“The Neighbour”

This week’s published piece is “The Neighbour” by Goli Taraghi. Taraghi is an Iranian writer who moved to Paris after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 with her two small children. She is the daughter of a prominent journalist, publisher, and former member of the Iranian Parliament. Her book Winter Sleep (1973) collected narratives portraying the inner life of eight middle-class city-dwellers, amid the religious dislocation and anomie arising from Iran’s rapid modernization in the 1960s. Her short story ‘The Great Lady of My Soul’ (1982) won the Contre-Ciel Short Story Prize. Scattered Memories (1994) dealt with the emotional fallout from the Iran-Iraq War. Taraghi has a large following in Iran, where she has managed to be published often despite her family history and exile status; she does not write about political or religious topics, instead believing that simple stories of life are more interesting. She also has a large following in France, where the publishing industry is set up to handle translations of works; here in the United States, however, she is less well known.

“The Neighbour” is about a family living in small flat in Paris, and the stress they come under from the woman who lives downstairs from them and complains about the noise they make. The tables are turned when the narrator finally loses her temper and screams at the woman.

  • Taraghi has almost no dialog in this story; only three sentences. Does her narrative style detract from the interrelationships in the story? Do you feel that she does a good job of ‘show, don’t tell’ in a story where the entire form is a 1st person narration?
  • There are elements of political commentary in the subtext of this story, despite Taraghi’s assertion that she does not write political or religious themes. How subtle does such subtext have to be in order to not be noticed?
  • The juxtaposition of cultures and the different expectations people have for behavior within their culture are explored here in the conflict between the narrator and the neighbor, in the letters she gets from home, even in her children’s actions. Do you think these themes are well expressed?
  • This story, like so much literary fiction, seems to simply end. In this case, though, there’s a definite climactic moment, where the character arc reaches a point of serious change. There’s a long stretch of falling action after that point, however. Do you think the ending is too long? Appropriate? How does it affect the impact of the character arc?

Enjoy! As always, all comments are welcome.


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