Real lives in modern Tehran - a searing, energetic portrait of the city and of life in one of the world's most repressive regimes. Unabridged edition.
Far removed from the picture of Tehran we glimpse in news stories, there is another, hidden city, where survival depends on an intricate network of lies and falsehoods. It is a place where Mullahs visit prostitutes, cosmetic surgeons restore girls' virginity and homemade porn is bought and sold in the bazaars.
It is also the home of our eight protagonists, drawn from across the spectrum of Iranian society: the porn star, the ageing socialite, the assassin and enemy of the state who ends up working for the Republic, the volunteer religious militiaman who undergoes a sex change, the dutiful housewife who files for divorce, and the old-time thug running a gambling den.
These are ordinary people forced to live extraordinary lives. Plotted around the city's pulsing central thoroughfare, Vali Asr Street, CITY OF LIES is an energetic, intimate and unforgettable portrait of modern Tehran and of what it is to live, love and survive under one of world's most brutally repressive regimes.
Read by Sylvia Lisle
(p) 2014 Tantor, Inc
Ramita Navai was born in Iran and grew up in London, but returned to live in Tehran in 2003. She spent three years as the Tehran correspondent for The Times, covering everything from the Bam earthquake to the escalating nuclear crisis. Since leaving Iran, she has worked as a reporter for Channel 4's primetime and award-winning foreign affairs series, Unreported World, and so far has made nineteen documentaries for the series. Ramita has also worked extensively as a journalist for the United Nations, covering crises in Iran, Pakistan and Iraq and has also written for many publications including the Sunday Times, Irish Times, Independent, Guardian and Marie-Claire and has recently started to blog about her work for the Huffington Post.
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