I Hid My Voice
Written by Parinoush Saniee
Translated by Sanam Kalantari
Publication Date August 06, 2016
This is the story, based on fact, of a boy who couldn’t speak until the age of seven. Now twenty, he describes the events of his life.
Four-year-old Shahaab has not started talking. The family doctor believes there is no cause for concern; nevertheless, Shahaab is ridiculed by others who call him "dumb." Young Shahaab doesn’t understand what the word means and thinks it is a compliment, until one day his cousin plays a trick on him to prove to everyone that the boy truly is the neighbourhood idiot.
When his mother recounts the incident to her husband, Shahaab is crushed to learn that his father also thinks the boy’s speech impediment indicates that his son is an idiot and thus brings shame on the family. Shahaab soon recognizes that his father’s love and esteem is concentrated on his older brother, Arash, and his younger sister, Shadee. In his innocent and deeply hurt child’s mind, he begins to believe that the "good" and "intelligent" children like his older brother are their fathers’ sons. On the other hand, children like him who are "clumsy" and "problematic" are their mothers’ sons. From that moment on, his world, which he thought was filled with beauty and kindness, suddenly turns harsh, full of anger and insult. He begins to lash out, taking childish revenge on those around him, encouraged by his two imaginary friends, Esi and Bibi.
No one in the family can understand Shahaab’s wild behaviour except his maternal grandmother, who seems to possess the understanding and the kindness he so desperately craves. Their growing bond leads to a deep friendship in which Shahaab is able to experience some happiness and finally find his voice.
PARINOUSH SANIEE is a sociologist and psychologist. She was formerly manager of the research department at the Supreme Coordination Council for Technical and Vocational Education in Iran. Her first novel, The Book of Fate, won the Boccaccio Prize in Italy, Euskadi de Plata Prize in the Basque Country, and was selected as one of World Literature Today’s 75 Notable Translations of 2013. I Hid My Voice is her second novel that has been translated into English.
"A richly written novel in which Parinoush Saniee digs into the social texture of her country, Iran, and which, while telling the story of the struggles of a boy, portrays the life of women. Tight dialogue and a protagonist who becomes a symbol of hope for a better world." La Repubblica (Italy)
"Gripping . . . an agonizing childhood in the Iran of the ayatollahs, with its revolutionary committees and moral police always lurking." Stavanger Aftenblad (Norway)
"[I Hid My Voice] is a new literary sensation. A child’s untold words become a scream against heartlessness and indifference." Panorama (Italy)
"A voice as a metaphor for a country, Iran, where censorship rules." La Gazzetta di Mantova (Italy)
"Saniee skillfully integrates concepts and theories about the psychology of the child and demonstrates how easy it is to cause, as parents, irremediable damages to a child, but also how easy it is not to cause them. . . . Shahaab is not only a child who confronts a difficulty, his muteness is in fact that of a nation terrorized by a harsh regime . . ." The Cultural Supplement
"I would recommend this book to any parent as a compulsory reading, especially to those who have more than one child. I would recommend it to a father so he can better understand what happens in the soul of his child . . . The novel reveals two voices: Shahab and his mother; they bring to light the pain of the sensible and imaginative child, the pain of a mother who feels the truth and struggles with an absent father whose only desire is to work." Sunday Journal