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2020 Shortlist



Translated from the French by Tina Kover

2020 Shortlist

Comments from the Judging Panel

Kimiâ, the feisty protagonist and narrator of the novel, draws us into the tale of the Sadr family. Her father Darius is a writer and political activist opposed to the brutal regime of the corrupt Shah of Iran; but once the Shah is deposed, the Sadrs find that life in revolutionary Iran is unbearable, and eventually settle in Paris to build a new life. This is a timely and ambitious debut novel that tells an epic story of human capacity for resilience and change against the backdrop of a turbulent Iranian history which is poorly understood, if at all, in the West.

About the Novel

Kimiá Sadr fled Iran at the age of ten in the company of her mother and sisters to join her father in France. Now twenty-five and facing the future she has built for herself as well as the prospect of a new generation, Kimiá is inundated by her own memories and the stories of her ancestors, which come to her in unstoppable, uncontainable waves. In the waiting room of a Parisian fertility clinic, generations of flamboyant Sadrs return to her, including her formidable great-grandfather Montazemolmolk, with his harem of fifty-two wives, and her parents, Darius and Sara, stalwart opponents of each regime that befalls them.

It is Kimiá herself punk-rock aficionado, storyteller extraordinaire, a Scheherazade of our time, and above all a modern woman divided between family traditions and her own “disorientalization” who forms the heart of this bestselling and beloved novel.

About the Author

Négar Djavadi was born in Iran in 1969 to a family of intellectuals opposed to the regimes both of the Shah, then of Khomeini. She arrived in France at the age of eleven, having crossed the mountains of Kurdistan on horseback with her mother and sister. She is a screenwriter and lives in Paris. Disoriental is her first novel.

Librarian’s Comments

In her first promising novel, Négar Djavadi gives life to a rich and fascinating saga that explores the eventful history of Iran. The narrator and her family had to leave their country because they were opposed to the regimes of the Shah and Khomeini.  The narrative brilliantly deals with themes such as exile and integration, the family being torn apart between two cultures and the adult narrator is still overwhelmed with her childhood memories. France is idealised but we know right from the beginning that it will be the place of a terrible tragedy.  Skilfully mingling past and present and peppering historical highlights, Négar Djavadi’s art of story-telling successfully approaches the Persian tradition of tall tales where the simplest story can become a real adventure. The novel is full of stories told by colourful characters and despite the violence the family suffered from, the tone is often mocking, which demonstrates an indisputable sense of humour. Bibliothèque publique d’information, France

Disoriental is an amazing chronicle of an Iranian family across continents and generations. Displaced after the 1979 Revolution in Iran, most of the family relocates in Paris.  Djavadi tells a riveting cross cultural story of adaptation and survival, incorporating original ideas and developing intriguing characters. San José Public Library, USA



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