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The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons: Selected Stories

The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons: Selected Stories

by Goli Taraghi

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“Carries the flavor of the old world, its underlying ferocity leavened by a lyrical mysticism. . . . Her prose is transcendent.”—Washington Post

Rich in characters both whimsical and deeply poignant, humorous and real, the stories of Goli Taraghi have made her one of the world’s most beloved contemporary writers from Iran. A


“Carries the flavor of the old world, its underlying ferocity leavened by a lyrical mysticism. . . . Her prose is transcendent.”—Washington Post

Rich in characters both whimsical and deeply poignant, humorous and real, the stories of Goli Taraghi have made her one of the world’s most beloved contemporary writers from Iran. A best-selling author in her native country and widely anthologized in the United States and around the world, Taraghi's work is now made fully accessible to an English-speaking audience in this standout and long-awaited volume of selected stories, selected as a Best Book of 2013 by staff and critics at National Public Radio.

Drawing on childhood experiences in Tehran during the reign of the Shah, her exile in Paris, and her subsequent visits to Tehran after the revolution, Taraghi develops characters and tales that linger in one’s mind. In the title story, a woman traveling from Tehran to Paris is obliged to help an old woman—the Pomegranate Lady—find her way to her fugitive sons in Sweden. In "The Gentleman Thief," a new kind of polite, apologetic thief emerges from the wreckage of the revolution. In "Encounter," a woman's world is upended when her former maid becomes her jailer. And in "The Flowers of Shiraz," a group of teenagers finally manages to coax a shy schoolmate out of her shell—only to once again encounter tragedy.

Reminiscent of the work of Nadine Gordimer and Eudora Welty, Taraghi's stories capture universal experiences of love, loss, alienation, and belonging—all with an irresistible sense of life’s absurdities.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For Western readers, this fascinating collection might be most absorbing for the glimpses of daily life in Iran it provides, both in times of trouble and during more ordinary occurrences, like dance class for teenage girls in 1953 or a household antique sale during the 1979 revolution. Taraghi, born in Tehran in 1939 and currently living in Paris, also conveys the heartache and ambivalence of life in exile. The cumulative result is textured and nuanced, reflecting many different angles of upheaval and separation. In “Amina’s Great Journey,” an Iranian mother of two who flees to France during the revolution witnesses the remarkable transformation of her maid, a Bangladeshi woman whose abusive husband controls her from oceans away until unpredictable circumstances change the situation. In “Gentleman Thief,” a college student uncovers how some people who could not leave Iran after the Shah’s fall made do. Though overlong interior monologues slow the pace of a few stories, Taraghi’s knack for dialogue feels fresh and intimate throughout. Overall, the reader is left with an acute understanding of what all of these characters have endured. (Oct.)
“Rich, layered, and haunting worlds…. The thread through each engaging tale is the quest for dignity, particularly as it relates to comfort and home, and the unavoidable awkwardness of exile.”
Azar Nafisi
“Goli Taraghi is a natural storyteller, at once original and universal, filled with passion, curiosity, empathy, as well as mischief—definitely mischief. Her stories lovingly and critically reveal to us something of the seemingly fragile, unexpectedly resilient spirit of Iran: its vibrancy, beauty, tenderness, sensuality, its flirtatious seriousness, its anguished humor and always, even under the most brutal conditions, its people's love of life. No matter where we live, Taraghi's Pomegranate Lady and other characters become our kith and kin.”
Richard Bausch
“What an exciting new entrée Goli Taraghi brings to what I think of as the sumptuous banquet of contemporary fiction. The stories open like gates onto whole cities, exotic states of being, and you live in them as you live in good novels; they carry that kind of reach, that kind of emotional range. Characters reveal their entire being in a few sentences, and you end up worrying about them in that delicious way we worry about the people in our best stories. I will not soon forget the Pomegranate Lady and her sons, nor will you.”
Joan Silber
“A book of many pleasures. It has a scalpel-sharp sense of the absurd and a splendid view of the wild resourcefulness of people coping with restraints. Vibrancy spills from impossible situations—pain and charm keep trading places—in Goli Taraghi's remarkable stories.”
Mythili Rao - The Daily Beast
“Taraghi carves out space for mysterious forces … in her stories.”
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-09-15
An Iranian writer prized internationally and among fellow writers of fiction deserves a wider American readership for this rich, provocative collection of stories. Though there's occasionally a "once upon a time," fablelike quality to these stories, Taraghi's fiction (A Mansion in the Sky, 2003, etc.) reflects her own experience as a woman born in Tehran in 1939; she has suffered the upheavals of war and revolution, seen the rules change and disappear, and has long lived in Paris. Many of these are tales of two cities, of relocating to a city where one cannot be at home--"Our lives as foreigners in Paris are full of hidden anxieties," she writes in "The Neighbor," one of the shorter and strongest stories here--while their home in pre-revolutionary Tehran exists only in memory. "If Iran was not at war, I would go back home," explains the narrator of the same story. "If it weren't for my fear of the bombs and the rockets, I would not stay here a single day. But in truth, the real battlefield is here." Though the turbulence gives each story a political dimension, the human condition is at the heart of these stories, which explore the ambiguities of freedom and the essence of exile through a series of narrators, many of whom share gender, generational and geographical specifics with the author, but most have a limited perspective and some seem to have blinders on. One of the longer stories, "Amina's Great Journey," traces the arc of a Bangladeshi maid's life and travails, as recounted by the condescending narrator who employs her, first in Tehran and later in Paris, and who becomes her reluctant benefactor. In "The Encounter," the narrator finds herself at the mercy of a nanny she had fired, perhaps unjustly, in the post-revolution turning of tables. There is plenty of dark humor in these stories amid "the painful ambiguity of conjecture and uncertainty." The simple diction throughout belies the depth and ambition of this fiction.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author

Goli Taraghi was born in Tehran in 1939. She has been honored as a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in France, and her work has been widely anthologized, including in Reza Aslan’s Tablet and Pen. She lives in Paris.

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