The Promessa, a 1970s cocktail bar, is to be reopened in Tehran. Not as the glamorous location it once was, but as a slick showroom for art, fashion, and corporate receptions – a heady mix of profit, culture, and metropolitan swagger.
By and by a hidden agenda emerges, involving an international network with gruesome intentions. Join the narrator, a young man with artistic ambitions who has no wish to disappoint his cosmopolitan backers, as he frantically struggles to open the Promessa on time. Shamelessly opportunistic, he turns local painters into stage props, militia members into video artists, and a spate in prison into a career opportunity.
A frenetic, compelling look at modern Tehran, conspiracy theories, political fashions and the omnivorous international art world.
About the Author
About the Author
Tirdad Zolghadr was born in 1973, spent his early childhood in Tehran and then grew up an airline brat in various European and African cities. He works as a freelance curator, writes for Frieze magazine and has also contributed to Parkett, Bidoun, Cabinet, Afterall, Neue Zürcher Zeitung,The Straits Times (Singapore) and other publications. Zolghadr currently teaches at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, New York. He is co-founder of the Tehran-based feminist online magazine Bad Jens (1999) and co-director of Tehran 1380 (with Solmaz Shahbazi), a documentary on mass housing estates in Tehran (2001). Zolghadr is also a founding member of the Shahrzad Design Collective.
'A sharp and well-timed novel...Zolghadar delights in his use of a cheeky, bold narrative voice. There is no doubting Softcore's offer of a fresh, unique glimpse of Iran– itself a considerable feat, given the relentless scrutiny under which it has been placed in recent years. The vibrant and colourful energy emitting from Softcore is, from the beginning, utterly charming, and one cannot help but be instantly seduced by it.' 3:AM Magazine
'Under the guise of a thriller Softcore serves as a smart – if schizophrenic – commentary on Iran at the intersection of competing cultural and political forces, where art and politics, meaning and form are interwoven, confused and exploited.' Daily Star
'Funny, cynical and sharp ... Zolghadr's Tehran is an international hub of cultural cross-currents, professional aspirations, intellectual pretensions and metaphysical absurdities.'
'A surprising and... enjoyable read'
'The most surprising novel I've read in years.'
'A rare and fascinating glimpse of an Iran that both Ahmadinejad and the Western media would rather we didn't see.'