An critically-acclaimed Iranian author makes his American literary debut with this powerful and harrowing psychological portrait of modern Iran—an unprecedented and urgent work of fiction with echoes of The Stranger, 1984, and The Orphan Master’s Son—that exposes the oppressive and corrosive power of the state to bend individual lives. Yunus Turabi, a bus driver in Tehran, leads an unremarkable life. A solitary man since the unexpected deaths of his father and mother years ago, he is decidedly apolitical—even during the driver’s strike and its bloody end. But everyone has their breaking point, and Yunus has reached his.
Handcuffed and blindfolded, he is taken to the infamous Evin prison for political dissidents. Inside this stark, strangely ordered world, his fate becomes entwined with Hajj Saeed, his personal interrogator. The two develop a disturbing yet interdependent relationship, with each playing his assigned role in a high stakes psychological game of cat and mouse, where Yunus endures a mind-bending cycle of solitary confinement and interrogation. In their startlingly intimate exchanges, Yunus’s life begins to unfold—from his childhood memories growing up in a freer Iran to his heartbreaking betrayal of his only friend. As Yunus struggles to hold on to his sanity and evade Saeed’s increasingly undeniable accusations, he must eventually make an impossible choice: continue fighting or submit to the system of lies upholding Iran’s power.
Gripping, startling, and masterfully told, Then the Fish Swallowed Him is a haunting story of life under despotism.
Arian's hard-hitting English-language debut follows bus driver Yunus Turabi and his breakdown subsequent to a union strike resulting in a devastating stint in prison. Yunus, 44, lives alone in Tehran. When he bumps into coworker Behrouz at a grocery store, Behrouz invites him to his house for dinner and to join the union. Yunus then participates in a strike that turns violent, with the police and protestors clashing. The next day, in a state of despair over the fighting and a longing for human connection, he decides to drive his route anyway. When the passengers crowd and harass each other and a boy calls Yunus and the other bus drivers "sleazy assholes" who refuse to do their jobs, Yunus beats him nearly to death. The boy turns out to be the son of a minister, and Yunus is sentenced to four years in prison. During this time, he recalls his affair with Behrouz's wife, who cut things off abruptly. When he's finally released, he's broken and adrift, having falsely confessed to masterminding the protest. Arian blends sharp, journalistic observations of Tehran's politics and street scenes with a deeply empathetic portrait of Yunus's troubled interior life. This is an essential work of contemporary Iran.