Esmail Fassih: ثريا در اغما (Sorraya in a Coma)

sorraya

The latest addition to my website is Esmail Fassih‘s ثريا در اغما (Sorraya in a Coma). The eponymous heroine of this noel, Sorraya, spends the whole of the book in a coma. It is narrated by her uncle, Jalal Aryan. He is an employee of the Iranian National Oil Company. He had been based in Abadan and was in hospital, recovering from a stroke, when Iraqi forces invade in 1980. When he hears of his niece’s accident, he manages to get out of Abadan and, after a difficult journey, gets to Paris. There he finds Sorraya in a coma and will visit her throughout the novel, talking to the nurses and doctors in his bad French, reporting back to his sister, Farangi, Sorraya’s mother, and wondering how he is going to pay the hospital bill, as Sorraya is no longer covered by medical insurance. He will also go to the Café de la Sanction, where he meets a group of Iranian exiles who are struggling both with financial issues but also with their increasing irrelevance in the world. He tries to keep some distance from them but does not always succeed, particularly not with Leila Azadeh, his former lover who, after several husbands, is again single. Leila and Jalal comfort one another, without getting too close. Sorraya will end up as a symbol of Iran – dissociated from the world, unresponsive to outside stimuli, with many concerned for her but none having any influence on her. It is an excellent novel about exile, death and struggling with one’s own relevance.

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