Books

Transactions
University of Queensland Press, 2013

Transactions is a fictional narrative comprising interconnected stories based on the major arcana cards of the Tarot. This contemporary exploration of the esoteric images features characters of a world under the brutal regime of late global capitalism: a European porn star with a traumatic secret, a deceptive Iranian asylum seeker, a myterious shape-shifting female assassin, monstrous aid workers in Africa, a sadistic young woman from the Emirates, and a prophetic poet form New Zealand, among many others. In his review of the book in Australian Book Review, Jay Daniel Thomson has written “Alizadeh demonstrates a masterful eye for character development … Transactions is equally cynical and silly, intriguing and infuriating, haunting and hilarious. Alizadeh’s stories are a testament to his considerable literary skill.” For Walter Mason, writing in The Newtown Review of Books, this book is “poetic, political and monstrously clever”. In her review in Books+Publishing, Portia Lindsay has written: “Alizadeh has created a truly global and uncompromisingly frank narrative … This is a challenging and surprising collection from a talented writer.” In her review in The Sydney Monring Herald, Thuy On has observed that the book’s “vignettes are set on a global stage and feature numerous characters, all seemingly caught up in their own private lives of quiet desperation. But Alizadeh deftly contrives a sense of connectedness between these global citizens. Religion, immigration, politics and sex are covered in poetic prose.” Writing in Readings Monthly magazine, Dexter Gilman has noted: “With only a handful of pages to craft each story, Alizadeh manages to cultivate powerful themes and compelling characters, provoking strong emotional reactions with each new turn. A remarkable work.” According to Emily Prince, writing in artsmitten, “amongst the sexual, social and political commentary of Transactions are the sometimes humorous, sometimes brutal, always thought-provoking little interactions between characters.” The book is described as “beautifully twisted” by Marina White in Colosoul, who has also commented that “with the melodious rhythm of a poet and the rich intensity of a novelist, Alizadeh stitches each character to the next.” Caroline Baum has commented in Booktopia Buzz that “there’s something urgently contemporary about this cosmopolitan story cycle … Welcome to the dark side of the global village.” Nigel Stobbs has written, in Alternative Law Journal, “You can’t help but ask uncomfortable questions about yourself when you read Transactions.” According to Elizabeth Bryer, writing in Mascara Literary Review, “Transactions offers us an assortment of stories that don’t just order the world, but help us understand it.” Listen to interviews with Ali about the book here, here and here. Read online reviews of the book here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here and here.

Ashes in the Air
University of Queensland Press, 2011

Shortlisted for the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, Poetry; noted by Kerryn Goldsworthy in Sydney Morning Herald for its ‘exceptional skill with form’; described by Angela Meyer in Bookseller + Publisher as ‘evocative and vivid, with subtext in layers’; ‘impressive’ and ‘highly memorable’ by Geoff Page in Canberra Times; and as a book featuring ‘philosophic insight and great poetic skill’ in The Adelaide Review, Ashes in the Air is a collection of poems written during Ali’s travels in China, the Middle East and Europe, on themes ranging from parenthood to political violence, mortality to globalisation, philosophy to immigration. According to Tara Mokhtari writing on Overland blog, this book is ‘a pleasure to read’ partly because its ‘subject matter is important’. It is, as Page has noted, ‘an unapologetically political book’ with poems marked by ‘the force and particularity of their detail’. According to Tina Giannoukos, writing in Cordite Poetry Review, the book’s poems ‘play out against the shattered terrains of war, migration and terrorism with a prescience that lends them their moral forcefulness’. According to Michael Jacklin, writing in Transnational Literature, ‘personal circumstance provides the material and setting for many of the poems but always with this movement outwards towards histories and ideologies’. As Gig Ryan has written in Australian Book Review, these poems ‘carefully protest and witness … driven by an incessant musicality’. According to Ryan Ashes in the Air ‘signals Alizadeh’s continued poetic development’. This book was shortlisted for the 2011 Wesley Michel Wright Prize in Poetry — read judges citation here. Visit the book’s official website here. Read an interview with Ali about the book here. Read online reviews of the book here, here, here , here, here, here and here. Read the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards judges’ comments here.

Iran: My Grandfather
Transit Lounge Publishing, 2010

Described by Phillip Adams on ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live as a book that “explores the tumultuous history of Iran as seen through the extraordinary life” of the author’s grandfather; by Kate Holden in The Age newspaper as “an eye-opening account of human endurance in generations of one family through times of political tumult”, a “heartbreaking, elegant book”, and “a compelling voyage into the personality of a country of paradoxes”; and by Carlene Elwood in The Mercury newspaper as “a powerful ‘creative nonfiction’ account of Iran’s collapse into tyranny over 100 years”, this book recounts the life of the author’s grandfather Salman Fuladvand, using an innovative style that fuses different literary forms. According to Di Morris writing in M/C Reviews, “crafted like a quilt, the book is a mixture of poetry, history, imaginings, and reconstructions”. It spans Salman’s youthful devotion to the advancement of Iran and the emancipation of Iranian women, his conflicts with the shahs, his wrongful imprisonment, and his eventual embracing of Sufi mysticism. However, as Angela Meyer has written in Mascara Literary Review, this book “is not just a history, it’s an exploration of belief and error, of passion and disappointment, of individual and collective fate”. According to Greg Waldorn in Abbey’s Advocate, it reads “like an obituary for a country, both lost and confused, and it’s Alizadeh’s humanity that acts as our guiding light through a dense forest of fundamentalism and corruption.” According to Di Morris, “After reading it myself, for various reasons I am at once wiser, humbled, ashamed, and thankful”. Read the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards judges report here. Visit the publisher’s website here. Read full reviews of the book here, here, and here. Listen to interviews with Ali about this book here, here, and here.

The New Angel
Transit Lounge Publishing, 2008

Described as an “absorbing romantic tragedy notable for its precise and fiercely felt prose” by Cameron Woodhead in The Age newspaper; a “harrowing but brilliant debut novel” by Carlene Elwood in The Sunday Tasmanian; a “wonderful novel by a highly talented Iranian-born Australian writer” by Mark Rubbo in Readings Monthly magazine; a novel with “an edgy sense of lived experience that makes it compelling” by Miriam Cosic in The Australian newspaper; and “an important novel” by Kerryn Goldsworthy in The Sydney Morning Herald, The New Angel is a narrative meditation on the philosophy of history. The story begins with a young man on the Gold Coast, Australia, called Bahram receiving a phone call from his cousin Abbas. The phone call leads Bahram to remember his adolescence in Iran and his romance with the beautiful and charismatic Fereshteh (Persian for ‘angel’). As the adult Bahram drives south to Melbourne to confront Abbas, his recollections of the past intensify and reach an apocalyptic conclusion. Visit the publisher’s website here. Listen to an interview with Ali about this book here. Read reviews of the book here, here, and here.

attar-cover.jpgFifty Poems of Attar
re.press, 2007

Written with Dr. Kenneth Avery, this book includes English translations, as well as the original Farsi texts of, fifty ghazals (Middle Eastern lyrical odes) written by the 13th century Persian poet, mystic and philosopher Farid od-Din Attar of Neishapur. Attar is perhaps best known as the author of the epic allegory Mategh ot-Tayr (Conference of the Birds), and also for his influence on the younger Sufi poet Jalal ed-Din Rumi. The fifty poems translated and collected in this volume are based around concepts and motifs familiar to the readers of Rumi and the Conference: the Lover’s discourse with the Beloved, the Seven Valleys of Love, and the mystical rites of Separation, the Path, Annihilation and the Union. These poems are deeply passionate, often melancholic, contemplations on love, longing and solitude. Visit the book’s official website here. Read a review of the book here. Read about the book in Persian here.

eyesintimesofwar2.jpgEyes in Times of War
Salt Publishing, 2006

Noted as “highly commended” by Gig Ryan in The Age newspaper, and “sharp and passionate” by Alicia Sometimes in Zest e-magazine, this collection of Ali’s dialectical, deconstructive poems targets the issue of war and the agendas of today’s most belligerent warriors. The poems collected in this volume are mostly written in response to the calamities of the ‘post-9/11’ world, in which religious hatred, imperialist aggression, racism and tribalisms of all kind have coalesced to create an infernal landscape of perpetual violence. The instances of violence documented in this collection, however, are not all martial: recounted are the author’s memories of suicidal friends, acts of self-immolation, and the ideological brutality of neo-conservative thinkers, Islamist fundamentalists and nationalist dictatorships. Included are also poems of survival, hope, and even love. Visit the book’s official website here. Read an interview with Ali about the book here. Read a review of the book here.

elixir-cover.jpgeliXir: a story in poetry
Grendon Press, 2002

A candid and apparently disturbing discontinuous narrative chronicling the hellish experiences of ‘Generation X’ outsiders in a nameless Australian City. Combining elements of ‘projective verse’, ‘confessional poetry’ and ‘visual poetry’, this book offers an account of a number of lives burnt out by years of systematic abuse and brutality. The City is on fire and the story’s protagonists – Arash, an Iranian-born alcoholic would-be poet; Felix, a failed musician and chronic substance abuser; and Jasmine, rape victim and nightclub stripper – seem destined for annihilation in the City’s bright flames. Read a review of the book here.

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