Tag: Négar Djavadi

Disoriental by Négar Djavadi

Posted October 19, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 8 Comments

Disoriental by Négar DjavadiTitle: Disoriental (Goodreads)
Author: Négar Djavadi
Translator: Tina Kover
Published: Europa Edition, 2018
Pages: 338
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Shortlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature 2018
Longlisted for the BTBA 2019

Normally I am not a fan of multi-generational stories but there is always an exception to the rule and Disoriental is just that. My major problem is that there is never enough time spent with the characters. In this novel we follow Kimiâ Sadr who fled Iran with her mother and sisters at the age of ten. They join their father in France in the hopes for a better life. Now fifteen years later Kimiâ is overwhelmed with the memories of her ancestors.

What I loved about this novel is the way Négar Djavadi focuses specifically on one person but uses her as the foundation to look at the ancestry of her family. The constant waves of memories and stories are the driving force of Disoriental which allows the reader to explore the cultural history of Iran. From her great-grandfather Montazemolmolk, who had a harem of fifty-two wives, to Kimiâ, a queer woman sitting in a Parisian fertility clinic.

The inner flap refers to this novel as a kaleidoscopic story and I cannot think of a better way to describe Disoriental. We experience many key moments in Iranian history from the perspective of the Sadr family. We look at the cultural changes, the politics and the family throughout. The difference between Kimiâ and her great-grandfather are vastly different. A key element I found fascinating was the treatment of the LGBTQI community. A place where losing your virginity before marriage, having an affair, or abortion, or even a drug addiction is better than being a homosexual. I was surprised to learn that sex changes are legal in Iran, it is better to change your entire gender identity than be same sex attracted.

This whole history makes up the struggle for Kimiâ in the fertility clinic. She is torn between family traditions and her own ‘disorientalisation’ as a modern woman. While this might sound like a bleak novel and in many ways it really is, Négar Djavadi offers so much tenderness to the whole experience as well. We look at the history, we see the family dramas but we also see the triumphs as well. Living in Paris where Kimiâ has more freedom than she may have had in an alternate life. There is so much more to explore within Disoriental but for me this was a novel of identity. Her family’s past defines Kimiâ Sadr as much as her own identity.

I found so much tenderness within such an important book. It was the little moments in their lives that really helped along the way. For example at the beginning of the novel Kimiâ’s father Dirius never took the elevator. He say they were for ‘them’ and by ‘them’ he meant the citizens of France. In this little anecdote we see so much about the attitude he had as an immigrant. Without going into the bleak backstory we know Dirius Sadr sees himself as a second-class citizen not wanting to do anything that might offend the people around him. This small tale says so much without going into specifics. It is this kind of storytelling that allows Négar Djavadi to write about so much about the world without adding to the bleakness.

I am very impressed with Disoriental. I love a novel that can explore important subjects and deal with the current start of the world without making the whole reading experience feel like a chore. I assume that this novel is semi-biographical but I am only speculating. Négar Djavadi has done an amazing job and it is important to have novels like Disoriental in the world. Tina Kover did a wonderful job translating this book which allows me to understand a little more about the world I live in. I highly recommend Disoriental, and it is my pick to win the National Book Award for Translated Literature in 2018.


Distracted by Other Books

Posted October 2, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 12 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in September 2018

For the past few months it has felt like I have really slowed down in my reading, and that felt a little demoralising. Granted, to use the world ‘demoralising’ when referring to one’s reading life is very much a first world problem. To think my biggest problems in my life is about my reading journey really does mean that I have a pretty great life. I am currently in a period of uncertainty with my job where I am unsure if I will be made redundant and yet my concern is directed towards how many books I have read in a single month. As much as I would love to keep my current job, I feel at ease around the whole situation, one path leaves me with work, the other leads to a pay out and more reading time. While I do experience a little worry, it only comes in short waves and honestly I feel like they would be stupid to get rid of me.

Getting back to my reading month, I started off by finishing The Shape of the Ruins. I had put this one aside for the entire month of August because it was Women in Translations Month. Which makes me feel like I have done this book a disservice. Setting down a book normally is caused by not enjoying what I am reading but in this case I was literally distracted by other books. I am more interested in being a part of this great reading event. Juan Gabriel Vásquez is an amazing writer and I feel like my recent discovery of his books is one of the highlights of the year, but when women in translation month came along I could not stop myself from focusing on that event. Do you ever get that feeling? Sometimes I want to go into the new month with a clean slate but there will always be other books to distract my reading journey. I have found my reading niche, and I am happy that my focus is solely on translations, probably because I am now being distracted by less books than before.

One of the highlights of September was a weekend away from everything. My wife had to go down to Brisbane for work, and I decided to come along for the ride. I had a few days in a hotel room with some books I wanted to read. This was an amazing experience. I took down Aracoeli, Fever and Spear and Wait, Blink to occupy my time. There is something refreshing about stepping away from the distractions of your life to focus on some reading. I think this reignited the passion within me and kicked my reading back into normal gear. I was not experiencing a reading slump but I think I was lacking the motivation to read as frequently as I normally do. As far as the three books are concerned, Fever and Spear was the clear highlight. I think I am not smart enough to fully appreciate Aracoeli, but I will get there and Wait, Blink was just a fun quirky read.

The National Book Award in America last year announced that they had added a translated literature award and this month we finally got to see what was on their first longlist. My initial reaction to the list was one of curiosity, mainly because I was unfamiliar with half the picks. There were some obvious choices like Flights which won the Man Booker International prize this year. However The Beekeeper is an interesting pick, mainly because it is the only non-fiction book to make the list. I do feel like I should read the entire longlist just to be a part of the conversation. I listen to a podcast called The Three Percent Podcast which focuses mainly on translations and the publishing world, and just listening to the way they talk so critically about this longlist makes me envious. I know I have only recently focused on reading translations but I hope to be able to get to a point in my life where I can just scoff at a longlist the same way as the hosts. This kind of reaction happens all the time when an award like the Man Booker International longlist is announced. I feel like that kind of familiarity towards the choices is definitely a reading goal for me. Out of the ten books picked, I had only read one of the books picked (Flights), but at the end of this month I have completed three more (Wait, Blink, Love and Trick). Two others are currently being read (Comemadre and Disoriental). Which is leaving me in a really good position to complete the rest of the list, which are Aetherial Worlds, The Beekeeper, One Part Woman and The Emissary. Expect to see reviews from all these books in the next few months.

I finished off the month reading African Psycho, which is obviously a parody on American Psycho but I think I enjoyed it more. Not because there was anything special about the novel, mainly because it was a very different book to what I expected. Half the book I felt was a struggle, and that seemed to be the author emulating that obsession found in American Psycho, but the ending really pulled the whole book together. Finally I ended the month on a low note, The Silence of the Girls, which was the book club pick for October. It was a boring retelling of the Trojan War told from the perspective of a female slave. There was so much potential in exploring the fears this woman might have faced but Pat Barker missed the opportunity. This was told from the first person perspective of the slave so we could hear her thoughts, but for the most part the author wrote lines like “I was scared” regarding a situating with nothing more. You know that old writing advice “show don’t tell”? Pat Barker should have listened to that advice. Just writing about this is making me angry and I have said more about this novel than the others because this will be the last time I put any effort into writing about The Silence of the Girls.

I mentioned that I am currently reading Comemadre and Disoriental. I also mentioned that I want to complete the National Book Awards longlist for translated literature, so I do need to mention that again. I have been feeling very motivated and I hope to take that opportunity to write more. I still have a few reviews to write but I also want to get back into BookTube. I love talking about literature and looking for as many ways to do so as possible. Have you seen The Literary Discord? For those who do not know, Discord is like a modern day forum, it was created mainly for games as a place to build communities, but other communities have utilised it as well, including me when I created The Literary Discord as another place to talk about literature. My plan to return to BookTube is to push myself to speak about books that do not get enough attention (translations). It is a way to practise speaking and develop my voice. I have this blog and my podcast that I am passionate about, I hope to be able to bring that same passion back to BookTube, because I lost it. I hope this new found energy continues for me and I hope you have all had a great reading month.

Read More