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.
Praise for trans(re)lating house one
Library Journal, “Best Debut Novels,” Fall/Winter 2019
The Millions, “Most Anticipated,” 2020
“An ambitious, important book, erudite and anguished, about the role of writer as witness.” —Kirkus
“Missaghi’s lyrical, meditative debut merges fiction, poetry, and critical study to explore Iran’s history and volatile present. . . . a bravura exhibition of writing as performance art.” —Publishers Weekly
“Missaghi writes in a distinctively lyrical and meditative voice that often feels like prose poetry. . . . Astonishing reading for the sophisticated.” —Library Journal
“Missaghi, a writer, translator, editor and teacher, uses a fragmented style, veering from journalism to magical realism, to tell a fragmented story that produces no answers, only questions: ‘Will the trauma ever stop being inherited? Will humans ever change?’” —The Millions
“All of Missaghi's work is written with an eye to probing human experience, cracking open the English language, and portraying life in the U.S. and Iran with a crisp honesty . . . trans(re)lating house one is an experimental hybrid work that combines a traditional novel narrative with quotes from theorists and writers, dossier-style notes on people who have been made to disappear after death, and poetry. The unnamed protagonist’s journey through Tehran—its teahouses, gardens of private homes, and streets—takes the reader along on her quest.” —Ploughshares
“A woman investigates the disappearance of statues from Tehran's public spaces. A second voice, who may be the woman in the present, documents a second set of disappearances: the lives lost in the 2009 election protests in Iran. A series of questions unravels these twinned narratives, troubling the boundaries between memory and history, dreams and art. A refreshingly candid (and surprisingly sensuous) work of intellectual, political, and creative inquiry.” —Joseph Ocón, Vroman's Bookstore
“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
“Maps the city and its dead, maps the way women move and act in public and private spaces in the city, maps history and overlaps it with a present. . . . Missaghi asks the reader to pay attention to how each text segment juxtaposes with surrounding segments and informs the work as a whole. . . . by engaging in the process of reading her book, we are creating our own map of the city’s story.” —Colorado Review