Reviewed by Abu Dhabi resident Mimi Harding, Past Life Regression Therapist
Set in Tehran over a number of generations and spanning all spectrums of class, religion and society this book is one of the most gripping books I have read for a long time. The book is a series of short stories based on some true life experiences captured by a journalist who returned to Iran following the revolution.
Two things bind all the characters together, one being the road Vali Asr which runs from the rich north of Tehran to the poorer south neighbourhoods and in-between. The other is the underlying love of the culture, lifestyle and belief that the country is slowly evolving and establishing itself within the world.
I was truly captivated by the descriptive prose of the book which is heartbreakingly brutal and at times humorous, it engaged a thought provoking interest to understand what draws a true Iranian back to their City of Lies.
Ramita Navai is an award-winning British-Iranian journalist and author. She has reported from over thirty-five different countries and has a reputation for investigations and work in hostile environments.
As well as making twenty documentaries for Channel 4's 'Unreported World', she has reported for the United Nations in Pakistan, Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran. She has written for many newspapers and publications, and was the Tehran correspondent for The Times from 2003 - 2006. In 2012 she won an Emmy award for her PBS Frontline documentary 'Syria Undercover'.
Her first book 'City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran' won the Debut Political Book of the Year at the Paddy Power Political Book Awards 2015, and was awarded the Royal Society of Literature's Jerwood Prize for non-fiction.
The Back Cover
Drawn from conversations whispered across tables in the cafes that line Vali Asr, Tehran’s pulsing central thoroughfare, Ramita Navai gives voice to the unforgettable lives of ordinary people forced to live extraordinary lives in modern Tehran: the porn star, the ageing socialite, the assassin and enemy of the state who ends up working for the Republic, the religious militiaman who undergoes a sex change, the dutiful housewife who files for divorce, and the old-time thug running a gambling den.
Rich, absorbing and exotic, this is an insider’s glimpse into the local personalities, the unremarkable busy bodies and hysterical intrigues buzzing about the city like you’ve never seen before. This is a place where Mullahs visit prostitutes, cosmetic surgeons restore girls' virginity and homemade porn is bought and sold in the bazaars. Here, survival depends on an intricate network of lies and falsehoods. Far removed from the picture of Tehran we glimpse in news stories, we are shown another city—a hidden city—but a far more honest one.