An critically-acclaimed Iranian author makes his American literary debut with this powerful and harrowing psychological portrait of modern Iran—an unprecedented and urgent work of fiction with echoes of The Stranger, 1984, and The Orphan Master’s Son—that exposes the oppressive and corrosive power of the state to bend individual lives.
Yunus Turabi, a bus driver in Tehran, leads an unremarkable life. A solitary man since the unexpected deaths of his father and mother years ago, he is decidedly apolitical—even during the driver’s strike and its bloody end. But everyone has their breaking point, and Yunus has reached his.
Handcuffed and blindfolded, he is taken to the infamous Evin prison for political dissidents. Inside this stark, strangely ordered world, his fate becomes entwined with Hajj Saeed, his personal interrogator. The two develop a disturbing yet interdependent relationship, with each playing his assigned role in a high stakes psychological game of cat and mouse, where Yunus endures a mind-bending cycle of solitary confinement and interrogation. In their startlingly intimate exchanges, Yunus’s life begins to unfold—from his childhood memories growing up in a freer Iran to his heartbreaking betrayal of his only friend. As Yunus struggles to hold on to his sanity and evade Saeed’s increasingly undeniable accusations, he must eventually make an impossible choice: continue fighting or submit to the system of lies upholding Iran’s power.
Gripping, startling, and masterfully told, Then the Fish Swallowed Him is a haunting story of life under despotism.
About the Author
Amir Ahmadi Arian started out as a journalist in Iran in 2000 and has since published a collection of stories, a nonfiction book, and two novels in Persian. He also translated from English to Persian novels by E.L Doctorow, Paul Auster, P.D. James, and Cormac McCarthy. Since leaving Iran in 2011 to complete a PhD in comparative literature at the University of Queensland, Australia, he has published short stories and essays in Michigan Quarterly Review, Guernica, The New York Times, and The Guardian. He currently lives in New York where he earned an MFA in the NYU Creative Writing Program as The Axinn Foundation/E.L. Doctorow Fellowship recipient, and teaches literature and creative writing at CUNY City College.
“An important new novel, not-to-be-missed... A sharply observed, painfully intimate and illuminating vision of Iran that will be invaluable to readers.”
— Joyce Carol Oates
“I found Amir Arian’s Then the Fish Swallowed Him a strange and startling vision written with the ferocity of an endangered artist and the lyric eloquence of a master. The world conjured up in these pages will haunt the reader with a real, palpable but entertaining dread much like the Iranian classic, The Blind Owl. It is a debut of genuine brilliance and wit.”
— Chigozie Obioma, Man Booker Shortlisted author of The Fisherman and An Orchestra of Minorities
“Then the Fish Swallowed Him had me gripped from the start, I couldn’t turn away. A story about power and the way it can hold us in its cruel grasp. This is a novel of our times. Revealing, dark and illuminating, beautiful and tense.”
— Christy Lefteri, author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo
“Then the Fish Swallowed Him is a gripping, intelligent novel, opening vistas of the imagination with economy and insight. Harrowing and clear as a bell.”
— Isabella Hammad, author of The Parisian
“In this stunning work, Arian accomplishes a rare feat by telling a captivating story of an unforgettable character and by bearing witness to the hard truths endured by political prisoners everywhere.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“A distressing, smartly interior tale of the horrors sown by oppressive politics.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)