Fiction by Poupeh Missaghi
February 4, 2020 • 5.5 x 8.25 • 296 pages • 978-1-56689-565-1
Disappearing statues, missing protestors, inexplicable deaths—how does a writer account for Tehran’s shifting vanishing points?
In the aftermath of Iran’s 2009 election, a woman undertakes a search for the statues disappearing from Tehran’s public spaces. A chance meeting alters her trajectory, and the space between fiction and reality narrows. As she circles the city’s points of connection—teahouses, buses, galleries, hookah bars—her many questions are distilled into one: How do we translate loss into language?
Melding several worlds, perspectives, and narrative styles, trans(re)lating house one translates the various realities of Tehran and its inhabitants into the realm of art, helping us remember them anew.
About the Author
Poupeh Missaghi is a writer, a translator both into and out of Persian, Asymptote’s Iran editor-at-large, and an educator. She holds a PhD in English and creative writing from the University of Denver and an MA in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University. Her nonfiction, fiction, and translations have appeared in numerous journals, and she has several books of translation published in Iran. She is currently a visiting assistant professor at the Department of Writing at the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn.
“An ambitious, important book, erudite and anguished, about the role of writer as witness.” —Kirkus
“Missaghi writes in a distinctively lyrical and meditative voice that often feels like prose poetry. . . . Astonishing reading for the sophisticated.” —Library Journal
“A haunting political cartography, trans(re)lating house one is an evocative hybrid novel about the struggle to map the scars of our dead and disappeared.” —Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
“In this beautiful and brave book, art, love, death, and shards of the city accrete into a crucial archive of unbearable loss, but also of rich, fierce life. Echoing the probing explorations of Edmond Jabès, Anna Akhmatova and Charlotte Delbo, but with concerns and methods all her own, Poupeh Missaghi has fashioned a novel that bears clear-eyed witness and calls into question the act of witnessing, that beautifully renders a time and a place and interrogates whether such an endeavor is possible at all. The process of making and unmaking mirrors the world of missing art and bodies at the book’s center. This is important work. I hope Missaghi’s stunning debut finds its way into many hands.” —Laird Hunt
“Poupeh Missaghi’s trans(re)lating house one, through a fascinating synthesis of poetic form and rhetorical voice, strikingly theorizes our incessant need to narrate death and ‘to translate loss into language,’ while affirming those who memorialize, who make art, who witness. trans(re)lating house one documents disappearance. It documents state murders. It documents the disappearance of art, culture, and documentation itself. These urgent narratives make real what the cold facts cannot contain: how the corpses were once bodies that were loved, how they loved others, how they were tortured, how the authorities do all that they can to not name the missing, to conceal the histories, and to prevent society from understanding, grieving, and healing. trans(re)lating house one resonates with recent masterworks about disappearance, such as Sara Uribe’s Antígona González or Patricio Guzmán’s Nostalgia for the Light, where the search to find the disappeared becomes inseparable from how we understand the hemisphere, the nation, and even the universe itself. This is a rare and remarkable book.” —Daniel Borzutzky
“Poupeh Missaghi is so keenly attuned to the frequencies of city life that reading her novel of Tehran felt like a revelation. In fragments layered over one another, moments are extended, lives are resurrected, lovers meet, and many questions are asked. Which of the dead do we honor and why? Whose stories do we listen to, and why do we listen to them, and are we ever really listening? trans(re)lating house one is a searching, brilliant novel completely unlike anything I’ve ever read.” —Shuchi Saraswat, Brookline Booksmith
“In a series of pieces that constitute a haunting, harrowing whole, Poupeh Missaghi gives us one of the more close, contemporary glimpses of Iran to reach readers' eyes here. Coming out of Iran's tumultuous 2009 election, this book looks at disappearance, witness, perseverance, voice, loss, presence, absence, longing, in the hearts, souls, and lives of people there. The narratives here shatter one moment, shimmer another, narrating as stories will, yet also interrogating the nature of the narration. What language is this? Why this language? Why these stories for whose eyes and what purpose? These and other questions cast, the stories told here make for a compelling chronicle of telling power, of necessary testimony. What a book this is.” —Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company