Excerpt from Aria by Nazanine Hozar, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Nazanine Hozar

Aria by Nazanine Hozar X
Aria by Nazanine Hozar
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2020, 448 pages
    Jun 2021, 448 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Daniela Schofield
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Mehri opened her eyes. She was lying on a mound of carpets. "Does he look like his father?" she asked.

The old man, Karimi, was holding the baby. "She doesn't know?" he whispered, turning to his wife.

"She feels it," Fariba said, glancing at Mehri. Fariba was much younger than her husband, and she was Mehri's one friend.

"I can tell she doesn't know," Karimi insisted.

"Keep quiet. Are you massaging the baby like I showed you?"

"Yes, yes." He rubbed the baby's chest and back.

"What have we got ourselves into?" Fariba said. "Keep rubbing." She grabbed a chunk of meat from the cooler and put it in a frying pan. "It's for the mother. Not for you," she said to her husband. She glanced back at Mehri. "She ruined her life the moment she laid eyes on that man. I told her to work for you, here at the bakery, instead. But she said she'd rather be his wife. Now look what's happened."

After a minute, Karimi asked, "Wife, why doesn't the baby make a sound?"

"Because her eyes are blue," Fariba said. "And she's cursed, like her mother."

Mehri had stayed motionless under a blanket for hours, her back against the wall. She was ashamed to look at her friend.

"I warned you about marrying him, didn't I?" Fariba said. "How many times did I say he'd beat you?" At last, Fariba wrapped the baby, pressed her against her own breast, and approached Mehri. "Don't you want to hold her?" she asked.

Mehri said nothing.

"You can't pretend she doesn't exist. Yes, she's a girl. But it's not so bad."

"He's going to kill me," Mehri said.

Karimi was leaning against the wall, too, his face hidden behind his paper. But his hands trembled. They ached from helping Mehri give birth. And now he was embarrassed to look at her.

"You know, husband, if we had a radio, you wouldn't need to read the paper. You can barely hold it up," Fariba said to him. "They say there are so many things to hear on the radio. Little plays. Would be nice to hear one of those." She turned away from Mehri and lit a match to the coal in the stove.

Karimi pushed his reading glasses to the tip of his nose and folded the paper. "Nonsense," he said. "You worry about your little radio when most of those northerners are showing off their televisions. And all those years ago I taught myself to read—so why shouldn't I read the paper? Nobody else back then knew how to read. Not my mother, not my father. I was the only kid up and down these streets who could do it. Figured out the letters on my own, and you—"

What's a television?" Mehri asked suddenly, looking up. She caught a glimpse of the baby's hair under the light. It was a reddish brown, like the father's.

"A movie screen, only smaller," Karimi said, without looking up. "It's small enough to fit in a room. They have them all over the North-City. Mossadegh was on one the other day."

"Why was our prime minister on television?"

"To show he was alive. Somebody tried to kill him. Probably the filthy British." Karimi turned back to his paper. "Damn them all. If it isn't the communists, it's the English, and if it isn't the English, it's those darned turban lovers thinking they're as good as God. If it isn't—"

Fariba slammed down the kettle. "This poor girl nearly died tonight, and you worry about your politicians?"

"None of your scolding in front of her," Karimi said. "And dammit, nobody loves this country anymore. Except him. Mossadegh is great. Great, I'm telling you!"

Mehri closed her eyes again and pretended to sleep.

"This is a woman's matter," Karimi added, more softly, nodding at Mehri. "You want the neighbours to talk? We can't keep her here."

"That's all right, Mr. Karimi," said Fariba, "you just sit right there and drink your tea and read your paper. Just think about what your great Mr. Mossadegh would think of you."

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Excerpted from Aria by Nazanine Hozar. Copyright © 2020 by Nazanine Hozar. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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