"A sharply observed, painfully intimate and illuminating vision of Iran…If you read just one novel this year set in a vividly evoked Tehran, this is it: a chronicle of a life seemingly foretold that is in fact surprising and unpredictable to the very last page."
Joyce Carol Oates
AMIR AHMADI ARIAN started his writing career as a journalist in Iran in 2000, while an undergrad engineering student at the University of Tehran. From 2002 he began writing fiction and translating books. He has published hundreds of articles in Iranian newspapers and magazines on literature and politics, two novels (one of them was shortlisted for the prestigious Golshiri award), a collection of stories, and a book of nonfiction on the state of Iranian literature in the new millennium. He also translated from English to Farsi novels by E.L Doctorow, Paul Auster, P.D. James, and Cormac McCarthy.
Amir left Iran in 2011 to undertake a PhD in comparative literature at the University of Queensland, Australia. While working on his thesis he switched language, and since 2014 he has been writing in English. In this phase of his career, he has published short stories and essays in The Guardian, Massachusetts Review, Asymptote, openDemocracy, etc. He earned an MFA in the NYU Creative Writing Program as The Axinn Foundation/E.L. Doctorow Fellowship recipient of 2016 - 2018. Now he is teaching literature and creative writing at CUNY City College.
Amir Ahmadi Arian’s first novel written in English,Then The Fish Swallowed Him, was published worldwide in English in Spring 2020 on a major new HarperCollins imprint for international literature HarperVia. French rights have been sold in an exclusive pre-empt to Jean Mattern of Editions Grasset & Fasquelle and Arabic rights to Sharif Bakr/Al Arabi Publishing.
The novel follows an ordinary Tehran bus driver who finds himself thrown into a mind-bending cycle of solitary confinement and interrogation in Tehran's infamous Evin prison. The first-person narrative also takes account of the other side, the interrogator and the system he works for, shedding a new light on the hidden side of Iranian politics by humanizing the interrogator and making sense of his reasons and incentives. Then The Fish Swallowed Him can be read as a 1984 for the 21st century, and as a stark warning about the psychological impact of totalitarianism.
Booklist (starred): "In this stunning work, Arian accomplishes a rare feat by telling a captivating story of an unforgettable character and by bearing witness to the hard truths endured by political prisoners everywhere."
Kirkus (starred): "Brisk and piercing protest novel…A distressing, smartly interior tale of the horrors sown by oppressive politics."
Publishers Weekly (starred) "This is an essential work of contemporary Iran"
Farah Abdesssamad, Asian Review of Books; "Sustained by a fast-paced, first-person narrative, Then the Fish Swallowed Him is a deserving English-language debut for Amir Ahmadi Arian. In a nod to Kafka and Orwell, and drawing on themes from totalitarian regime-inspired literature, the novel depicts being crushed under bureaucratic elements unstoppable once set in motion…The impact of solitary confinement on Yunus's physical and emotional well-being are among the hardest pages to read…While a work of fiction, they reflect the reality of the hardships experienced by arbitrary detainees, and abductees across the world: an important read, in a time of self-isolation in many countries"
New Yorker "A depiction of how abstract political machinations crystallize into absurd, capricious violence."
Dina Nayeri, New York Times Book Review "A convincing, unnerving read…poignant and tragic…The novel is an uncomfortable deep dive into the belly of a beast that swims in every sea."
Feroz Rather, The Common "A vital reflection on our bigoted times when the souls of entire countries are held hostage by crass populists and demagogues, rendering the bodies of millions of citizens potentially incarcerable. This book is a cry of protest from the depths of the dungeon. Through the complexities of perceptual distortion that Yunus experiences in the imprisoned territory of his body, Arian illuminates our understanding of the nature of the violent incursions of a sanctimonious state."
Thrillist "Should be required reading…It´s an intimate psychological thriller, and one from which it's very hard to look away."
Elham Mohammadnejad, Los Angeles Review of Books "A narrative of lacerating scrutiny and agonizing solitary confinement…A penetrating political fiction emerging at a time that this genre has been deprived of its principle traits in recent years…Arian's novel reminds us once again that the novel is a dynamic human knowledge repository, not a numbing gel"
Shelf Awareness"A disturbingly irresistible novel exposing the invalidity of truth and lies under a despotic regime"
Then the Fish Swallowed Him had me gripped from the start, I couldn't turn away. A story about power and the way it can hold us in its cruel grasp. This is a novel of our times. Revealing, dark and illuminating, beautiful and tense." - Christy Lefteri , author of The Beekeeper of Aleppo
"A gripping, intelligent novel, opening vistas of the imagination with economy and insight. Harrowing and clear as a bell." - Isabella Hammad, prize-winning author of The Parisian
Read The Tangible Darkness, a short story in The Rumpus
Read The Vermin, a short story
Read Call of the Flesh, a short story, nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize
Read The War Museum, a short story
Read Shafaq Park, a short story first published in Michigan Quarterly Review's Spring 2019 Iran issue and also in Literary Hub
New York Review of Books The Martyrdom of Soleimani in the Propaganda Art of Iran
Literary Hub Navigating Literary Censorship in Iran
Affidavit In Solitary
Electric Literature It's Time for the Slow Aimless Novel To Get Its Due
Paris Review Staring At A Digital Black Hole
Paris Review One Word: Avareh
Words Without Borders Gems under Debris: Repression, Revolution, and Reading in Modern Iran (a helpful introduction if you are planning to read or teach modern Iranian literature)
Guernica Magazine Fragments From A War-Torn Childhood
New York Times Why Iran Is Protesting
Literary Hub (Freeman's Channel) A Year Among the Boat People, My People
London Review of Books Trump's Rhetorical Tradition
NPR Weekend Edition, Driven to the Breaking Point with Scott Simon
New York Times, Debut Novelists Reimagine Book Promotion
Electric Literature, Post-revolution Iran through eyes of a prisoner
Los Angeles Review of Books, A Rebirth of the Political Novel
Center For Fiction, with Iranian artist and filmmaker Shirin Neshat
Michigan Quarterly Review, Bus Drivers and Fire Walkers, with Niloufar Talebi
Visit his Website