Tehran at Twilight

Salar Abdoh (The Poet Game) offers both political mystery and personal drama; Tehran at Twilight is a fascinating glimpse of contemporary Iran through the familiar story of childhood friends whose paths are beginning to diverge irreversibly.

The novel follows American university teacher Reza Malek on his journey back to Tehran, where his old friend Sina Zafa has requested his help in a complex scheme. Though both men fled Iran as children and attended school together in the U.S., they have since developed wildly different political views. Reza has returned periodically to the Middle East as a reporter and interpreter. Meanwhile, Sina has edged closer to the ranks of religious extremists who openly and violently oppose the West. When Sina asks Reza for assistance managing the large swaths of property his family acquired before the revolution, this seems to imply that his unspoken future plans may lead him to early death. Reza has grown accustomed to his safe, comfortable life in Harlem and is reluctant to become involved in Sina's murky affairs, but their friendship has remained strong enough that he's willing to risk losing his job and life to help.

In some ways, Reza's experience mirrors the author's. Abdoh was also born in Iran and now splits his time between Tehran and New York City, where he serves as co-director of the Creative Writing MFA program at the City College of New York. Likely this unusual perspective contributes to his protagonist's nuanced and difficult relationship with his home country. When contemplating whether or not to return to help Sina, he laments, "Tehran had become an addiction." --Annie Atherton

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