Thank you to the lovely people at Europa Editions for my copy of Disoriental by Négar Djavadi. All thoughts and images are my own.
Author: Négar Djavadi
Genre: Literary Fiction, Fiction in Translation
Pub date: April 17, 2018
Read if you like: Air Traffic, novels that explore multiple time periods & geographic locations.
This novel, translated from the french by Tina Kover, is incredibly unique. Spanning multiple centuries, the themes it addresses are at once educational and universal. I learned an incredible amount about the history of Iran – Djavadi employs footnotes to further explain historical events her readers may need more context to understand. These footnotes are informative, but also allow a bit more of her snark to come into play. She uses them to educate and to commentate, and I enjoyed reading them just as much as I enjoyed the text of the novel.
Kimiâ’s ancestry is certainly nothing like my own, but the themes of searching through your past to explain elements of your present are as relatable as can be. I read this book simultaneously with the memoir Air Traffic, and I couldn’t help but note how well the two complemented one another. Exploring similar topics of parenthood, of culture, of age, of sibling rivalry, the two books are set in entirely different cultures but brought to the forefront a reminder that we are all humans and we all have a past. We are all living in the same world; we are all asking ourselves what role our parents played or didn’t play in who we are today.
The concept of time and of waiting was so expertly portrayed in this novel. Kimiâ spends a good portion of the book in a doctor’s office waiting room and the description of the boredom, desperation, and judgment wrapped up in that space was spot on.
This novel started slowly for me, but I ended up really enjoying the story and the tone. I learned an incredible amount about the revolutions in Iran and about the treatment of homosexuality in Iran. I finished it feeling a little bit better off than when I began.
SYNOPSIS: (AS TOLD BY THE BACK OF THE BOOK)
At once a sweeping saga of twentieth-century Iran and an intimate story of a young woman’s determination to create a future on her own terms, Disoriental is Négar Djavadi’s timely, passionate, and entertaining debut novel.
Kimiâ Sadr fled Iran with her mother and sisters at the age of ten to join her father in France. Now in her twenties, sitting in a fertility clinic in Paris as she awaits life-changing news, Kimiâ is inundated by memories of her ancestors, reminiscences, and family myths that reach her in unstoppable waves. Generations of flamboyant Sadrs return to her, including her formidable great-grandfather Montazelmolmolk with his harem of fifty-two wives, and her distracted but ardent parents, Sara and Darius, stalwart opponents of each political regime that has befallen them.
In this high-spirited, multigenerational tale, key moments of Iranian history punctuate a story about motherhood, family, exile, rebellion, and love. At the heart of this prize-winning international bestseller is the unforgettable Kimiâ Sadr – queer punk-rock aficionado and storyteller extraordinare, a woman caught between the vibrant intricacies of her origins and the modern life she’s made.