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  1. Book ImageThe Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons: Selected Stories

    Goli Taraghi

    “Carries the flavor of the old world, its underlying ferocity leavened by a lyrical mysticism. . . . Her prose is transcendent.”—Washington Post

Discussion Questions

  1. The narrator in “Gentleman Thief” says, “It was strange, but strange things had become normal. The world, our world, had turned upside down and we couldn’t grasp the meaning and logic of events and incidents.” What unusual situations or reversals in these stories contribute to this feeling of strangeness? In what ways do the characters—both children and adults—perceive and respond to it?
  2. Did you have any preconceived notions about Iranian society before reading these stories? If so, were they confirmed or disproved by this collection? What surprised you?
  3. In “In Another Place,” the narrator remarks that “a series of thin threads hang from every word, every random encounter, and every minor incident, and . . . these threads are woven together like the colorful fabric of a celestial carpet.” Similarly, the gentleman thief says, “Life is like mathematics. All its events are connected.” How do these stories reflect the interconnectedness of events and people? Is it useful to think of life in this way?
  4. Goli Taraghi has said that the Iranian censors force her to treat love as a taboo subject and write all her lovers as married couples. How are marriages depicted in her stories? How might her stories be different if the couples were unmarried?
  5. When Amir-Ali first strikes his wife in bed and tells her that he mistook her head for his own, she chooses to believe him and interprets this as a sign of his deep love. What other instances of misperception occur in this collection? What causes them, and what do they say about human nature and communication?
  6. How do Taraghi’s characters experience displacement and marginality? Do those living in exile still have a sense of community? What ties them to their homeland? If you have lived abroad, what was your experience like?
  7. One of the dinner guests in “In Another Place” cries, “This revolution has forced a lot of people to show their true colors, especially you yellow-bellied, chicken-hearted men.” Is she right? Does life in tumultuous times reveal people’s true natures, or does it turn them into masters of deception? What roles do trust, honesty, and deceit play in these stories?
  8. Many of Taraghi’s characters seem to live between worlds. The narrator in “The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons” hates “this life of constant wandering, these eternal comings and goings.” How do the conflicts—both internal and external—experienced by the characters in transit relate to the larger realities they face? What role do journeys play in your life?
  9. Why does Amir-Ali come down with his strange affliction? What are the immediate and long-term causes? Why does it manifest itself in this way?
  10. Azar Nafisi wrote that these stories are “filled with passion, curiosity, empathy, as well as mischief—definitely mischief.” How does Taraghi’s use of humor affect her portrayals of tragedy and trauma?
  11. Both social gatherings and solitude feature prominently in these stories. Does Taraghi see value in solitude, even though many of her characters are lonely? Do you?
  12. In “The Great Lady of My Soul,” the narrator remarks that his wife’s “newfound faith makes her heart race.” She is one of several characters who become devout after the revolution. What might have caused their turn to religion? What can this teach us about life under a repressive regime?
  13. Taraghi’s stories are imbued with the details and flavors of Iranian and Parisian culture. Do they nevertheless address universal concerns and experiences? To which characters did you relate the most?

About Goli Taraghi

Goli Taraghi was born in Tehran in 1939. She has been honored as a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in France, and her work has been widely anthologized, including in Reza Aslan’s Tablet and Pen. She lives in Paris.

Books by Goli Taraghi

  1. Book CoverThe Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons: Selected Stories

    “Carries the flavor of the old world, its underlying ferocity leavened by a lyrical mysticism. . . . Her prose is transcendent.”—Washington PostMore