City of Lies: The truth is more bizarre than fiction in modern-day Tehran

Eliza Griswold in The Telegraph:

Tehran'Let’s get one thing straight: in order to live in Iran you have to lie,” the British-Iranian journalist Ramita Navai begins her searing account of life in Tehran, City of Lies. It’s an audacious disclaimer with which to open a book of true-life stories. It was Camus who said that “fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth”. But this isn’t fiction, Navai tells us. These profiles are based on real Iranians. In order to survive, the eight Iranians she writes about have to bear the weight of desperate secrets. The setting is Vali Asr Street, the sycamore-lined road that both unifies and divides the debauched rich and devout poor of the Iranian capital, a city of more than seven million people. Although Navai has altered details and created composites to protect their identities, her Iranians share stories intimate and unforgettable enough to establish City of Lies as a remarkable and highly readable map of its human geography.

She speaks to a bumbling Iranian-American terrorist who botches an assassination attempt. A devout schoolgirl who escapes a horrific marriage. An underground blogger struggling to come to terms with his parents’ assassination. A local gangster cooking up sheesheh – crystal meth. A porn star risking her life. A basiji boy leaving his militant thug life to have a sex change. In one chapter, a dapper jahel, an old-school hoodlum, loses his wife. In another, an ageing socialite comes to terms with her vanished Iran. Even when the religious police raid her high-end belly-dancing class under charges that it could encourage lesbianism, she resolves to stay.

More here.