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.