Fall Is the Last Season of the Year/پاییز فصل آخر سال است

by Nasim Marashi, translated by Poupeh Missaghi

Nasim Marashi (b. 1984, Tehran) is a journalist, writer and scriptwriter based in Iran. She started her career in journalism in 2007 and gradually delved into story and script writing. She won the First Prize in Bayhaqi Story Prize (2014) for the short story “Nakhjir” [“The Prey”] and the First Prize in Stories of Tehran Competition (2015) for the short story “Rood” [“The River”]. She is also the co-writer of the feature film Bahman [Avalanche] (2015).

Poupeh Missaghi is Asymptote’s Iran Editor-at-Large. She is a writer, Persian<>English translator, editor, and educator. She holds a Ph.D. in creative writing and an M.A. in translation studies. She has several books of translations published in Iran. Her translations into English have appeared in World Literature Today, Denver Quarterly, Copper Nickel, Asymptote, and elsewhere. Her nonfiction and fiction have been published in Catapult, Entropy, The Brooklyn Rail, Feminist Wire, World Literature Today, Guernica, amongst others. She currently lives and works in New York.

Fall Is the Last Season of the Year is Marashi’s debut novel. Published in 2015 (Cheshmeh Publications), it was selected as the Best Novel of the Year in the 8th Jalal-e Al-e Ahmad Prize, and is currently in its 35th edition. It is translated into Italian and published by Ponte33.

The book provides a subtle realistic image of three women in their late twenties in Tehran, and through them of the society and systems around them. Leyla, Shabaneh, and Roja became friends in college and, even though their lives have gone different ways, they continue to play important roles in each other’s lives.

To tell their stories, the book presents two sections, “Summer” and “Fall.” Each season is divided into three chapters and each chapter is narrated from the point of view of one of the women, giving us a more intimate and diversified access into their lives, both external and internal.
—Poupeh Missaghi


An Excerpt from Fall Is the Last Season of the Year by Nasim Marashi
Translated from the Persian by Poupeh Missaghi

 

Roja

The city seems to have just risen. Hafez Street can be seen from the end of Neauphle-le-Château Street. There is traffic and a lot of noise from the cars’ horns. The people lining up in front of the embassy gate have tripled. Do all these people want to go to France? A man arrives and shouts, “Travel insurance . . .” Two women walk to him. They negotiate. Then they walk together to the alley close-by. Should I buy travel insurance too? I really don’t have any money left for that. I check my documents again. It doesn’t say insurance is needed. I may not need it then. The girl looking like Catherine Deneuve has gone inside. I look around for someone who is a student to double check with him. One can easily recognize the students. They are younger and simpler and they stand all alone by themselves. And the folders they hold on to are larger.

“Those with ticket numbers twenty to thirty line up behind the gate.”

I forget about asking around. Even if insurance is needed, I can’t do anything about it now. The crowd doesn’t let me pass through. I say a dozen “excuse me”s to open my way to the gate. I ask the numbers of everyone in line. They watch me going from one to the next asking, but no one offers to help and tell me where my spot is. I find the twenty-fifth person. She is an old woman with a white manteau and a pink satin scarf. I stand behind her and look behind me. A young man who looks like a student stands there.

“What’s your number?”

“Twenty-seven.”

“So you are standing in the right spot. Are you here for a student visa too?”

“Yes.”

“Do we also need to have travel insurance?”

“I don’t think so.”

He looks down. He is shy. He is like Ramin who hides when he meets a stranger, covering himself like Robocop with a metal sheet. Mom says, “My son is a girl and my daughter a boy. They should have switched places.” That day Ramin hid under the balcony stairs. I was playing tag with the kids in the courtyard when I saw him. Uncle had brought him home early from school. He had since gone under the stairs and stayed there. He hugged his knees and kept staring at the corner of the yard. I looked in the same direction but I didn’t see anything there. I was happy we were having so many guests. The sound of my playing and laughing got lost amidst Mom and Aunt Fakhri’s wails. Madar jaan wept. “Mohsen, Mohsen, I knew one day you would lose your life for your cause,” she cried out. Mom came to the balcony. Her hair was disheveled. Her lips were white. Two black lines went from her eyes to her chin. When the other kids saw her, they retreated to a corner of the courtyard and stood silently in a row. As if Mom was to be feared. She called after me, but she seemed to have lost her voice. Like people who suffer a cold. Two or three times she opened her mouth, but no voice came out, until finally she was able to mutter her question. Had I seen Ramin? I didn’t dare say he was hiding. He might have had done something wrong. I said I hadn’t seen him. Mom came downstairs. She wasn’t wearing her slippers. Her bare feet tap-tapped over the mosaics of the courtyard. She called Ramin several times. He didn’t respond. I joined her in calling.

“Ramin, Ramin!”

Aunt Fakhri came to the balcony and let out a scream. “Where is your dad, Ramin?”

Dad had gone to Manjil to buy supplies for grandpa’s grocery store. He had not brought back supplies. He had died. He had died young. Just the memory of his green eyes remained for me, that and his imitations of a fish. Mom saw Ramin under the staircase. She picked him up. She unlocked his arms. She put them around her waist. They both cried. I ran towards them. I grabbed Mom’s legs from behind. I began crying.

I would not be thinking these thoughts now if I had drunk that borage tea last night. I am worried, so I keep having bad thoughts. I have to think about something else.

“What is your major?” I ask the clumsy guy with ticket twenty-seven.

“Computers. But I’ve received admission to an MFA in photography.”

“Interesting! I have a friend whose major was mechanical engineering, like me, but she loves music. No matter how much we tried, she wouldn’t agree to work at the company where me and another friend of ours work.”

Someone from inside gestures at me to go through. When I push the bars, I enter another world.

He looks down. He doesn’t care what Leyla has studied or what she likes. I wonder how, with this shyness of his, he is going to talk to Shabestari. The woman in front of me takes two paces forward and one stair step down. She passes the metal gate. An old man with a walking stick stands in front of me. This system has enslaved people. Couldn’t they schedule interviews in a humane manner so that such an old man wasn’t forced to stand in line for so long? I’ve reached one end of the gate fences. The man who wrote down people’s names is gone. In his stead, a young man has come, with muscular arms and a thick silver necklace. Shabaneh should have been here. She loves muscles. Crazy girl. I look at the paper in the young man’s hand. He jots down the number one hundred and twelve. The one hundred and twelfth person is a young woman who keeps begging him to let her go inside. Her appointment was at nine thirty. She didn’t know she had to come early. How mindless people can be! How couldn’t she not know that she had to come early? A dozen people had told me I must come and wait in line since six in the morning. Even if they hadn’t, how could I calm down and stay home until so late in the day?

In front of the woman who passed the gate, there is a revolving door of beige metal bars. She pushes them. The door revolves. The bars get locked behind her with a loud sound. I pass through the gate. I remain behind the bars. I hear someone screaming outside. A woman shouts and asks why a man from the travel agency has brought ten people with him to the line. The man swears he has written all the names in the list. Their voices grow louder and louder. Even when I get to France, I won’t be freed of these people. Someone from inside gestures at me to go through. When I push the bars, I enter another world. A strange cool world in which the voice of an old man with a walking stick who is explaining it is the same story here everyday gets lost.

A few steps further, a frowning man sits in a kiosk behind the glass. He stares at me. As if I’ve gotten a revelation, I hand him my passport. He keeps staring at me.

“What?” I ask.

“Your admission letter.”

Why don’t you just say so? How should I know? I don’t have divine powers. I pass my admission letter under the glass opening. He looks at it. He posts a piece of paper on my passport. He jots down number three on it. I get my passport back. There is another door in front of me. This place looks like the cave of Ali Baba and the forty thieves of Baghdad. I have to pass through ten doors. I open another. There is a French guard behind a glass door. On the pocket of his blue short-sleeve shirt, I read “sécurité.” I read the words on the glass. I have to hand in my cell phone and my keys. I take out my cell phone. I turn it off. I put my keys next to it. I pass them under the glass. I put my purse and my folder on the x-ray machine. The sécurité checks my cell phone. He smiles at me. I feel like talking to him. I thank him profusely in French. He seems to have liked it. He wishes me luck. I walk out of the glass room.

In front of me, there is a hall with wooden walls. It is full of people. I stand to a corner. People yawn. They keep staring at one another. I wonder what they are searching for in each other’s faces. Nobody talks to anyone. It seems as if they have all prepared themselves for exile. At the end of the hall, I see Catherine Deneuve. There is an empty seat next to her. She takes her purse so that I can sit. She grabs my passport and looks at it.

“That number is for students. The first person just went in. I am the second one.”

She points to a large wooden door on the left. As I sit down, the shy guy enters the hall. When he sees me he comes forward. Looking confused, he wonders whether he should say something. He doesn’t. He sits in the row behind us. I tell Catherine Deneuve that he is a student too. She turns and smiles at him. Who knows? Maybe we can all become friends.

I recognize her from what I have heard of her. From her frowns. From her holding her head and chest up when she walks. And from her not looking at anyone.

I let my scarf fall to my shoulder. I wrap it once around my neck. I take my mirror out of my purse. The scarf looks good. I arrange my hair. Catherine Deneuve grabs the mirror. She looks at herself.

“My hair looks bad. Do you know what questions they will ask?”

“I’ve heard they ask why you want to go to France, why you have chosen the major, and other such questions.”

She opens her purse and brings out a make-up bag, a very large one. She freshens her red lipstick.

“I have memorized my sentences. I am afraid they’ll ask something different and I won’t be able to answer.”

“Don’t worry. The questions are not hard. What matters is that the university has already granted you admission. The woman in charge of the student files, Shabestari, she just checks the documents.”

“Did you get a receipt, by the way?”

I haven’t. She shows me the kiosk. A few people stand in front of it money in hand. I wait for my turn. A bald man sits at the register. He wears a red tie. When I give him my money and passport he hands me a receipt. I put it in my red folder, over my papers. I walk back. I tell the shy guy to go get a receipt. He doesn’t speak with anyone. In the end, he goes in without having gotten the receipt. I sit next to Catherine Deneuve. Not that I like her, no. I talk with her to pass the time. She chews her words before speaking them. I hear only half of them. Her name is Sayeh. She is five years younger than me. She has just finished her studies. She has now received an admission for a master’s in biology. She says her father insisted that she go to Paris to study because that’s where her uncle lives. When we get to know each other a bit more, she looks around, then quietly confesses that she has paid four million tomans to a lawyer to apply and get her the admission.

“Four million tomans? What the hell? Why didn’t you do it yourself?”

A woman in a skirt and shirt, with blow-dried, honey-colored hair comes out of the door to the side. She is around forty. She is Shabestari. I recognize her from what I have heard of her. From her frowns. From her holding her head and chest up when she walks. And from her not looking at anyone.

“Number two. Come in and close the door behind you.”

She goes back inside. Sayeh gets up. She walks in, her high heels clicking on the floor.

I keep thinking of the four million tomans she has paid the lawyer.



Nasim Marashi (b. 1984, Tehran) is a journalist, writer and scriptwriter based in Iran. She started her career in journalism in 2007 and gradually delved into story and script writing. She won the First Prize in Bayhaqi Story Prize (2014) for the short story “Nakhjir” [“The Prey”] and the First Prize in Stories of Tehran Competition (2015) for the short story “Rood” [“The River”]. She is also the co-writer of the feature film Bahman [Avalanche] (2015).

Poupeh Missaghi is Asymptote’s Iran Editor-at-Large. She is a writer, Persian<>English translator, editor, and educator. She holds a Ph.D. in creative writing and an M.A. in translation studies. She has several books of translations published in Iran. Her translations into English have appeared in World Literature Today, Denver Quarterly, Copper Nickel, Asymptote, and elsewhere. Her nonfiction and fiction have been published in Catapult, Entropy, The Brooklyn Rail, Feminist Wire, World Literature Today, Guernica, amongst others. She currently lives and works in New York.

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