The Immortals of Tehran by Ali Araghi is a novel that encompasses the breadth of an Iranian family and the conflicts they become involved in. It’s a novel about family, magic, relationships, politics, war, and is written in the same vein and voice that a weaving family history would be told in. The story mainly focuses on Ahmad, a son who can’t speak after he is forced to shoot his father, where he learns what it means to exist within conflict. Araghi is able to create a sweeping narrative that captures magic found within the family’s curse of living forever, the burning ability of Ahmad’s poetry, and the flowers created after a musician plays songs. The magic adds curiosity, suspension, and all felt wonderful within the world that Araghi builds.
I was especially impressed with how Araghi navigates the death of one of the immortal characters, Agha. Reading the portions where Agha observes himself to be dead and a celebration/funeral is thrown in his honor is surreal. And I felt the finality of setting Agha back in his tree, where he will reside in forever, was a fitting and bittersweet moment with both Ahmad and his grandfather, Khan. I also found the tie in with the story about the cats in the beginning added an air of legend to an already mythical story. Finally, in the last few pages of the novel, the narrator, in a way, identifies themselves which, not only adds to its parallelism with the cat story, but becomes a story about a story. This feels like a story that a grandpa tells their grandson, something passed so delicately from one mouth to another about how the family came to be. And for that, I loved it.
Final Rating: 5/5
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Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.