homeland and instigators of the social unrest that pits leftist forces against the Shah’s regime. Ahmad, who grows up to become a poet and then a politician doesn’t believe his father or his grandfather but is careful to not offend them. He becomes a member of Parliament and although he is sympathetic to the leftist cause to which his childhood friend Salman belongs, he allows himself to be controlled by people close to the Shah. In relative anonymity, Ahmad writes rousing poetry, words that have the power to catch on fire and melt metal. The leftists use the poetry to advance their cause. Ahmad ends up betraying Salman to his shame. The scope of this story is vast, covering decades of Iran’s turbulent past as a backdrop to the intimate history of Ahmad and his family, their loves, their enemies, and their struggles. The characters and situations seem so real and vivid, I didn’t even blink at the fantastic elements. It is a measure of the writer’s skill to make the reader believe in the magical parts and Araghi did this. The story left me feeling as if I visited a very real place during a dangerous time. After reading the book, I was both exhilarated and sad. Fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, magical realism, and literary fiction will love this book. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Myers

    I don't usually review books I don't finish, especially since I only made it through the first chapter on this one. But as I learned in my workshop days back in college, there's great value in learning when and why a reader stops reading your work. I was drawn to this book for the same reason many others were: a deeper look into a country and culture I wasn't familiar with, a touch of magical realism for spice, and competent prose. And the first chapter opens with great promise: a boy wakes up on I don't usually review books I don't finish, especially since I only made it through the first chapter on this one. But as I learned in my workshop days back in college, there's great value in learning when and why a reader stops reading your work. I was drawn to this book for the same reason many others were: a deeper look into a country and culture I wasn't familiar with, a touch of magical realism for spice, and competent prose. And the first chapter opens with great promise: a boy wakes up on an important day to find his world covered in deep fog, and then his friend arrives unexpectedly to tell him there's something wrong with his father. And off the boys go. Tension, atmosphere, good dialog. Excellent. Then we get several pages of dry backstory about his father and his father's father and his mother and WWII. Raw exposition. A dead stop in the narrative. Finally, we get back to the boy running to where his father is in trouble, only for him to witness his father's suicide (not a spoiler--it's on the back of the dust jacket). It's a graphic suicide by gun-in-the-mouth, with descriptions of how the blood sprayed, and was his head flying backward or falling forward? and all the while the boy is holding the other end of the gun. Nice. Yes, the dust jacket did mention the word "brutal," but the only thing worse than reading about a graphic suicide is reading about a graphic suicide after a lengthy passage of passive exposition. Will I try this author's next work? Yes. I like his prose as well as his ambition (hence the two stars instead of one). But life is simply too short for dry histories of imaginary people who kill themselves.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cecelia

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I tried very hard to like this book. The cover art is beautiful, and the unfolding plot seemed unique and intriguing at first but the style required more fortitude than I could muster. The novel is a discursive ride through the author's brain in a monotone of events. Loved the idea of the silent poet-politician, the hat-stew, and the vengeful street cats who controlled everything. I'm a fan of magical realism, but I was not moved by the confusing magic in this story. Thank God a family tree was I tried very hard to like this book. The cover art is beautiful, and the unfolding plot seemed unique and intriguing at first but the style required more fortitude than I could muster. The novel is a discursive ride through the author's brain in a monotone of events. Loved the idea of the silent poet-politician, the hat-stew, and the vengeful street cats who controlled everything. I'm a fan of magical realism, but I was not moved by the confusing magic in this story. Thank God a family tree was included to help keep the cousins, children and fore-family straight. I'm thinking the author chose this plodding tale as a way to address the years of political infighting and revolutions that Iran has endured. Blame it on the cats! Create a group of dysfunctional immortals who are not heroes and do not kill the oppressors! Have God send down snowfalls that throw the country into economic upheaval, disrupt agriculture, and make more citizens suffer! I bailed out of the story about 3/4 of the way. I was floating uncontrollably on a frozen river of the misery of the people-like the dissidents who were rotting in the Shah's jails, and households just scraping by---even art could not save the day.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kristin DiBum

    This was an interesting story, but a slog. I enjoy magical realism, but it also requires that the author help out the reader with some parameters or at least means to handle it. For me that means precise language. I do feel like the author failed us there. For example: an elder who is dead but not dead and multiple references to summer in the middle of a 15 year winter. I felt he was only successful in that regard to the power of poetry, capable of shining, blinding, and burning. The author’s wr This was an interesting story, but a slog. I enjoy magical realism, but it also requires that the author help out the reader with some parameters or at least means to handle it. For me that means precise language. I do feel like the author failed us there. For example: an elder who is dead but not dead and multiple references to summer in the middle of a 15 year winter. I felt he was only successful in that regard to the power of poetry, capable of shining, blinding, and burning. The author’s writing is beautiful..yet it wasn’t compelling. I almost dreaded picking it up to read. The real shame is the novel’s lack of structure. Action scenes were interrupted by exposition. Years passed in single sentences (sometimes 9 years!). Point of view between the characters shifted sometimes from sentence to sentence or paragraph to paragraph without clarity. It took me too long to discover that in later chapters the novel would move forward a decade and then suddenly reverse a decade to describe the events from a different POV without any hint to the reader. The later protests were basically all the same, that felt like a scene on repeat. My biggest beef though is that plot points didn’t play out or were rushed. No closure for many characters and especially the cats.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Susan Ritz

    As soon as I started this book, I was hooked. It has all the elements that draw me in and keep me engaged from start to finish. It is not often that I stumble across a book that combines both historical fiction and magical realism–reminding me of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Isabelle Allende's House of the Spirits, and the few volumes of Iranian fiction I have been lucky enough to encounter. In this astounding debut, Ali Araghi uses the history of Iran through the twentieth century as the cent As soon as I started this book, I was hooked. It has all the elements that draw me in and keep me engaged from start to finish. It is not often that I stumble across a book that combines both historical fiction and magical realism–reminding me of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Isabelle Allende's House of the Spirits, and the few volumes of Iranian fiction I have been lucky enough to encounter. In this astounding debut, Ali Araghi uses the history of Iran through the twentieth century as the central force in his plot, then he creates a family of memorable characters whose lives intersect with the events that shaped the modern nation from World War II through the ascension of Khomeini. Moral dilemmas, changing social mores, politics, and romance all play out against a backdrop that recalls the tales of Scheherazade. Looking forward to more from this promising young author!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fatima Zahra

    Overall a very well-written, atmospheric novel. However, I was glad when it ended because after a while it felt like it was starting to drag on. The characters and their lives were interlinked and described thoroughly which didn't leave too many unanswered questions for me in the end. And although I wasn't able to get attached to any of the character, I sympathized for them in various instances. There was something missing which prevented me from getting emotionally attached and it might have be Overall a very well-written, atmospheric novel. However, I was glad when it ended because after a while it felt like it was starting to drag on. The characters and their lives were interlinked and described thoroughly which didn't leave too many unanswered questions for me in the end. And although I wasn't able to get attached to any of the character, I sympathized for them in various instances. There was something missing which prevented me from getting emotionally attached and it might have been the fact that the timeliness weren't too clear and there were just too many characters so there wasn't enough emphasis on a single one. If you're familiar with Iranian history post WW2, this will probably make for a better read, but nonetheless, it was very enjoyable and offers a glimpse into the world of ordinary people in a tumultuous, post-war Iran.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Daggry

    This is a book I should've abandoned. It's a case of a well-written book that was very much not for me. That is, a possibly five-star debut that was a two-star read for me. I loved the setting--Tehran and a village near it--and appreciated reading about lives touched in various ways by some of the most hopeful and painful historical events there. But magical realism often does not land for me. In this case, the magic of poetry did while the role of cats didn't, and I suspect that a true lover of This is a book I should've abandoned. It's a case of a well-written book that was very much not for me. That is, a possibly five-star debut that was a two-star read for me. I loved the setting--Tehran and a village near it--and appreciated reading about lives touched in various ways by some of the most hopeful and painful historical events there. But magical realism often does not land for me. In this case, the magic of poetry did while the role of cats didn't, and I suspect that a true lover of magical realism would've greatly enjoyed both. The two things that I found most difficult were, again, not reflections of the quality of the book: First was the plot line that began with a nine-year-old girl and a grown man, and second was the bleak pointlessness that attended the later lives of the three immortals. Especially now, it's hard to read something that feels so hopeless.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    I think this is a very well-written story with an intriguing premise. However, it really dragged on in the middle, and I felt that I didn't connect with any of the characters. We follow quite the cast of individuals, and don't get to spend a prolonger period with any of them. Even the main character, Ahmad, who we spend the most time with, felt distant from me since we rarely got a glimpse into his mind (I'm sad about this because he is clearly a brilliant and inspired character!). I am also ins I think this is a very well-written story with an intriguing premise. However, it really dragged on in the middle, and I felt that I didn't connect with any of the characters. We follow quite the cast of individuals, and don't get to spend a prolonger period with any of them. Even the main character, Ahmad, who we spend the most time with, felt distant from me since we rarely got a glimpse into his mind (I'm sad about this because he is clearly a brilliant and inspired character!). I am also inspired to learn more about both Iranian history, which influences much of the storyline, and Iranian folklore and myth. I would still give this book a chance if the premise intrigues you!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rad U

    I picked this book up out of sheer curiosity—it did not disappoint! The Immortals of Tehran follows Ahmad, a mute poet who tries to build a life for himself against the backdrop of the political turmoil of mid-century Iran. There is a curse and subtle magic, but I feel the real focus is on the family dynamic. I loved the characters and relationships, especially the bond between Khan, Pooran, and Ahmad. The book is steeped in culture (so much tea!) which was wonderfully refreshing (sorry). Some m I picked this book up out of sheer curiosity—it did not disappoint! The Immortals of Tehran follows Ahmad, a mute poet who tries to build a life for himself against the backdrop of the political turmoil of mid-century Iran. There is a curse and subtle magic, but I feel the real focus is on the family dynamic. I loved the characters and relationships, especially the bond between Khan, Pooran, and Ahmad. The book is steeped in culture (so much tea!) which was wonderfully refreshing (sorry). Some might find it a little slow, but I found the plot and writing style engaging and easy to follow. I huffed, laughed, cried, and feared for what might happen next. A great debut. I will definitely revisit this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    (a)lyss(a)

    I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. This book is an epic. Following Ahmad who can no longer speak and is doomed to watch tragedy follow his family this story is winding and complicated at times. There's magical realism involving cats and curses. The story mingles the history of Iran with magic to create a story that spans generations and historical events. It is a hefty read full of tragedy, loss, affairs, love, and everything in between. I received a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. This book is an epic. Following Ahmad who can no longer speak and is doomed to watch tragedy follow his family this story is winding and complicated at times. There's magical realism involving cats and curses. The story mingles the history of Iran with magic to create a story that spans generations and historical events. It is a hefty read full of tragedy, loss, affairs, love, and everything in between.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sobia

    Pretty confusing. The author jumped around. I was mostly intrigued because of the historical aspect of Iran, but that was only in the backdrop. I totally didn't understand the concept of the cats. I had to stop listening to the novel for a few days thinking I could go back to it with a more understanding. Unfortunately, that wan't the case. I think if I read the book, I might have better appreciated it. I'll probably come back to it in a few years. Pretty confusing. The author jumped around. I was mostly intrigued because of the historical aspect of Iran, but that was only in the backdrop. I totally didn't understand the concept of the cats. I had to stop listening to the novel for a few days thinking I could go back to it with a more understanding. Unfortunately, that wan't the case. I think if I read the book, I might have better appreciated it. I'll probably come back to it in a few years.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Adele

    There were many things I liked about The Immortals. I liked that Ahmad became a poet. I liked that his great grandfather was so old no one knew how old he was and at some point just expected him to live forever. I was pretty shocked when he finally died and so was his family. His and his family’s lives were entangled in the politics of their time. There was brutality but there was also beauty. I didn’t become emotionally invested in the characters. Not sure why not.

  20. 5 out of 5

    aj

    What a very strange and fun novel! I really enjoyed the fantastical mythology of the family, the orchards, rich descriptions of the environments, and political entanglements. I am also a cat lover, though I often felt conflicted about the cats of this story. Do not expect this to be a serious story with somber reflections on Iranian history. You can find aspects of that, but if you are looking for it specifically you won't appreciate the rest of the world building and character development. What a very strange and fun novel! I really enjoyed the fantastical mythology of the family, the orchards, rich descriptions of the environments, and political entanglements. I am also a cat lover, though I often felt conflicted about the cats of this story. Do not expect this to be a serious story with somber reflections on Iranian history. You can find aspects of that, but if you are looking for it specifically you won't appreciate the rest of the world building and character development.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Hooker

    “Multi-generational family epic” is not usually the description of a book I jump for but this really grabbed me, and the magical realist elements are just weird enough to keep you wondering. Fascinating history inside pre-revolutionary Iran and really well done characters. And a cabal of feral cats!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Desiree

    Thanks to the publisher for a free copy of The Immortals of Tehran. This book was hit and miss for what I usually read, but I ended up really getting into it, and would recommend it to pretty much anyone.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Williams

    I loved this novel. It's a magical realism novel set in Tehran. It reminded me a lot of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" as it followed a family through the story of the many uprisings. I really enjoyed the cats. I loved this novel. It's a magical realism novel set in Tehran. It reminded me a lot of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" as it followed a family through the story of the many uprisings. I really enjoyed the cats.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jill Patnode

    Left me wondering It was an odd and intriguing read. A glimpse into a history and culture not found in US History books. Couldn't stop reading as I knew I there was so much to the story that I didn't understand. Left me wondering It was an odd and intriguing read. A glimpse into a history and culture not found in US History books. Couldn't stop reading as I knew I there was so much to the story that I didn't understand.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Hickman

    I ended up caring about all the characters.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dominique Lear

    An engrossing and charming read that's the perfect balance between magical and deeply grounded. An engrossing and charming read that's the perfect balance between magical and deeply grounded.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Laura Trombley

    This book is magically weird and interesting. If you really like cats though, don't read it. This book is magically weird and interesting. If you really like cats though, don't read it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steve Aversa

    Enjoyed the gritty story of this Iranian family through the war, period of the Shah's rule, up to the revolution. Could have done without most of the magic realism. Enjoyed the gritty story of this Iranian family through the war, period of the Shah's rule, up to the revolution. Could have done without most of the magic realism.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cecilia

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. History, revolution, magic, family. This story was amazing, even occasionally hilarious. I loved it, except for the characterization of very young girls “romancing” grown men. Ick!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

    Compelling Family saga woven into Iranian history from WW2 through the 1979 Revolution. Interesting use of magical realism and cats.

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