Mahsa Mohebali’s Negarān nabāsh, or Don’t Worry, follows Shadi, a rich, disillusioned junkie, in the course of a single day as she roams through a crumbling Tehran in search of her next fix. Originally published in Tehran in 2008, the novel has been celebrated in Iran, winning the Golshiri prize (roughly equivalent to a Pulitzer), among other accolades. This tightly crafted, and arguably, albeit quietly, queer narrative eloquently interweaves a gritty vernacular with poetic prose, moving between dialogue almost cinematic in its naturalism and the narrator’s lyrical first person reflections. I began translating the novel with the author’s permission a little over a year ago, after falling in love with the strength of its voice. Below I have provided its opening scene, in which Shadi describes her operatic mother and hints at family dysfunctions.
Excerpted from Mahsa Mohebali’s Don’t Worry, translated by Mariam Rahmani:
The sound of her clicking is getting on my nerves. I can’t move. If she finds out I’m awake she won’t leave. She mutters under her breath and then click, click, click. When the clicks reach a thousand, or maybe two thousand, the tally counter on the digital prayer beads will beep, announcing whether she’s prayed enough to absolve us of our sins.
In all likelihood she hasn’t put the counter down since midnight, when the tremors started. She’s opened the door and screamed every half hour. Screaming bloody murder ten times for each tremor: how many screams does that make? Their yelling and howling was ringing in the drawing room till dawn, the whole family’s. Only Baba’s voice was missing. He probably didn’t even roll over, wherever he was, same as the nights of the bombings.
I haven’t moved an inch either. To be honest, I’ve really been feeling it, in a way. And it’s gotten even better with each tremor, every time the bed’s caught a wave. Just like a boat, or maybe a cradle—no, like a coffin, like it is now, a coffin full of wet sheets. I must not move. Her muttering grows distant. A shot of me from above would make for a sweet high-angle: face sunk into a pillow; a wrinkled sheet twisted around jeans and a t-shirt soaked with sweat. Why is this comedown so f@!#ing bad?
Mariam Rahmani is a graduate student in the UCLA Department of Comparative Literature. She received a CSW Travel Grant in 2018.