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City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran Kindle Edition

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Length: 320 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Product Description


An intriguing book based on the premise that, to survive in a repressive regime where the government believes it has the right to interfere in even your most intimate matters, you have to lie... A talented writer... Navai has a reporter's eye for the telling detail... this is a timely and beautifully written insight into the lives of Tehranis - "masters at manipulating the truth", Navai says - just as their country seems to be opening up (Christina Lamb SUNDAY TIMES)

Welcome to life in the Islamic Republic of Iran - or, more specifically, in its teeming, ugly, catastrophically polluted capital city. Ramita Navai is an award-winning British-Iranian journalist and broadcaster who has lived in Tehran and London, and feels allegiance to both countries. It was while working as a newspaper correspondent in Tehran that she began interviewing a wide range of ordinary people about their lives, collecting stories which are (unsurprisingly) extraordinary. This gripping book is a mosaic of such glimpses into a very different world... the chapters read like utterly compelling short tales, catapulting us imaginatively into the hearts and minds of people we feel we know, even though their lives are so very 'other'... It is the author's considerable achievement to make you feel deeply moved by these lives - even as you send up a fervent prayer of gratitude that we were lucky enough to be born here (Bel Mooney DAILY MAIL)

City of Lies is a fascinating account of ordinary life in a major city where religious fanaticism has been allowed to run riot. It's hard to close the book without valuing the freedom secularisation brings, and the relative absence of hypocrisy that arrives through not having to repress human nature (ENTERTAINMENT FOCUS)

City of Lies is thoroughly researched and deeply evocative of place. Navai has a formidable talent as a storyteller. Her stories are by turns comical, intriguing and heart-wrenching. And although there's a great deal of sadness in the stories she tells, she writes with obvious love for the wondrous variety of life in Tehran (GEOGRAPHICAL)

City of Lies explores the double lives led by Tehranis as they evade the watchful eye of the regime... a rich portrait of this vibrant, opaque and paranoid city... at the heart of City of Lies is some brilliant reporting. Persuading subjects to talk, even anonymously, is an achievement where betrayal is commonplace and there is always someone watching. Black humour runs through the book (Hugh Tomlinson THE TIMES)

Navai's Tehran teems with crystal meth pushers, gun runners, prostitutes and transexuals... what makes City of Lies engaging is that it is rooted in real-life stories... It is, in many ways, the written version of a television docudrama, with parallel stories that never intersect (Farah Nayeri THE INDEPENDENT)

Searing account of life in Tehran... Iranians share stories intimate and unforgettable enough to establish City of Lies as a remarkable and highly readable map of its human geography... Navai's prose is startling... She picks up snatches of songs, poems, billboard propaganda and is quick to find the knife and turn the blade on the hypocrisy of the city she knows so well (Eliza Griswold THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

Telling the story of Tehran through a cast of characters...Navai illustrates how Iranians are far more bound by what they have in common: a strong awareness of class, an irrepressible drive for upward mobility, daily clashes with the forces of modernity and tradition, and a profound disillusionment with the opportunities society has on offer. Fast-paced and saturated with detail each chapter describes a Tehrani whose life the treacherous, glittering city has disfigured in some way... what [Navai] has done is extraordinary. Despite the bleakness of life in their "city of lies", her Iranians continue to soldier on, hoping the future holds something better (Azadeh Moaveni FINANCIAL TIMES)

Phenomenal... Pacy and informative. City of Lies is an extraordinary insight into a country barely known - an often feared - by the West (VOGUE)

In City of Lies, the British-Iranian writer Ramita Navai has brought together an intriguing collection of cameo portraits to illustrate the difficulties and challenges Tehranis face in their everyday lives... Navai provides a fascinating insight into the routine hypocrisy and dishonesty for millions of city-dwellers... Navai's book offers a fascinating glimpse into how Iranians cope with the demands of living under one of the world's most authoritarian regimes. But it also suggests the country needs to experience an altogether different type of revolution before its people can ever dream of living something approaching a normal life (Con Coughlin THE MAIL ON SUNDAY)

Of the great cities of the Earth, Tehran is by no means the most engaging... Bursting with automobiles, poisoned with smog and opium, shaken by earthquakes and almost permanent insurrection... City of Lies shows how well the Islamic Republic, for all its unworldliness has survived for 35 years and why a man such as ex-president Ahmadinejad, to us a mere clown, for a long time commanded a following... In few other places is the gulf so wide between what is said and what is done (James Buchan THE GUARDIAN)

Iranians will condemn Navai for sowing this bleak and ugly side of Iran, in which she has broken taboos and laid bare what everyone knows but nobody mentions... She writes well and with fluency, in tight prose (Antony Wynn TLS)

In City of Lies Ramita Navai tells us that 'in order to live in Tehran you have to lie'. Survival there depends on dodging the fatwas of Iran's medieval theocratic regime. Drink, drugs and paid-for sex proliferate; the divorce rate soars while religious attendance tumbles. Navai paints brilliantly insightful portraits of eight Tehranis suffering under an Iranian revolution which has gone terribly wrong - but with no stomach for another in the light of the failed 'Arab Spring' (Jonathan Rugman THE SPECTATOR (Books of the Year))

Gripping, a dark delicious unveiling of the secret decadent life of Islamic Tehran, deeply researched yet exciting as a novel (Simon Sebag Montefiore EVENING STANDARD)

Each chapter reads almost like a short story, covering the fascinating inner worlds of socialites, prostitutes, gangsters, junkies and anti-regime bloggers. Nose jobs, illicit sex, bribery and fear of the Gashte Ershad morality police loom large in this vivid captivating insight as Navai explores the little reported day-to-day existence of Tehranians (Tom Chesshyre THE TIMES 'Books of the Year')

Compulsively readable... readers are granted a panoramic view of Iranian society (THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE)

This is an important book. A seamless literary tapestry that just happens to be true. Ramita Navai's collection of stories are uniquely Iranian yet they will move, chill and delight even a reader indifferent to Persia (Sam Kiley, Foreign Affairs Editor, SKY NEWS)

Ramita Navai has written a fascinating, unforgettable book about the unbreakable human spirit in one of the world's great cities (Jeremy Bowen)

The stories are beautiful, and they're so well-detailed and nuanced (Jon Stewart THE DAILY SHOW)

Utterly gripping and one of the best books I've read in a long time (Jane Merrick THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

The stories are beautiful, and they're so well-detailed and nuanced (Jon Stewart THE DAILY SHOW)

Book Description

A searing, energetic portrait of life in modern Tehran - 'deeply researched yet as exciting as a novel' Simon Sebag Montefiore

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1191 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson (8 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00JJ3XC40
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #41,478 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 5 Oct. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author is a British-Iranian journalist who worked for The Times in Tehran from 2003 to 2006. While she was there, she was told the stories of the eight Teheranis which make up this book. She tells us in the introduction that she has changed names, some details, time frames and locations, but that the events recounted did actually happen. Although she says that "the defining trait of Tehranis is their kindness" and that Tehran is "the city I love", little of that appears in this book which focusses unremittingly on its seamiest side. Corruption or decadence or deceit or hypocrisy or fear or violence mark all these stories. The mullahs may crack down on alcohol, on unmarried sex, on immodest female clothes and on gambling; but all these flourish more or less underground. The city of Tehran is itself a character in the book, the nature of its different quarters well described; in general the picture is one of squalor, pollution, and, in certain districts, vulgar opulence. (In the Kindle edition, the map of Tehran is too small and too awkward to read.)

The eight chapters are about

1. Dariush. He is member of an Islamic opposition group in exile - the MEK - sent to Teheran in 2001 to assassinate an ex-police chief.

2. Somayeh. She is the pious seventeen-year-old daughter of a religious family who support the rule of the mullahs, are devoted to the Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, but some members of their circle are not necessarily supporters of President Ahmedinajad, and are not afraid to criticize him, or later his successor Rouhani. Her father is respected in the neighbourhood for the number of times he has been away on a hajj (pilgrimage). Somayeh will be married (not an arranged marriage), and we learnt a lot about that comes about in a family like hers.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tom Doyle on 1 Sept. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
These tales of real lives in Tehran - some names invented to protect identities - come together to form a vivid and gritty street level picture of Iran's capital: drug barons, prostitutes, porn stars, junkies, anti-government bloggers, corrupt judges and policemen, alcoholics, and spoilt children of the upper-class (cruising in flash cars to parties with cocaine and crystal meth). Housewives are bullied and neglected. Morality police units frighten women flashing an inch too much flesh. Dancing-for-fitness classes - held in private behind closed doors - are shut down. Homosexuals are harassed. Employers demand "special favours" of single women members of staff. Bribes are par for the course just about everywhere.

The feeling of repression, the desire of many to escape and the rank hypocrisy of most interactions oozes from the pages. Ramita Navai, a journalist who has covered the city for more than a decade and is British-Iranian (she lived briefly in Tehran as a child in 1978), has captured the twitchy everyday paranoia of the Iranian regime, offering a glimpse of another country that we usually only learn of from news reports handling big issues such as the question of the state's nuclear programme or relations with neighbouring countries. The recent history is also comprehensively covered, without getting bogged down in details - the revolution against the Shah a constant backdrop to what has arisen in place of those more liberal times.

City of Lies has an unusual format that works, an almost novelised account of the city from the perspective of eight individuals. Each chapter stands alone as a colourful short story. The writing is crystal clear and the dialogue draws you along. Much of what is described is shocking - prison deaths, suicides, hangings.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anna Chetwynd on 21 Sept. 2014
Format: Hardcover
I went to the author's talk in the Frontline Club in London about the book, where she was interviewed by the excellent Jeremy Bowen. This inspired me to buy it and I've read it a few times and bought it least 5 copies for various family and friends. The stories of 8 different lives in Tehran are compelling and fascinating. I knew very little about modern Iran despite a romantic fascination with the area and the usual media slant on newsworthy stories.
I loved the format of the book that was almost like reading little short stories but with the twist that they are real people's lives and real people's tragedies that are laid before us. Their tales are told admirably by Navai, never sentimentally, always with empathy and humour and an evocative sense of place and culture. The author does not badger us or force us to fall in line with a particular opinion but tells the individuals tales with a light tough making some of the inevitable tragedy more devastating by her careful and sparing prose. The book is not a political tool but an excellent and well drawn insight into Tehran, its culture, society and the life of its people in a tumultuous time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Emily Coyte on 13 Jun. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
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 to Behind 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.
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