Mel at The Reading Life wrote about Goli Taraghi’s short fiction years ago; I added it to my TBR in 2017 and finally borrowed a copy of The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons this spring. Translated by Sara Kalili, these stories are selected from her body of work. These are polished and exacting stories, sometimes joyful and often surprising.
In “The Gentleman Thief”, three generations of women inhabit a “world, turned upside down and we couldn’t grasp the meaning and logic of events and incidents”. For grandmother, mother and daughter: “It was strange, but strange things had become normal.” There is so much fear. “Fear of the unknown, fear of an uncertain future.” And a sense of helplessness. “Who were we? Three lone women. We were no match for the Revolutionary Court and the Foundation of Martyrs. We were no match for anyone. We were scared of our own shadow.” But also a relentless degree of agency: this woman inhabit dangerous times and places, but they resist and persist.
In the title story, readers directly participate in the author’s observation. It even infiltrates her characters. In an airport, for instance: “The people seeing off friends and relatives stand waiting behind the glass wall with cheerless patience. Those inside watch the others outside.” (“Cheerless patience”: can’t you just see that?) And contradictions are embraced. “I feel homesick – can you believe it? Already homesick. And yet I want to run, get away, escape. I will leave and never come back, I tell myself, No. I will stay right here, in my beloved Tehran, with all its good and bad, and I will never leave.”
Stylistically and thematically, her work reminds me of Anita Desai, but the emotional heft reminds me of William Trevor: language and subject are simple, but these stories are born of the lives of ordinary people who inhabit extraordinary moments.
Contents: Gentleman Thief, In Another Place, The Great Lady of My Soul, The Flowers of Shiraz, Amina’s Great Journey, The Neighbor, Unfinished Game, The Encounter, The Other One, The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons (Trans. Karim Emami).