Scene from a novel


by Azarin Sadegh

The moon vanished behind the moving clouds. The cold breeze and the lifeless view facing our hotel room reminded me of the prison.

Sahar and I hadn't closed the window.

“I always had so many friends,” Sahar said and smiled. “I could make friends in the buses, or in the parks, or anywhere I went. People seemed to like me.” She sighed. “But I never felt so close to any of them the way I feel about you.”

“I had almost none,” I said.

“All my friends were so different from you,” Sahar said.

“Who knows who?” I said, looking for the right words. “Why do you think I’m different? You don’t know anything about me, about what I’ve done, or what I used to think or to say. Whatever made me happy or sad. But, I have to tell you. I’ve changed. A lot.”

Sahar shook her head. “Don’t tell me. We all have changed,” she said and leaned back, placing her legs on the window’s edge.

I did the same. The breeze tickled my feet and the cold moved up toward my knees. “The past is past,” I said.

“I like you the way you are now,” she said. “And I don’t care about the past.”

But who could I be without my past? I thought. “I grew up in Astara,” I said. “We lived in a big house with a wild scary backyard.”

Sahar grabbed my hand. “I hope you’re telling me a love story,” she said.

“I wish,” I said and immediately regretted talking about the past. “Let’s forget it. It’s too late already. We’re both tired.”

Sahar laughed. “Now you can’t back up,” she said. “Remember. I’m your best friend.”

I sighed. “You win,” I said and cleared my voice. “I had a secret friend named Soghra,” I said. “Her mother was our maid. Everyone called her Nanneh Soghra, or Soghra’s Mom. Every morning they came to our house and every night they walked back to their village. While her mother was doing the laundry, Soghra and I played. We loved the beach. The sea wasn’t deep. We could move forward in the water for a long time and it wouldn’t still reach our knees,” I said and took a deep breath.

Sahar was playing with her hair.

“I liked Soghra because she was different from other children,” I said. “If we played hide and seek, she always chose to hide behind thin trees, so I could find her. Or she never accepted the role of the teacher in our classroom game, because she didn’t know how to read or to write. Or it was always her who washed the little teacups after the game was over. My all time favorite toy was a pillow with Soghra’s dark gray chador. I liked to wear it around my waist, or on my shoulder like a cap, or hide under it like a ghost. Soghra never complained.” I rubbed my hands. “One night - I was maybe five - I told her that I was going to keep it,” I said. “That the chador was mine. Soghra, as expected, didn’t argue. Not even a word.”

Sahar grabbed my hand and pressed it gently. “I remember how I thought I was a princess,” she said. “But I was just a spoiled brat.”

“Me too,” I said. “I was a lonely brat.”

Sahar chuckled drowsily.

“Mother never gave up on reminding me of those years,” I said. “The stories I invented, the friends I didn’t have, the places I didn’t see. I grew up imagining games, running in the beach, watching birds, touching snails, escaping monsters, pretending to be a queen, or a deev, playing with a pillow and somebody else’s chador every day, all the time,” I continued. “That chador became my throne and my identity. Children. They think they own the world. All children except for Soghra who was only three years older than me,” I said.

Sahar yawned.

“We left Astara when I was eight, but I always missed its beach,” I said, glancing at Sahar. She had an ambiguous smile on her lips. “One summer, Mother and I met Nanneh Soghra at Grandma’s house in Astara,” I said. “Mother told her how much we missed her and invited her to Tehran. Of course we all knew it was nothing but a formality, something impossible, that she was too old to make this trip, and we were too poor to afford having a maid. But it still felt good. I’d never forget how she kissed Mother’s hand with gratitude, and how she hugged me like embracing a phantom.” I sighed. “No matter how much I had loved Soghra, still I wanted to escape her mother’s grip,” I whispered timidly. “Her lips felt creepy, wet, Dusty. Full of germs from people’s unwashed clothes or from the insects she used to kill for us. Nanneh told that Soghra got married at twelve and had four kids. It was three years ago. She was barely twenty three.”

Sahar rested her head on my shoulder. “Like my grandmother,” she murmured dozily.

I nodded. “Yes, just Grandma. Without a name,” I said. “From the moment women give birth, they lose their identity. Soghra wasn’t Soghra anymore. At thirteen, she became the mother of her firstborn.” I stopped talking.

Sahar snored gently on my side. Random drops of rain fell on my toes. It was cold.

As I rose to close the window, I glanced outside. On the sidewalk, a woman walked by and two men, sharing a single umbrella, watched her move.

The rain hit the glass. I grabbed a blanket and wrapped up Sahar’s sleep inside its heat.

I climbed the bed and enjoyed the pleasant smell of the clean sheets. I waited to fall asleep. I turned right and turned left. I lay on my back and on my belly. I counted imaginary sheep jumping over an imaginary fence. “Close your eyes and don’t think,” was Mother’s cure for insomnia on stormy nights. But tonight, I couldn’t stop thinking. Mother’s desired blankness fit into another life. I kept my eyes shut, but I knew even if I looked, I wasn’t going to find those ghastly ghosts anymore. My brain, ravaged by thoughts. Astara, my beach, my childhood, gone. The old house, my well, my backyard destroyed. My deev, vanished. My Danny, dead.

Moved with grief and anticipation, I felt like a newborn.

All of a sudden, Soghra’s face like Bakhtak, the dark ghoul of awakening, descended on my restlessness. “At least you had a childhood,” it said. “I never got one. My kids neither.”

I woke up staring the ceiling that resembled the quiet shores of Astara, swept by the waves of light moving up and down, left and right, from a corner to another, from the window to the wall, from the wall to the window. I slipped under the blanket and twisted to hide my face in the bloated volume of the pillow.

I couldn’t breathe.

What if I were truly changing, like a blaze, from the past minute to this one, from this one to the next? What if I were wavering like a nomadic weeping tree, swaying from hatred to serenity, from serenity to hatred? What if I were flying like a tossed stone, from here to there, from there to somewhere else?

What if I had already turned into a foreigner, in between, far from who I was, close to whom I would be?

What if Soghra, my secret friend, never got her fifth kid? What if she never turned twenty-six?


Recently by Azarin SadeghCommentsDate
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Oct 03, 2011
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more from Azarin Sadegh


by maziar 058 (not verified) on

As I read trough the beautiful writing come to Astara and bang !the flash back... only one summer we spend a week there and I was bored wanting to go back to Tehran,
But then those midnight fire camping ozoon boroon, Tagari skool,alaf.... god I missed that place!!
thank you for taking me back to that joyful 55 summer.

anonymous fish

what i enjoy about your writing is the

by anonymous fish on

going back and reading again.  i tend to rush through too fast... anxious for the next word... "feeling" each sensation.  and then i get to go back and really absorb what you're saying.  your characters feel natural.  i don't think an author can ever be successful without feeling some angst.  it brings out emotions that need to be fully expressed.  you're doing a great job Azarin... stay strong and stay true to yourself.  your gift is in giving.  :-) 

Azarin Sadegh

Dear Behrooz, Dear Emma,

by Azarin Sadegh on

Dear Behrooz,

Thank you so much for your kind feedback!

I totally agree with you! I have learned (the hard way) that it's impossible to please the whole world! But actually I would have liked to defend myself once in a while...:-) But as you can see here, it seems that there's no opposing view, that all the comments are so positive and so supportive and surprisingly wonderful that the least I can do is to thank them! Plus, I love these interactions that feel like having a dialogue with real smart people… since the act of writing is such a lonely act!

Fortunately, I have to confess that there’s always one person who keeps me humble, and grounded in real world! Always too loud with a very sharp sense of critic about my work (and the only one I truly trust), he’s my mentor and my Novel writing teacher at UCLA who never misses on pointing at “problems”! 

Thanks again for reading my story, Azarin

Dear Emma,

You definitely sound like a writer yourself! “Life is a fiction in progress” so beautifully said.

I’ve noticed that since I’m writing fiction, I engage less and less in this “real reality” or even the alternative one as much as I did before! It feels more like walking at the edge, where you’re afraid of falling in either side…but I know that at some point there’s no other option left, …other than shutting your eyes and jumping inside that dark hole without fear, as you are the writer of this fiction and so it’s all up to you and it’s your job to write the best ending!

Thanks again dear! Azarin


Good Job Azarin!

by Mehman on

Dear Azarin,

Good job! Keep up working on your novel and don't give up until you finish it! You do not have to engage yourself with defending this part or that part of the novel with the readers...

 Your readers are free to have their opinions and, as a writer, I think you should not care much about the reader's opinions, especially while you are writing the novel.

One simple reason is that different readers have different opinions and it is virtually impossible to satisfy all opposing views!

Looking forward to see the final product!

Behrouz Mehman


Dear Azarin, As Irandokht

by Emma (not verified) on

Dear Azarin,
As Irandokht said, I don't need to know the background of your characters. The challenges of a grown up woman who is still trying to make sense of all her childhood memories, fearing that by accepting the virtual reality of it, life might take it away; and at the same time, fearing to look at the present life with the same sensitivity and mentality would cause more insecurity and instability is beautifully described in your writting.
Life is a fiction in progress. Sometimes, we are the reader of this ongoing story and sometimes, we are just passive observant, yet active creator of it.
As one of your readers said, it seems that you are re-creating your past or an alternative reality, but your fear, or this alternative reality is very "real". Constant fear of judgement, and failure.
Please continue your writting, you give hope to people like me who are weary of the real reality and even the alterantive one!

Azarin Sadegh

Ebi aziz

by Azarin Sadegh on

Like you, I love also footnotes! They could simplify my life so much, so I didn't have to come up with a dialogue that in a natural way could explain the whole history of Iran between 1953 and 1979, or I didn't have to describe Bakhtak in three words max...etc.

Too bad that footnotes seem outdated, per my teacher's saying!

About your question: I refer you to my response to MPD..:-)

Thanks again dooste aziz!



Azarin Sadegh

Dear MPD,

by Azarin Sadegh on

Oh my! One of your people makes me laugh and the other one makes me cry! One of them asks me to write the same way I like to write and the other one tells me how wrong I am...Life is not really fair! You're so right...all of you!

Believe me my dear! No one in this world wants this book to finish as much as I want to. No one suffers more than I do because of it...

But it's so good to know that I'm not alone in this endless suffering...:-)



Azarin Sadegh

Dear MS,

by Azarin Sadegh on

سالهاست که من ایران راا ترک کردم، و مجبور شده‌ام که به زبان‌های مختلف صحبت کنم. از فارسی‌ به فرانسه و از فرانسه به انگلیسی‌ مهاجرت کرده‌ام و دیگر نمیتوانم ایران واقعی‌ را از طریقه نوشتن خود وصف کنم. ایرانی که من به یاد میاورم دیگر وجود ندارد.

معلم رمان نویسی من میگوید که هر کدام از ما رمانی را مینویسیم که خودمان دوست داریم بخوانیم. دوست عزیز، باید اعتراف کنم که من سالهاست نتوانسته‌ام هیچ رمان جدیدی به زبان فارسی‌ بخوانم. ..پس چه توقعی میتوانم از خودم داشته باشم؟ به قول صادق هدایت، نویسنده محبوب من: 

من یک نقاش روی جلد قلمدان چه بکشم که شاهکار بشود؟

بهرحال از لطف شما برای خواندن داستانهای من خیلی‌ ممنونم!


Azarin Sadegh

My dear Irandokht,

by Azarin Sadegh on

My dear Irandokht,

As you know, these last days and weeks have been pretty hard on me for so many different reasons. There were even moments that I was even ready to give up everything, included my writing (I had already done it in the past once, when I was in Iran. It was during the years of war) … but the main reason that this time I cannot let go of my passion that easily is because of the support and kindness of friends like you!

Thank you my friend!

Love, Azarin

Azarin Sadegh

Thanks jahanshah!

by Azarin Sadegh on

Dear Jahanshah,You always give me so much credit! Thanks! To tell you the truth, as a kid, I loved so much to be like others; anonymous, happy and carefree. Then when I got older, I didn’t mind being different, but I wanted also not to get noticed, even being invisible! A total paradox!  

So maybe that’s why it took me years to dare writing, because to me it felt like having all these eyes on me, or worse all the eyes on my imperfections and shortcomings!

But lately, I have been lucky to know you and a few other friends and writers who have always supported me in this lonely struggle between me and myself…Thank you! You're the best!


PS: Thanks also for not bringing up that little critic of yours about one of the lines of the story here..:-)


Azarin Sadegh

Dear mrudzio,

by Azarin Sadegh on

Dear mrudzio,

There’s so much truth in what you wrote.

No matter what I write or how I’m going to redefine myself to become this other woman (the woman who lives in my writings) …still, I know that I’d always feel a sense of failure, as that perfect life of hers has actually never existed.

Yesterday I had attended a seminar about writing. One of the questions that came up was about why do the writers write and how they keep themselves inspired.

One of the writers responded that many writers write about something that is haunting them. And another one to describe the act of writing used the metaphor of the trench-coated man who exposes himself to the public in a quick second! Of course as I was laughing out loud alongside everyone else in the room, I realized how much that man resembled myself, or the woman that I want to be!

It seems that I’ve been always trying to recreate myself through the reinvention of a new past, even an unlived past, by all these attempts to remember that incredible sense of wonder which resides in childhood.

Your comment reminded me of a dialogue I wrote in the ffirst chapters between the protagonist and her father, while admiring the beauty of the roses of Shiraz (it is a flashback):

Dark red Roses, stunning and magical, but still they grew in dirt. “It’s unfair,” I said.” They’re trapped in mud.”

“Rootless, they’ll die my dear,” Father said. “Freedom isn’t always our best option.”

I assume that's why I go back repeatedly to my childhood, as like anybody else I cannot live rootless.

 Thanks again for your great insight! Azarin

ebi amirhosseini

Azarin Jaan

by ebi amirhosseini on

I always love footnotes! why,who knows?!

Lovely piece.When can we read the whole masterpiece?

Don't forget my signed copy.


Ebi aka Haaji

Multiple Personality Disorder

The footnote was great

by Multiple Personality Disorder on

It helps to understand that this is not a stand-alone short story.

I know life isn’t fair. I want to read your stories without any emotional attachment, but your they grab me and pull me, emotions exposed to be . They awake in me feelings that I wish I could do without. I wish I could read and leave, but I can’t. I want to know what happens to these characters. How long more do I have to suffer before your book comes out?


Dear Azarin, I've always

by MS (not verified) on

Dear Azarin,

I've always wondered why you don't write in Persian...



Azarin jan

by IRANdokht on

What I like about your writing is that in a short scene, even without the background information and not a whole lot of "action" you give me so much insight on the characters, the thoughts, the past, the relationships... all you did was sit by the window, close it and go to bed, but in reality, you introduced a whole generation and the class gap. You introduced two different childhood dramas, and both kids loneliness (each in her own way), their fate and even how they both felt or must have felt.

Nicely done my dear. I really enjoyed it.


Jahanshah Javid

Being different

by Jahanshah Javid on

Lovely Azarin. Looks like your novel is shaping up. There were references to being different. What is it about being different that's so appealing and interesting? Is it that we get bored of people who do or say nothing beyond the ordinary? They take no risks? They don't stand out? I guess those who are different are the once who make a difference. Those like you.


The Country of the Past

by mrudzio on

Dear Azarin,

the older we become, the more our minds return to the events of our earliest memories. Nothing again will ever be as clear for us and as vivid and as intensely “lived” as those first experiences of our childhood (when the mind was still fresh, new and infinitely impressionable).

But memories are flexible and capable of change. We destroy and re-create them over and over again (as well as the History of our nation) whenever we change our Present. The past is a kind of imaginative work of Art that is never completed because our acts of understanding and describing it are never-ending. We can always uncover veil after veil of reality and meaning in it.

Our personal past is a series of stories we tell ourselves (about ourselves) that could be true, but never is. It’s a work of fiction in progress, an alternative reality constructed (by Imagination and Art) out of a chaos of ancient, deeply-felt, sensory perceptions. A story always on the edge of being finished.

This is what I see in your work, Azarin: a woman re-creating her memories to try to explain what she is feeling. It’s a terribly frustrating process because the mind is looking for certainty and immobility, when everything in existence (including ourselves) is in a state of constant change. The mind can’t keep up with “Life”. Its judgements, beliefs, and knowledge are always “out of date”. The older we become, the more we abandon our grasp and retreat into the alternative reality we’ve long been constructing for ourselves.

Beautifully described, Azarin. I could imagine myself there.

Thank you,



Azarin aziz

by Feshangi on

They don't call me Feshangi for nothing. 

Now that I know the background of the story, I can better understand why your protagonist was so confused and anxious. It makes so much more sense to me. Thank you.



Azarin Sadegh


by Azarin Sadegh on

First of all, I have to thank JJ for posting this scene so quickly, and I am speechless by his choice of its title: Nanneh Soghra! Actually I like it a lot! Thank you JJ jaan!  

Second, I think I need to give a bit of background (but the least possible!)

It is the first night of freedom, after the protagonist and her friend Sahar have escaped the prison in Istanbul.

Third, there is a reference in the scene to the protagonist’s childhood house, her well, her deev, etc…that relates to this other scene that I had blogged a long time ago:


And Danny is the name of the boy she loved in Iran, who’s dead now.

I hope it helps you to fully follow the scene!

Dear Feshangi, I have to say that you were very fast to read my story, even before I get an email from JJ about posting it!

Thank you!



Azarin aziz

by Feshangi on

I enjoyed reading your story. It was both sad and sweet. Thank you.