Read City of Lies by Ramita Navai Online


Far removed from the picture of Tehran we glimpse in news stories, there is another, hidden city, where survival depends on an intricate network of lies and falsehoods. It is a place where Mullahs visit prostitutes, gangs sell guns supplied by corrupt Revolutionary Guards, cosmetic surgeons restore girls' virginity and homemade porn is bought and sold in the bazaars. It isFar removed from the picture of Tehran we glimpse in news stories, there is another, hidden city, where survival depends on an intricate network of lies and falsehoods. It is a place where Mullahs visit prostitutes, gangs sell guns supplied by corrupt Revolutionary Guards, cosmetic surgeons restore girls' virginity and homemade porn is bought and sold in the bazaars. It is also the home of our eight protagonists, drawn from across the spectrum of Iranian society: the gun runner, the aging socialite, the porn star, the assassin and enemy of the state who ends up working for the Republic, the volunteer religious policeman who undergoes a sex change, and the dutiful housewife who files for divorce. These are ordinary people forced to live extraordinary lives. plotted around the city's pulsing central thoroughfare, Vail Asr Street, City of Lies is an energetic, intimate and unforgettable portrait of modern Tehran and of what it is to live, love and survive under one world's most brutally repressive regimes....

Title : City of Lies
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 0297871315
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 376 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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City of Lies Reviews

  • Petra X
    2019-06-10 23:54

    In underground Tehran, the lgbt girls call themselves Lezbollah :-)Carrying out the death penaltyThe death penalty has been pronounced, the people have been given the Muslim equivalent of the last rites and are buried in holes in the ground. The man is buried up to his waist, the woman above her breasts. Islamic law says that if they can wriggle out then they must be allowed to walk free. The woman has no chance since her arms are buried. This says everything to me about the Islamic view of women. At every step they are hobbled by man's laws, they will never ever be allowed freedom of movement.If they don't wriggle free then they will be stoned to death. ______Filthy joke warning. Avert your eyes in the second paragraph if you are a delicate flower.In Iran it is terribly important that a girl is a virgin on her wedding day. However, it is the 21st century and these young women are city girls. The country people are very firmly in favour of strict Islamic practice. However the city people grew up under the Shah whose father had banned the burkha. The Shah didn't go that far and people were frightened of his corrupt and tyrannical reign, but they had the freedom of the West to do and wear what they pleased. Religion was a private concern back then, so parents are perhaps not quite so strict on their chador-wearing daughters as it might seem from the outside. A man really likes a girl and asks her father if he could marry her and is given permission. On their wedding night he discovers she really is a virgin. He can hardly believe it, a real virgin! He is thrilled.He goes to her father and says that he wants to say thank you to him for bringing up his daughter to maintain her purity. Her father says not to thank him but to thank her mother. So he goes to his mother-in-law and thanks her profusely for guarding her daughter so well that she has remained a virgin. His mother-in-law replies, don't thank me, thank my daughter. It was her who kept herself pure for her wedding night.So he goes to his bride and says, "Darling, thank you so much for being a good, traditional girl and saving your virginity for me. I was so thrilled you kept yourself pure for me." The girl replies, "Don't thank me, thank my ass!" It is said that Teheran is the anal sex capital of the Middle East!This book is rather good and presenting interesting persepectives on modern-day Iran under the iron rule of the misogynist government and mullahs.I've read a few books on Iran, from the desperately sad and banned in Iran, The Colonel to the very moving Persian Girls. This book will hopefully add to my knowledge of the country. My interest was originally sparked when I was a teenager and met a young brain surgeon who had fled the country. I pursued him mercilessly, I was a Girl with a Crush. I never caught him. He was gay...

  • DeB MaRtEnS
    2019-05-26 22:30

    "A European diplomat friend helped push Farideh's visa application through....A month later she was on a plane to London. The plan was to spend three months with (her sister) while she looked for a small apartment to buy,...then divide her time between Tehran and London. ...She realized how little her rials and tomans would buy her. ...a minuscule, dingy one bedroom apartment...or...suburban hell...with crude gas boilers... . And the cold, grey, wet drizzly day morphed into another....""After just two months, Farideh was surprised to discover that she...wanted to go...home. To Tehran."Farideh's story is one of those Iranians' who had been wealthy landowners, those of the upper classes prior to the coup which ousted the Shah in 1979 and who have remained in the country, hopeful for a return of their property and greater freedom in government. They are a small elite, split among the old upper crust, ancient Silk Road merchant families, the landowners and the few academics left in the country who socialize with one another, whose many relatives left the country and who try to keep among themselves. The erosion of simple freedoms for gatherings by women - art classes, gentle dance exercise classes - deemed morally reprehensible by the current regime, increased the widow's sense of isolation and frustration so much that she left. But, the draw of home was too great to resist. The chapters in this book aren't pretty in comparison to Farideh's, but what they do share is the Iranians' love of their country, people and strong ties to community. I hesitated reading City of Lies, resisting what might be one tale of brutal horror after another under the Islamic regime, and its Sharia law but instead I found a story of people, trying their best to do their best with their values, faith, deprivation, desires for material success and some version of hope for the political system at large. As author Ramita Navai explains, survival under constant upheaval and political philosophies which change according to the position of interpretation of its religious leaders, or one leader being interpreted by those of increasingly lower status and all ruled by fear- require lying. Trump would call it "alternate facts". To slip and slide around untenable situations, people must become adept at being chameleons, at predicting the behaviour of the callously stringent, of figuring out how to protect one another from those who see themselves as being righteously religious in an invisible layer of order outside that mandated by its government. It is worth reading. Perhaps the Middle East's aversion to "The West" can be understood a bit better when you read how the British and American CIA undermined Iranian efforts to nationalize their own oil and put the Shah back in power, and the reactionary and protectionist consequences from its people, not all supporting the Ayatollah. It is also enlightening to consider how a country makes choices to govern itself when it has had no history of democracy in its past. The lives of everyday people tell that story better than any governmental report ever could. Recommended.

  • Rowena
    2019-05-28 02:56

    "From above, Tehran has an ethereal glow. An orange mist hangs over the city, refracting sunrays: a thick, noxious haze that stubbornly clings to every corner, burning the nose and stinging the eyes. Every street is clogged with cars coughing out the black clouds that gently rise and sit, unmoving, overhead…"- Ramita Navai, City of LiesI’ve always been intrigued by Iranian history and this book was fascinating. It’s a collection of stories from various Tehranis, giving us lots of insight into Iranian society. These are the stories of Tehrani citizens, told to the reporter/writer, citizens including a prostitute, an assassin, an exile, and a closeted Islamic militia member.What I’ll say is this: people who are obsessed with morals and laws are often the least moral (and the most abusive). Some of the stories in the book are heart-wrenching and so unfair. The hypocrisy of life within a very rigid religious society was so obvious from these stories, particularly the hypocrisy around sexuality.I learned a lot of interesting tidbits about Iran; for example, I had no idea that in the 1970s lots of Iranians provided cheap labour to Japan, doing the ‘3K’ jobs ; kitanai (dirty), Kitsui (difficult), and kurushii (painful). Nor did I know about the chronic drug problem in the country.Iran seems to be a place of contradictions, and a place where people, young women in particular, seem to be oppressed. Take Somayeh whose family believes that “religion means living by the words of the Koran and the Supreme Leader’s fatwas to earn a place in paradise”: "Somayeh and her friends strongly believed that the hejab should be enforced. They agreed with the law, which states that if your make-up and clothes are contrary to public decency and you intend to attract attention, you can be arrested and taken straight to court…The girls were not to blame for their misogynous views. They had been fed the regime’s line on hejab, which was usually touted around the city via huge billboard advertisements, since birth."I’m always interested by how oppressive regimes use children to further their agendas, and how they program them to do so. For example: "Morteza’s own views were not changing so much as being formed for the first time. The lectures were having an effect. Islamic scholars thundered about the dangers of moral decay, titillating the boys with enough morsels of lascivious detail to keep them interested and entrusting them with enough responsibility to keep them excited. The boys were wide-eyed with pride when they were told that they were the guardians of their citizens’ virtue."I was incredibly frustrated by the limitations such regimes put on its people, the hypocrisy which unfortunately hurts the women and children the most, and how people have to often hide who they truly are. Navai did share some important stories though, and regardless of how oppressive the regime is, people do their best to live, and I’d say that’s pretty inspirational.The book did remind me of Persepolis, the feminist graphic novel set in Iran, and it’s no wonder because the women in these stories were treated abysmally.

  • Margitte
    2019-06-24 06:30

    Tehran, Iran.Zoroastrianism was the national faith of Iran for more than a millennium before the Arab conquest. It has had an immense influence on Iranian philosophy, culture and art after the people of Iran converted to Islam.01 September 2017PrefaceLet’s get one thing straight: in order to live in Tehran you have to lie. Morals don’t come into it: lying in Tehran is about survival. This need to dissimulate is surprisingly egalitarian – there are no class boundaries and there is no religious discrimination when it comes to the world of deceit. Some of the most pious, righteous Tehranis are the most gifted and cunning in the art of deception. We Tehranis are masters at manipulating the truth. Tiny children are instructed to deny that daddy has any booze at home; teenagers passionately vow their virginity; shopkeepers allow customers to surreptitiously eat, drink and smoke in their back rooms during the fasting months and young men self-flagellate at the religious festival of Ashura, purporting that each lash is for Imam Hossein, when really it is a macho show to entice pretty girls, who in turn claim they are there only for God. All these lies breed new lies, mushrooming in every crack in society. The truth has become a secret, a rare and dangerous commodity, highly prized and to be handled with great care......Let me be clear about one last thing. I am not saying that we Iranians are congenital liars. The lies are, above all, a consequence of surviving in an oppressive regime, of being ruled by a government that believes it should be able to interfere in even the most intimate affairs of its citizens. While living (and lying) in Tehran I heard the stories of the Tehranis you are about to meet. Not all of them are ordinary Tehranis; some exist at the very margins of Iranian society. But I hope that even the most extreme stories in this book will help an outsider understand everyday life in this city of over twelve million people. In my experience, the defining trait of Tehranis is their kindness, for no matter how hard life gets, no matter how tight the regime turns the screw, there is an irrepressible warmth; I have felt it from diehard regime supporters to ardent dissidents and everyone in between.Tehran accommodates a diverse society characterized by opulence and debauchery, complete illiteracy and excellent universities; a terrifying regime, and underground resistance movements. At Theran's railway station, the diversity becomes even more apparent: Lors, Kurds, Azeris, Turkmens, Tajiks, Arabs, Baluchis, Bakhtiyaris, the Qashqa'is and Afghans mill around, waiting for the next transport opportunity into the city. The railway station is also the place where Vali Asr Street ends in the south. Images of Val Asr StreetVali Asr Street forms the spine of the city, as well as of the book. The author collected a few stories from just a few characters who form part of the microcosm present on a daily basis in the street. From the rich to the poor, the religious to the secular, the traditionalist to the modernist. In between all of them lie centuries of history dividing the population like the two poles of the earth.The underbelly of the city is exposed in the book. Meaning, the focus is on the less unknown, the true color in the rainbow of ideas, lifestyle choices, politics and religion. The title says it all. A little bit of sensationalism, so typical of a journalistic rendition. It might attract attention. It might work.The monochromatic images we are exposed to in the highly controlled media of the world are ripped open. The prose is excellent. The stories sad. But the energy and vibrancy of a community are present in all of them. THE BLURBFar removed from the picture of Tehran we glimpse in news stories, there is another, hidden city, where survival depends on an intricate network of lies and falsehoods. It is a place where Mullahs visit prostitutes, gangs sell guns supplied by corrupt Revolutionary Guards, cosmetic surgeons restore girls' virginity and homemade porn is bought and sold in the bazaars. It is also the home of our eight protagonists, drawn from across the spectrum of Iranian society: the gun runner, the aging socialite, the porn star, the assassin and enemy of the state who ends up working for the Republic, the volunteer religious policeman who undergoes a sex change, and the dutiful housewife who files for divorce. These are ordinary people forced to live extraordinary lives. plotted around the city's pulsing central thoroughfare, Vail Asr Street, City of Lies is an energetic, intimate and unforgettable portrait of modern Tehran and of what it is to live, love and survive under one world's most brutally repressive regimes.Despite the journalistic realism of the stories, I headed onto the internet to find a broader idea of the city in which these stories are embedded. All the characters in the book have a passion for Tehran. The city is their heimat, their soul. I was wondering why anyone suffering to this extent would want to remain here. I chose the images that shows the magic of a beautiful place where adversity cannot dampen the gentle heart and minds of this highly sophisticated civilization. Tehran is much more than the pain and suffering. But that makes the tragedy of their situation so much more apparent. I needed to see this, to bring balance to the otherwise grizzly stories. And to understand the passion the inhabitants have for a city where a government could end everything for anyone in a split second (according to the book). The reason why I added these images, was to celebrate the unbelievable spirit of the Iranian people. The history, architecture, and engineering marvels are plastered all over the scene, and with the hundreds of universities it is evident that the education of the people are serious business. Within this environment, these street level stories in the book allow us a glimpse into the lesser-known world of the city. The execution of the death penalty, the high divorce rate, the serious drug problems, the clashes between traditionalism versus modernism in one family, the emancipation of women, the modern influences on young girls, prostitution, plastic surgery on a staggering level, alcoholism, religious bigotry, homosexuality, and so much more. The book is more or less a collection of short stories, written with so much heart-wrenching honesty and skill. There is atmosphere and heart in this book. The protagonists exposed a story of a world we did not know existed in this country. The author introduced us to people just like us. We are all the same.The book is a literary documentary of a few people on Vali Asr Street, who stopped for a minute to tell their stories. It was done very well. And really honest. However, there are many more to tell. Even happy ones. This was just a drop in a bucket. The rest are out there, somewhere else, or untold. But these ones were worth the read. The approach also different from a memoir I read: The Cypress Tree: A Love Letter to Iran by Kamin Mohammadi. I wanted to rate this book 3.5 but will go for 4 stars. The shock value was just too apparent and became somewhat boring. However, the excellent prose was a joy to read. The author should try writing novels. One story at a time. She is a really talented writer.Read THIS ARTICLE to really grasp the history and diversity of Iran. Mindblowing.

  • Nasim
    2019-06-01 03:32

    I was born and raised in Tehran and have always been looking for a book that shows a picture of Iran close to reality; something different from the one that media tries to impose. Well, one good point about this book was that the writer chose her characters from very different social classes in Iran. Although at some parts I sensed exaggeration but most of the time I didn't have a hard time believing the stories. This is what I didn't like about the book: There are negative and positive realities about Iran, like any other country or society. The negative realities about Iran have been widely heard. I wish someone someday writes a book which talks about the beautiful side of Iran, Iranian people and Iranian culture as well; this is the part which is always ignored. The perfect window to Iran for readers who don’t know much about Iran except from the news, would be a story to show both negative and positive realities together next to each other. This book did a good job in showing one of them.

  • Sharad Mehta
    2019-06-12 22:32

    Out of sheer curiosity about Iran and how life is under the strict rule of the Ayatollahs, I picked this book. I cannot say I am not impressed, but this book is clearly not the kind I expected from a journalist based in Tehran. Ramita Navai starts strong and makes a good plot of bringing to light the secret lives of everyday Tehranis but her narrative lacked the depth of research and 'as-it-happened' factuality of some of the more known journalist turned authors. Most of the chapters read like gossip and hearsay. Ramita also fell into the well know trap of over emphasizing the ridiculous. Case in point is the story of Leyla, the girl who turns to prostitution to make ends meet. The story is too full of cliches and make believes, throw in a highly placed Mullah as her client and it seemed that the author is trying too hard to create sensationalism. The story of Amir is more believable and the author has managed to beautifully capture the emotions of a young guy wronged by the system.I gave three stars to the book because it is a good first book for someone to understand Tehrani society under excessive state control. It has also whetted my appetite for a more well researched and through account of Iran. Keep the recommendations coming.

  • Emily
    2019-05-26 04:36

    Tehran, Iran: a city I had minimal knowledge of, and certainly no insider info. City of Lies consists of eight intimate written portraits of eight Tehranian souls. Navai reveals their lives, their times, and (more often than not) their crimes, at least in the eyes of Iranian authorities. It’s hard for me not to compare it toBehind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, a book which I recently read and really enjoyed. Both tell stories of real lives in cities few westerners stop to consider beyond the news, but told in the form of fiction. It’s clear that corruption, sexual taboos, hypocrisy and the desire to better oneself dominate in all parts of the world. The devil is in the detail though – how birth and circumstance make us who we are. There are key differences though. Boo puts her “characters” (i.e. interviewees) all on the stage together and shows us continuous scenes of their lives in the squalor of an Indian slum. Navai instead brings each “character” onto the stage individually, with no connections between them other than the city itself. This has the benefit of allowing us to see a much broader range of what Tehran can produce, from the high-flying to the bottom-feeders to people who have been both. My only complaint here is that, at an average of about thirty pages per person (which includes backstory), it does sometimes feel a little like speed-dating. I just begin to feel like I’m getting to know someone before their story is wrapped up and we move on to the next, never to see them again. Thankfully the aforementioned “next” was generally just as compelling as the last so I don’t feel like it ruined my enjoyment. I really appreciated what I suppose must be called the “supplemental information” at the front and back of the book. The map, the historical timeline and the glossary all helped build up a richer picture of Tehran. At the end of the book, Navai also provides a source summary for each of the eight stories clearly explaining what strands of information (interviewees, news pieces etc) she used to construct each character, which I liked. I would give this book 4.5 stars but I shall round it up to 5 stars because the overall reading experience was compelling, interesting and informative. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to experience real lives in a part of the world they may not have considered before. Disclaimer: I received this book free from a Goodreads Giveaway.

  • AnaVlădescu
    2019-06-03 06:44

    It's a three star rating because the writing didn't manage to elevate the subject in any way. In terms of stories, I feel like it's striving to deliver a much stronger reaction than it actually did. Granted - I might have become desensitized to information regarding religion and its oppressive qualities, but if you want to read an amazing story that can change you, you might as well go for Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book, and call it a day.

  • Caitlin
    2019-06-09 03:55

    I have to admit that before reading this book, my only familiarity with Iran came from reading the fantastic The Complete Persepolis graphic novel. While Persepolis gives you a great sense of a family in turmoil as the Islamic Revolution changes the Iran that they know, Ramita Navai gives a complete street level view of Iranian life after the Revolution. Navai splits the book into eight chapters on ordinary Iranians: an exile who had left when the Revolution began and came back as an anti-regime assassin, a young girl who is forced to divorce her husband and face the fallout that comes from that, the son of dissidents who were killed by a regime judge who now wants to beg for forgiveness, a surprisingly sympathetic meth dealer, a porn star who began as a prostitute, an Islamic militia member who struggles to reconcile his sexuality with his fundamentalist beliefs, an old-school gangster who has the cutest old person love story ever and an aristocrat alienated by the now fundamentalist country she loves.Navai spent years in Iran as a journalist and uses the stories she heard from people in south Tehran and her own experiences to give an absolutely fascinating view of the web of lies and intrigue that perfectly ordinary Iranians go through every day. It really demolishes the idea that all Iranians are a bunch of crazy, evil Islamic fundamentalists. Yet Navai clearly shows that the oppressive regime in Iran can make life there utterly terrifying if you don't conform. It's both uplifting and scary depending on which side of Iran Navai is revealing and it's just so very human which I loved. One of the best things about this book, for me as a history geek, is that Navai provides summaries for her sources for each chapter and a glossary so you can learn more if you want. The stories certainly made me want to learn more about Iran's history. At its heart, City of Lies is a study of people and it shows the author's love of her home country without being afraid to show its scars and grime. It's an absolutely stunning book that I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone.

  • Josh
    2019-06-21 04:49

    3.5 on my own Richter scale. Won as an ARC via Goodreads. All accounts center around the main road through Tehran: Vali Asr. These eight stories are inspired by true aspects of Tehrani society ranging mostly from the ouster of pro-Westernized leader Mohammed Reza Shah in 1978 by martial law which created the Islamic Revolution, to the Iran-Iraq conflict until 1988 and also the struggle between a new group of people living in a city where to be accepted, you must lie. Themes include homophobia; an outbreak of an ever growing amount of crystal meth users in the poverty stricken south Vali Asr of Shoosh to the high class in the northern parts towards Tajrish Square; a militant 'basij' and morality police who's job is to decide if one is living a life conducive to Allah's teachings; the taboo of pornographic paraphernalia; the importance of the mullahs and clerics to society albiet hypocrisy flourishes; the rhinoplastic strive for perfection among others.My ignorance of this 'world' is now in the past and my journey and new-found knowledge is well-accepted and appreciated.

  • Radiantflux
    2019-06-11 02:29

    20th book for 2017. This book is a really well-written set of fact-based stories, exposing the darker (but very human) side of the Iranian capital. Well worth a read for anyone who wants to understand this part of the World a bit better.

  • Aurina
    2019-05-28 00:41

    Even though I really, really hate the title of this book - I find it needlessly sensational - I felt compelled to read it. The past year I have worked quite extensively, and almost exclusively with Iranian refugees, all with tales stranger than the other. It is hard to wrap your head around a reality that is so bitterly divorced from your own that it seems almost like it is impossible for it to be *anyone's* reality. The stories in this book are both very familiar and very revelatory.Contrary to my expectations, the book really humanizes Iranians - they are not the crazy, austere, fundamentalists they are often made out to be. Rather, like everyone else, they are in search of love, sex, happiness,freedom and a really good party. But, of course, Iranians must navigate the obstacles created by a relentlessly obtrusive state, a state that in all its illimitable cruelty has shaped a singular culture of untruth, of bewildering contradictions, of bacchanal despair. Navai is an engaging writer, sucking you into the lives of her characters quite effortlessly. "Amir" and "Leyla" especially stuck with me. I also enjoyed her Katherine Boo-like approach of removing herself from the narratives completely. It reads almost like a collection of short stories.Unlike other reviewers, it does not bother me that the author uses composite characters. She is very upfront about her methods in the notes and as long as the events that she describes did happen, I am comfortable calling it non-fiction. I do think it's disingenuous to call it 'reportage' though - I'd label it "creative non-fiction" or more generously, "magic journalism," in the unorthodox vein of Kapuscinski.

  • Jafar
    2019-06-06 03:38

    Field anthropology in Tehran. This book can provide a good view of the contemporary Iranian society. Navai used to be a reporter for The Times in Tehran. The book is a collection of real-life stories based on the lives of an assortment of people that she met in Tehran: an opposition operative on an assassination mission, a young girl from a religious and working-class background, a young activist whose parents were executed by the regime, a crude street thug, a prostitute turned a porn actress, a gay member of the regime's paramilitary, an old and old-fashioned gangster, and an old wealthy lady. Some of the character are a composite. The common theme is how everyone needs to lie and live a double life in order to survive.

  • Gilda Felt
    2019-05-31 23:58

    I'm not sure how I feel about this book. On one hand, it's well written, so it's very easy to read. And any real information from a place that I don't think we get much from, is always appreciated. But on the other, aren't there any normal people in Iran? It's hard to imagine that even a regime as oppressive as Iran's is supposed to be could so damage their entire population.Plus, nowhere in the prologue does it say anything about the characters being composites. So does that answer my question? If these are composites, does that mean that Naval doubled up peoples', well, idiosyncrasies, in order to create these extremely damaged people? It makes me wonder, but not in the way the author probably intended.

  • Sherrymoon
    2019-06-06 01:43

    Nicht so gut wie erwartet. Ich bin ein Fan des Irans. Möchte unbedingt mal nach Teheran reisen.

  • Huda
    2019-06-01 06:40

    I have been to Tehran thrice my whole life, never as an adult. What I remember most about it is the color brown. Maybe it was because I was a child, and wherever I went I was with family, but I saw only 'safe' places in the city. Everything was variants of the color black, brown and ash. Black manteaus and chadors, brown brick houses and mud houses, ash buildings and pavements. You could hardly see colors in the landscape beyond what nature can give. Minus shrines and mosques though, because in Iran, those always come in technicolor.This was all before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president.***Striving to read old and new literature about Iran has given me the sense that it is always, always evolving. The country has had to adapt to a multitude of changes throughout history and modern times.So surely since the time I was there, Iran has moved forward and changed. Uncertainty, however, has always shrouded what I know compared to what I hear about Iran. It can be difficult to dissect truths from a Western view of Iran, and on the other hand, overzealous countrymen who are either too far right or too far left. These voices are the loudest, and therefore the only ones most people can hear. *** Reading City of Lies was sobering. Several things were made clear to me was not a myth after all. Namely 'contract marriages' I have heard of, but always thought was untrue, Vatican-style scandals among the clerics, the vastness of moral grey areas for men and women... I mean, there's a lot to take in and learn, you can veer from riveted to exhausted back and forth.What's certain is that I'm holding a portrait of modern Tehran. I would argue that as layered as this was, there are still facets we didn't cover yet about Iran as a whole, nevertheless, this is an important piece of the picture.

  • Vipassana
    2019-06-16 23:46

    The hazard of relying solely on news to understand a foreign land is that one tends to take the general scenario provided by the media and inadvertently apply it to the communities and people of the land. City of Lies shows one what a dangerous mistake that is.Through portraits of eight different stories, some of individuals and some as reflections of people and conversations, Ramita Navai captures Tehran across the social hierarchy and along the Vali Asr, a street that runs for nearly twenty kilometres. This book goes beyond the caricature of Iran as an extremist state with oppressed citizens to show how people carry about their business with and around the limitations that the government and society imposes. It reveals how people, such as Somayeh, live with many contradictions like her desire to be an actress yet holding the belief that the profession is not respectable. There is also the story of Leyla as she begins her career in prostitution from being a regular working class girl reminds one how easy it is to stereotype on the basis of profession despite the fact that it is most probably wrong. City of Lies is about Tehranis who need an escape, can't escape, can escape and don't feel the need to escape at all.

  • Dеnnis
    2019-06-16 01:55

    Interestingly written and brimful of insights, this book still left me with mixed feelings. I tried to learn more about the Iranians and learn i did in spades, but what was it that i learned? Probably the outcome of reading the book could be best illustrated by comments of my fellow travelers, who said that my inquisitive questions on terrorism, sexual and familial misfortunes, regime's abuses etc., with which i pestered my hospitable and eager to please Iranian hosts, made them wince. Surely i got a better understanding of all those unsavory things, but i have feeling that i was deprived of 80% sunny percents of the Iranians' daily lives. And the impression i got of the society is very skewed. I recognize this from my own experience of talking to foreigners in Russia, who come wide-eyed, well-versed in country's multiple shortcomings, and throughly suspicious. Yes, maybe 100% of what they read is true, but it somehow apparent that i live in a parallel world, mostly blissfully unscathed by all these demonic stories, fed to hapless foreigners. Question is -who's life is real then?

  • Zardoz
    2019-06-08 02:48

    This book is an amazing window into life in Tehran and Iranian culture. Broken into different life stories reflecting various social classes and genders.I found myself looking at Iranian travel websites, films and even the amateur porn produced in the city that is punishable by death. Ramita Navai's writing rings true and her love for the city and its people is a joy to read.

  • allie
    2019-05-28 01:57

    very fascinating and rich with description. written with such an honest voice, i really enjoyed it.

  • Mehrdokht Kia
    2019-06-04 05:34

    Want to get a real taste of Tehran and all of it's good, bad and ugly sides? Read this book. Every Iranian immigrant must read this. Looking in from outside is a sobering experience

  • Omar
    2019-06-22 00:29

    City of Lies is a window to Tehran, through the lives of eight Tehranis, each of different social & economic standpoints. The stories include that of Dariush, a man brainwashed into joining an Islamic extremist terrorist group, of Leyla, a decent woman forced by the lack of fair job opportunities to sell her body to afford living, of Morteza, a teenager growing into adulthood questioning the Shi'a teachings and culturally forced to hide his true sexual orientation. I deeply appreciate the fact that these tales are not fictitious, they have been adapted from interviews and true stories.Navai's writing is great. The stories feel quite varied for the most part. They are coherently brought together through the common geography, through most prominently, Vali Asr Street, stretching through the heart of Tehran. The stories begin to feel very similar towards the end, the recurring theme of deception and lying gets well-established towards the end, that it begins to feel monotonous when the reader is reminded how all Tehranis lie, and how societal hypocrisy is boundless.City of Lies is an eye-opener to me, a person living away from Iran who has not been exposed to an environment where religion has blended with culture so convolutedly. Every Tehrani you come across in City of Lies has their own secrets, and they all pretty much break the religiously-controlled Iranian Law, but they all hide it. Even law enforcement breaks the law. This is a society where "religion" is everything, but "religion" has become impossible to stick to. This is a society where it is acceptable to sin without your neighbours noticing, forgetting that God is always watching. This is a society where can perform sexual services to your Judge in order to escape being flogged. This is a society where you can buy your key to Heaven from the Supreme Leader. Certainly a good read, I only wish the book did not run out of shocking moments, and began to sound familiar, so early.

  • Elena
    2019-06-08 23:54

    I picked this book up at a Persian café that I have determined will be my new ~spot~ for ordering one tea and lingering all afternoon. They have not only wifi but also typically Iranian saffron-colored rock sugar swizzle sticks. Productivity + nostalgia for the homeland. I'm sold.What initially drew me into City of Lies is that the structure of the book mirrors the layout of the city: its center and spinal column is Vali Asr Avenue, the tree-lined thoroughfare slicing north-south through Tehran.The book's real strength is that it shows us a side of Tehran that is not only absent from the media (this doesn't even need saying), but also absent from English language literature about Tehran, usually written by emigrés. I've read novels and memoirs about upper-class intellectuals who occupy a very specific place both socially and physically: the fashionable and expensive northern Tehran. Navai introduces us to characters who occupy the southern part of the city and are not often written about: the traditional and deeply religious middle class, gangsters, drug addicts, and prostitutes.But some of the stories simply weren't as believable or gripping as they could have been. There was something once-removed about them. Of course, Navai had to combine stories and modify facts to protect identities. Though a kind of immediacy was lacking from the characters, they stood more as examples of their kind. There is not one Leyla, there are many Leylas, and Navai is, in a sense, sharing all of their stories.

  • Rachel
    2019-06-06 06:52

    I’ve been fascinated with Iran/Persia for awhile now, so when I saw this book in the new Nonfiction section, it definitely caught my attention. The author is a British-Iranian foreign affairs journalist, so she definitely knows what she is talking about. The book follows eight very different individuals who live in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. There is a Iranian-American extremist who is part of the MEK group (the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, the Warriors of the People) who has come to the city for an assassination , a teenage girl from a very traditional family who has no problems wearing the hejab/hijab and marrying her cousin (it is considered very auspicious to do so in Iranian culture), and a young man confronted by the Revolutionary judge responsible for having his parents killed because of their according to the government “un-Islamic” leanings. There is also a member of the local gun-selling ring and small time crook, a prostitute/porn actress, a gay member of the local "basij" – groups of young men who regulate vice, get rid of protesters and enforce virtue, an elderly retired gangster with his reformed showgirl wife, and a female widowed member of the upper aristocracy. All in all a very interesting group of characters. I think my favorite and the most interesting stories were the teenage girl from a traditional family and the gay member of the "basij". 4 stars.

  • Lenka Příplatová
    2019-06-10 22:50

    The book comprises of a handful of short stories told by a journalist with Iranian origin. At first, I had to grew accustomed to the style of the narration, which reflects Middle Eastern traits (and which I originally loathed), but I shortly got used to it and even loved it in the end. The stories are colorful, based on lives of real people, and perfectly reflecting the fact that the shitty regime makes a life the living hell for pretty much everyone in there, muslims and non-muslims alike. And yet they still love their country and don't want to leave. They love the people, the parties, the memories of free and joyful Iran of the pre-revolutionary years.It's an important book, and even more so in these days, a week after the Charlie Hebdo attack which brought up xenophobic tendencies in already nervous Europe. In the book, you meet the real muslims, the fine people no different from moderate christians. They drink, they love their music, they have their teenage affairs... they are cool. They need our help, not our hate. There indeed are the moderate islam and the islamism as two separate things, and if you are blinded by hatred enough to not believe it, go ask the people there. Or at least read some books, this one included.

  • Sasha
    2019-06-10 00:53

    I wanted to like this book more. It is, after all, about the country of my parents' birth and about "my" people. I thought the writing was poor, and I feel like the author tried to make the crude parts - those that had to do with prostitution and sex - overly shocking in order to surprise the reader and create a more dramatic, stark contrast between the laws of Iran and the way the people actually live. I think the people highlighted in this book and their stories speak very clearly for themselves...the shock value didn't really add anything to that, in my opinion. I just felt like it could have been delivered more tastefully.In any case, apart from my above gripes, there were moments of true beauty in each story, and real tragedy in every one of them as well. I think for someone who knows absolutely nothing about Iran or its people, it may be a bit misleading in parts, but there is also a lot of truth to what you'll read here, too.

  • Dayana
    2019-06-21 00:50

    This book seems to be the kind that would stir up a number of controversies, and I was quite hesitant to give it a go until a friend of mine recommended it to me. What I like about this book is the way it was structured and organized, I like how each character had a different background, and each character was from a different social class and experienced life in Iran in his/her own unique twisted way, which gave Ramita that diversity to her book. I also like the fact that this is all stories of real people and real events, and that the author actually put in the effort to authenticate her work. However, I wish the book portrayed more of the positive sides to Iran rather than just focusing on many of the negatives. Now the reason why I gave this book a 3/5 is firstly because it mainly focused on the negatives, and also because at certain points I felt out of place and didn't feel like I was captivated enough by what I was reading.

  • Heather Macadam
    2019-06-04 02:58

    I LOVED this book. My husband got an advance review copy before conducting an interview with the author and I swiped it off his desk before he could read it, I was so excited about it!What surprised me was I expected a tell-all sort of gossipy book. What I found was a love story! A love letter to her native country and to Tehran. Since Iran gets such a bad rap in American press, I really appreciated this fresh perspective on a city and country I know nothing about except through media and literature. The way the author protects the identities of the people she writes about is fascinating and while I rarely read endnotes, this book's endnotes are brilliant and made me respect the writer and her research even more. I felt a little lost in the beginning, not sure where we were heading and then I got it - we were heading up the avenue... each neighborhood a different story, lifestyle and identity. Brilliant!

  • Mark Crouch
    2019-06-03 03:31

    Pretty great selection of stories that Navai has culled and pieced together from her journalistic work that shows the intricacies of the social and political climate in Tehran. It doesn't take an understanding of Iranian 20th century politics to grasp what's going on since Navai does such a good job contextualizing everything without making it boring (it's also super readable for nonfiction-ish). Iran social life is complex and for better or worse totally dominated by Islam (in some weird ways) even in the more liberal areas of the city. It's kind of funny and almost weirdly relatable to our own nation the "values" they pretend to uphold in public life but completely go against in their private lives. It's a strange world folks!!!!

  • Mainlinebooker
    2019-06-15 02:39

    One can often succumb to propaganda that is publicized in the American newspapers. Navai exploits our naivety by giving us a hard core look at Tehran's society in the current day and age versus years past under the Islamic Revolution. Through 8 vignettes, we learn about homosexuality, plastic surgery, drug usage,prostitution,morality police,and the hypocrisy of the clerics and other individuals. Woven throughout this exploration of the social hierarchy of the city, is a sense of many individuals deep desire to escape from their present surroundings and to find their own identity. Heartbreaking and eye opening, this is a terrific book for anyone who wants to learn more about this fascinating culture.