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At the Wall of the Almighty
Farnoosh Moshiri

5 x 8 • 512 pages
ISBN 9781566563154 • paperback • $16.00

"I know that I'm in the hallways of El-Deen, the central prison of the Holy Republic, and I know that this guard is taking me from my solitary confinement — the Black Box — to cell number four, cell of the Unbreakables. But this is all I know..."

So begins our hero’s narration.

But Loony Kamal, the prison guard, doesn’t believe him. Is it really possible for a man to forget who he is? To lose every shred of memory?

Loony Kamal is bent on finding out. Our narrator, though, is even more determined to survive. Their relationship — with its inhuman brutality and surprising tenderness — lies at the complicated heart of Farnoosh Moshiri’s extraordinary debut novel. Which is where we quickly find ourselves, too, for we want what each man wants: like Kamal, we want to know more about our hero; like our hero, we long for his escape from Kamal's grasp and the prison's walls.

As if he were a latter-day Sherazade, our hero fights for his life by retreating into a world of stories — or memories? — of grandmothers and peacocks, love songs and saffron smells, and the softness of a young girl’s hand pulling him up onto a magic carpet that flies down New Spring Street, over the crooked houses, to the Almighty Wall, which Ali the Bricklayer stacks taller every night.

The grim unreality of life inside the prison falls darkly upon us, but the fire of Moshiri’s imagination also lights the way to a different world. The masterful whole she fashions of torture and fragments is essential reading not just for those interested in the seldom-heard voices of Iranian women, but for those who care about the progress of literature.

Farnoosh Moshiri grew up in a literary family in Tehran. She worked as a playwright and fiction writer in Iran, before fleeing the country in 1983 after her play was banned and its director and cast arrested. Winner of the Barthelme Memorial Fellowship at the University of Houston, she now teaches creative writing and literature. This is her first novel.

Media Reviews
A politics more profound than any local circumstances of site or current history... There is a revolution here. -James Robison

"This remarkably intricate and fascinating first novel dramatizes in luxuriant and resonant detail the ordeal of a political prisoner of the Iranian revolution of the late 1970s. ...The artful confusions of time, place, and characters brilliantly reinforce Moshiri's commanding theme: that anyone, regardless of his actions, may be perceived as both a hero of, and a traitor to, Iran's ``Holy'' Revolution. A superb debut."
--Kirkus Review

"Beautiful and terrifying at the same time...a masterful first novel that takes us inside the mind of a political prisoner as he endures torture and "rehabilitation" in a post-Revolution Iranian prison....the writing is spell-binding...transporting the reader out on a trajectory of masterful story-telling....poetry and magical realism brighten the dark dungeons....Rarely has torture been dealt with in such an exquisite, literary manner."
--Aljadid: A Review and Record of Arab Culture and Arts

"An ambitious and tangled first novel...The prisoner's stories...reveal a picture of Iran in happier times, while the narrative unfolds a dark, half-mad world."
--Publisher's Weekly

"A gripping document of the human mind under unthinkable stresses. She explores the limits of faith and hope, and miraculously has created a book both painful and uplifting....Moshiri is a writer of great talents. At the Wall is astonishing in its scope....This is a brave book: we feel lucky to be reading this story, one that needs to be told."

"A limitless expanse of molten lava...there is a powerful flow of psychological energy in the novel...fascinating patterns briefly emerge in the churning substance...the novel begins with an eruptive force and continues to gush out a stream of raw brutality, shock and emotional upheaval throughout its entire length....The novel derives its force from the atmosphere of fear and imminence of allegory to be read at a highly symbolic level...At the Wall of the Almighty is virtually a triumph. The scenes, as well as certain of the characters, are created imaginatively, directly related to the feelings they intend to invoke. The author is particularly adroit in the depiction of scenes to elicit emotional response from the reader. She does so without resorting to melodrama and overstatement. So many of the scenes...are effective vignettes, each an independent and self-contained exploration in the intricacies of human relations."
--Iranian Studies

"Iranian novelist Farnoosh Moshiri, in her beautiful and magical realistic novel documents a terrible story...At the Wall of the Almighty documents first the corrupt, decadent comprador monarchists and then the fundamentalist regime of unparalleled terror and torture."
--Political Affairs Magazine

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Another Sea, Another Shore
Understanding the US-Iran Crisis
Fate of a Prisoner,The