When Faraz accepts his uncle’s offer of a summer job converting one of Tehran’s prisons into a museum of repressive rule of the Shah, he understands too late that this will mean destroying all evidence that the present regime, the Islamic Republic of Iran, has also tortured and executed prisoners there. Haunted by the treachery of what he, a teacher of history, is required to do, Faraz discovers a series of secret notebooks written by Xavar, a young pregnant woman interned there in 1984 – and he realizes there’s a way to redeem the situation. Xavar is writing love letters to her husband Azad, with a powerful testimony of what’s being done to her. Scrambling to find more of her writing and piece it together before the job finishes, Faraz becomes deeply involved. He cannot keep Xavar’s tragic history to himself – with dangerous consequences, in which past and present collide.
‘Written by an award-winning poet and former prisoner who lived some of the stories she recounts, this eloquent and thoughtful novel interrogates what it means to live under a regime where everyone can be considered “a prisoner who [hasn’t] been arrested yet.” In a time when democracy is increasingly under threat and when hidden truths are rising to the surface, this story resonates with universal significance far beyond its time and place.’ – Catherine Davidson, poet, novelist and essayist, author of The Priest Fainted. (New York Times Notable Book of the Year)
‘A deeply affecting work. Nasrin Parvaz succeeds in conveying the intense fear and claustrophobia of what it must be like to live under any intolerant, fundamentalist regime. Even reading the story felt like a subversive act in itself. It’s a really striking book and I learned a great deal from reading it.’ – Rhiannon Lewis, Author of My Beautiful Imperial (Recommended by The Walter Scott Prize Academy)