Philosophical and introspective rather than plot-driven, Savage Tongues is a cerebral excavation of the interlacing violences of immigration and dislocation, Islamophobia and racism, sexual violence and predatory men. Oloomi’s writing is beautiful and meditative even while it is decimating. A difficult but salient exploration of trauma. Recommended By Emily B., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"A luxuriant fevered quest for reclamation, Savage Tongues is political, poetical, and spooky good."
"A love story of the most fevered, brutal order...Propulsive, erotic, and darkly dreamlike, recalling the early novels of Marguerite Duras." —Vulture
A new novel by PEN/Faulkner Award winner Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi—"if you don't know this name yet, you should" (Entertainment Weekly)—about a young woman caught in an affair with a much older man, a personal and political exploration of desire, power, and human connection.
It's summer when Arezu, an Iranian American teenager, goes to Spain to meet her estranged father at an apartment he owns there. He never shows up, instead sending her a weekly allowance, care of his step-nephew, Omar, a forty-year-old Lebanese man. As the weeks progress, Arezu is drawn into a mercurial, charged, and ultimately catastrophic affair with Omar, a relationship that shatters her just at the cusp of adulthood.
Two decades later, Arezu inherits the apartment. She returns with her best friend, Ellie, an Israeli-American scholar devoted to the Palestinian cause, to excavate the place and finally put to words a trauma she's long held in silence. Together, she and Ellie catalog the questions of agency, sexuality, displacement, and erasure that surface as Arezu confronts the ghosts of that summer, crafting between them a story that spans continents and centuries.
Equal parts Marguerite Duras and Shirley Jackson, Rachel Cusk and Samanta Schweblin, Savage Tongues is a compulsive, unsettling, and bravely observed exploration of violence and eroticism, haunting and healing, and the profound intimacy born of the deepest pain.
"Savage Tongues touches all the bases — identity, sex, power, youth and age, the present and the past — and knocks it out of the park. Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi is our woke Marguerite Duras." Francine Prose, author of Lovers at the Chameleon Club and Mister Monkey
"In Savage Tongues the immensely gifted Van der Vliet Oloomi describes a woman walking the razor thin line between memory and madness as she tries to rescue her younger self. Happily Arezu does not walk the line alone. This vivid account of the haunting nature of trauma is also a wonderful testimonial to friendship. A resonant and powerful novel." Margot Livesey, New York Times-bestselling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy and The Boy in the Field
"Against the gorgeous, punishing landscapes of Andalusia, the narrator of Savage Tongues relentlessly and movingly anatomizes the links between violence — both personal and systemic — and desire. This uncompromising novel lives at the border of memory and dream, restlessly seeking a logic that can transform cruelty into love." Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness and What Belongs to You
"Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi's Savage Tongues is an international novel careful to record the beauty of the natural world while also chronicling the harm people do to one another in this world. Van der Vliet Oloomi wants to know what we can expect of our families — our fathers, our lovers — when we are the same people who will wage war and destroy our planet in order to do so. This book is relentless in the best way." Jericho Brown, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Tradition
About the Author
Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi is the author of the novels Savage Tongues, Call Me Zebra and Fra Keeler and is the Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame. She is the winner of a 2019 PEN/Faulkner Award, a John Gardner Award, a 2015 Whiting Award, a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honoree, and the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship, as well as residency fellowships from MacDowell and Ledig House. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Paris Review, Guernica, Granta, BOMB, and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago and is the founder of Literatures of Annihilation, Exile and Resistance, a lecture series on the global Middle East that focuses on literature shaped by colonialism, military domination and state-sanctioned violence.