Négar Djavadi, 1969-

Book - 2018

"Kimiâ Sadr fled Iran at the age of ten in the company of her mother and sisters to join her father in France. Now twenty-five and facing the future she has built for herself as well as the prospect of a new generation, Kimiâ is inundated by her own memories and the stories of her ancestors, which come to her in unstoppable, uncontainable waves. In the waiting room of a Parisian fertility clinic, generations of flamboyant Sadrs return to her, including her formidable great-grandfather Montazemolmolk, with his harem of fifty-two wives, and her parents, Darius and Sara, stalwart opponents of each regime that befalls them"--Amazon.

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FICTION/Djavadi, Negar
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1st Floor FICTION/Djavadi, Negar Due Jun 12, 2024
Historical fiction
New York : Europa Editions [2018]
Main Author
Négar Djavadi, 1969- (author)
Other Authors
Tina A. Kover (translator)
Item Description
Originally published in the French as Désorientale.
Physical Description
339 pages : 23 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

EXILE and immigration, terms often used interchangeably, are dissimilar in one key aspect: Exile, brought on by inevitability and not by choice, lacks the agency so essential to immigration. Having been banished from her home, an exile must find her way in the aftermath of her own disappearance. In her remarkable novel, "Disoriental," Negar Djavadi - an Iranian writer who fled her native country after the 1979 revolution and settled in Paris - beautifully captures the "disorientation" of exile and the attempt to reconstruct a self through family stories. Her book spans four generations of the Sadrs, from the great-grandfather Montazemolmolk, a feudal landowner in Mazandaran, to his daughter Nour, to Nour's six sons, among them Darius, the father of Kimia, the narrator. We first encounter Kimia in the drab waiting room of a fertility clinic in Paris. Huddled with anxious couples in a dejected atmosphere of childlessness, she recounts her family's story, enveloped within the history of Iran. A sense of estrangement was commonplace among the Sadrs long before their geographic displacement from Tehran. Montazemolmolk, whose lands are confiscated following the collapse of the Qajar dynasty, settles in Qazvin and writes poems about exile. His descendant Darius, a political activist, has a penchant for vanishing. "We lived alongside him," his daughter writes, "grew, ate, passed our tests, opened the front door, got sick, earned our diplomas, and closed the front door without him really being aware of it." Darius's brother, known as Uncle Number Two, keeper of the family mythology, is "trapped in a lie": Married with children, he is homosexual in a country where homosexuality is the ultimate aberration. Kimia, a tomboy, is treated as an imaginary son by her father, who lectures her on Marx and Engels while shaving. And at times Iran is an entire culture that is estranged from itself, enchanted by all things Western, particularly French. In one of the book's funniest passages, we meet a French-educated gynecologist whose claim to fame is his use of the French word "vagin" to "designate that intimate part of the female anatomy that Persians, prudish and reserved, never mentioned by name." But while from Tehran everything in France, "from its politics to the smell of the shampoo," seems wonderful, the reality of being transplanted to Paris is far less so. At the French Embassy in Istanbul, where the Sadrs are belittled after their escape from Iran, Kimia understands that "Hugo and Voltaire and Rousseau and Sartre, around whom our lives had gravitated, were nothing but a Middle Eastern fiction." In Paris, where the family turns "into strangers, not only to other people, but to one another," she retreats into silence, turning to punk music, itinerancy and drugs. She sees the senselessness of the word "integrate," so often commanded to newcomers, because "to really integrate into a culture, I can tell you that you have to disintegrate first, at least partially, from your own." If there is one element weighing down this rich novel (translated from the French by Tina Kover), it's the exiled narrator's compulsion to explain so much of her country's past. The book contains not only extensive historical passages but also footnotes, which, as Kimia says, "will save you the trouble of looking it up on Wikipedia." But is it the job of a novel to engage in such overt exposition? And if it is, must it then be assessed with the same scrutiny reserved for a scholarly work? I struggled with this question as I read passages that at times seemed oversimplified, as when Kimia contends that "no Western observer, none of the pundits who claimed to be experts on the Near and Middle East, made the effort to see this revolution as a protest movement by intellectuals." But perhaps explaining a lost world is part of any exile's initial burden, until there comes a day when she feels she no longer has to. DALIA sofer is the author of the novel "The Septembers of Shiraz."

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [June 17, 2018]
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* We meet Kimiâ in a fertility-clinic office. She is alone, waiting with a tube of sperm, for the chance to become a mother. She has already lied to the fertility-clinic staff about her intentions to marry the man whose sperm she carries, but the reason for her deception is not immediately clear. What is obvious from the beginning of this riveting novel is that Djavadi is an immensely gifted storyteller, and Kimiâ's tale is especially compelling. The winner of multiple awards in France, this debut novel in translation follows the fortunes of one Iranian family from the dawn of the twentieth century through the revolution and their Parisian exile. The youngest of three daughters, Kimiâ was still a child when her family fled Iran, crossing the Turkish border under cover of night. Her father, a journalist and political dissident who played a role in the start of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, fought the extremist regime with a passion that culminated in a tragedy the family can only refer to as THE EVENT. But the roots of their story go back much further, to her great-grandfather and the harem of wives he kept on his land near the Caspian Sea. Kimiâ unthreads the narratives of her family history, and the shaping of her own identity, with the insight and verve of a master storyteller.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Djavadi's momentous first novel is a both a multigenerational family saga and a history of modern Iran. Narrated by 25-year-old Kimia Sadr, the story opens in 1996 in a fertility clinic in Paris, but Kimia's Iranian ancestors' stories take over right there in the waiting room, careening back and forth in time. Many generations of Sadrs make appearances: a great-grandfather obsessed with blue-eyed descendants, a grandmother born in a harem, uncles known numerically by birth order. When Kimia is still quite young, her journalist father, the blue-eyed Darius Sadr, is forced to flee Iran after his outspoken criticism, first of the shah, and then of Khomeini. In 1981, when Kimia is 10, she, her sisters, and her mother, Sara, cross dangerous mountains on horseback to join Darius in Paris, where their home becomes a dangerous hub of expat dissident activity. Kimia rebels, traveling Europe looking for a new self in debauchery and punk rock. Violence, meanwhile, follows the family to Europe, with tragic consequences. The novel convincingly and powerfully explores the enormous weight of one's family and culture on individual identity, especially the exile's. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

DEBUT Kimia Sadr sits alone in a Parisian fertility clinic, a tube of scientifically modified sperm on her lap, waiting for the chronically late Dr. Gautier and the procedure that will unite her with her family's DNA chain. A wryly funny narrator, Kimia passes the time reflecting on her roots in Persia, beginning with her great-grandfather's court in Mazandaran and the day that twins were born to the last of his 52 wives. In a tour de force of storytelling, screenwriter and debut novelist Djavadi deftly weaves together the history of 20th-century Iran, from the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh, through the installation of the Shah, Reza Pahlavi, to the revolution and the harsh rule of the Ayatollah, with the spellbinding chronicle of her own ancestors. Kimia's father Darius and mother Sara, dissident writers whose work garners the attention of the security services, will be smuggled from their homeland to France, where they struggle with the disorientation of exile. Meanwhile, Kimia, questioning her sexuality and her place in the family, suffers her own form of disorientation. VERDICT Already the recipient of multiple prizes in France, this enchanting novel, well translated and with surprises and delights on every page, perfectly blends historical fact with contemporary themes.-Sally Bissell, formerly with Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Fort Myers, FL © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

French-Iranian screenwriter Djavadi blends the fates of individuals and families with the history of modern Iran in this award-winning debut novel about exile, integration, and the human cost of political opposition.Narrated by Kimi Sadr, youngest daughter in a family of intellectuals and political dissidents, the narrative jumps from a contemporary fertility clinic in Paris to her childhood in Iran. "I'm the granddaughter of a woman born in a harem," she explains, recounting the dramatic birth, during a windstorm, of blue-eyed Nour, who later bears six sons in an arranged marriage, reads Dostoevsky, eventually leaves her husband, and dies the day Kimi is born. History, both familial and national, swirls across every page. Djavadi works hard to keep the reader oriented within the welter of stories and characters: "Just be patient a little bit longer, dear Reader." "Since we can, let's jump on a literary magic carpet and zip through time and space." Well-placed footnotes help, the tone often gently mocking. Though there's plenty of tragedy here, there's humor as well. "Life is such that, even in the darkest depths of the drama, there is always still a little room left for the absurd." One of the narrator's recurring frustrations, which Djavadi conveys bitingly well, is Western ignorance about Iran. Woven into the gripping depictions of political unrest, family crises, national upheaval, and personal secrets is an excellent primer on the history of modern Iran. Djavadi knows her material cold and every scene rings true, from the bombing of the family's Tehran apartment by the secret police, to an escape across the mountains of Kurdistan on horseback to their reception at the French Embassy in Istanbul. Most affecting of all is her hard-won understanding of exile: "To really integrate into a culture...you have to disintegrate first." It is through the tales of her family that the narrator survives. Of her forebears Kimi says, "After so much time and distance, it's not their world that flows in my veins anymore, or their languages or traditions or beliefs, or even their fears, but their stories."Authentic, ambitious, richly layered, and very readable. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.