In Case of Emergency doesn’t ignore or explicitly reject Orientalist stereotypes of women, but it does tease them ... As a reader from the United States, I’m curious about narratives from Iran that contradict those, few and simple, offered by the mainstream media. However, it would be a mistake to reduce Shadi to a vehicle for representation—and a slight to the two brilliant artists who gave her voice. She’s a beautiful character, brimming with conflict, and capable of reproducing that conflict in the reader, inspiring repulsion and sympathy in turns. Rahmani does a wonderful job of depicting femininity in general, and Shadi in particular as shifting and diverse. Lyricism comes to her as naturally as profanity, and her vulnerability is just as convincing as her callousness. Between the insulting pet names and the international inflections, In Case of Emergency displays a gift for description and a masterful knack for challenging the expectations of structure. The result is artful chaos, as brilliantly orchestrated and lovingly keyed as the Bach movements Sara rehearses on her out-of-tune piano.
The author herself has said that the story was inspired by riotous celebrations after a football match: the simultaneously eerie and exhilarating feeling that Tehran is sitting on a pile of matches, ready to go up in flames at any moment ... The deployment of heavy symbolism and allegory to escape censors’ overzealous scissors is an old game, as true in the shah’s Iran as in the revolutionary regime that followed. And while the roiling, earthquake-struck city aptly evokes the spiritual malaise that afflicts this nation of 83 million, there’s a danger in reading In Case of Emergency simply as a political parable. To do so is to jettison its literary and sensual qualities in the name of a facile takeaway. Sheekasteh is the Farsi expression for the kind of visceral, idiomatic slang that characterizes this book’s prose — nimbly translated here by the scholar Mariam Rahmani — but the word literally means 'broken.' The novel’s most compelling transgression may be linguistic, the tectonic shift it represents in Iranian letters.
In this satirical and brilliantly translated novel, Mohebali showcases Iran’s underground culture and the catastrophic realities of contemporary life. Her picturesque prose is darkly comical as she examines the political climate and social issues affecting our world.
Iranian author Mohebali’s English-language debut, vividly translated by Rahmani, paints a brilliant and jarring portrait of contemporary Iran, rife with unrest, drugs, and destruction ... Fast-paced and sharp, the novel manages to capture the voice and tone of its troubled and cynical cast, though the pace comes at the cost of depth, leaving the characters—their lives, emotions, and histories—unknown to the reader. As a portrait of a disintegrating city, this succeeds, but as a story about the people caught in the destruction and chaos, not so much.
Her misadventures are so bleak that appreciating the deadpan delivery can be a strain. Shadi’s pathway through Tehran is jumbled ... Tehran-based author Mohebali has created a charismatic protagonist with an undeniable sense of humor as she watches the city devolve into frenzied flight during the earthquake, but Shadi's addiction hampers not only her own actions, but the pace and structure of the novel. Every abortive mission lessens the impact of her experience of the earthquake, and by the story’s end, the reader may be just as nihilistic as Shadi herself, lost in an often ambivalent character’s comings and goings ... A compelling portrait of a city in crisis limited by its protagonist’s apathy.