debut novel by

Farnoosh Moshiri

The book

As if he were a latter-day Sherazad, our hero in At the Wall of the Almighty fights by retreating into a world of stories -- or memories? -- of grandmothers and peacocks, love songs and saffron smells, and the softness of a young girl's hand pulling him up onto a magic carpet that flies down New Spring Street, over the crooked houses, to the Almighty Wall, which Ali the Bricklayer stacks taller every night.

The grim unreality of life inside prison falls darkly upon us, but the fire of Moshiri's imagination also lights the way to a dithered world. The masterful whole she fashions of torture and fragments is essential reading not just for those interested in the seldom-heard voices of Iranian women, but for those who care about the progress of literature. Read excerpt in THE IRANIAN here


Farnoosh Moshiri grew up in a literary family in Tehran, Iran. She worked as a playwright and fiction writer in Iran, before fleeing the country in 1983 after her play was banned and its director and cast were arrested. Winner of the Barthelme Memorial Fellowship at the University of Houston, she now teaches creative writing and literature. Email:


"This remarkably intricate and fascinating first novel dramatizes in luxuriant and resonant details the ordeal of a political prisoner of the Iranian revolution of the late 1970s. He is Moshiri's unnamed narrator: an accused 'Unbreakable' who won't confess his (supposed) crimes or repent of his alleged apostasy from the 'faith' brandished by zealots currently in power. Bullied and secuced by the mercurial prison guard 'Loony Kamal,' and having realized that the 'only way to survive is to return,' the narrator recalls and reinvents the history of his highborn liberal family and that of their village, surrounded (in fact, imprisoned) by an increasingly high wall that is being patiently built by the Sisyphean shape-changing figure of Ali the Bricklayer a vivid embodiment of the spirit of a populace caught between its impulse toward independence and its obedience to archaic mores and laws. The artful confusions of time, place, and characters brilliantly reinforce Moshiri's commanding theme: that anyone, regardless of his actions, may be perceived as both a hero of, and a traitor to, Iran's 'Holy' Revolution. A superb debut." -- Kirkus Reviews

"A politics more profound than any local circumstances of site or current history... There is a revolution here." -- James Robison

"A despairing novel of revolution and corruption, Moshiri's debut is the story of a young man at El-Deen, a "university" in which political prisoners of a fanatical Muslim movement are incarcerated. This nameless prisoner has survived the cruelest tortures, yet although his body remains intact, his mind is fragmented. He cannot remember who he is or why he is where he is. Taunted by the prison guard Loony Kamal, drugged, and beaten, the prisoner tries desperately to sort through the jumble of half-suppressed memories, dreams, and hallucinations that haunt his every waking moment. As frightening as it is moving, this is a stirring testament of love and courage and a condemnation of the abuses of power that often arise in times of revolution. Moshiri's narrator speaks in a poignantly simple voice, allowing us to see, through his eyes, the horrors of a revolution re-creating the very cruelties and excesses of the political structure it over-throws. Thoughtful but not for the faint of heart" -- Booklist, Bonnie Johnston