‘In the Light Being Cast from the Kitchen’ by Hamed Habibi, translated by Shahab Vaezzadeh

I like experimenting with using light in my fiction in different ways. To scour and bleach. To reveal. To distract. To warn. This story is from Comma Press’s excellent A City in Short Fiction series, and it has a lot of fun with this simple question of illumination.

A man sleeps next to his wife. He wakes in the night to feel someone else’s gaze upon him. He looks out through the open bedroom door to see – in the light from the kitchen – a strange man lounging around on their sofa. In moment by moment second-person prose, this one strange sight causes fear, shock, indignation, and eventually world-shattering confusion. For the protagonist, this “pompous” stranger dressed in a formal white suit, is a more terrifying vision than if he’d been “dressed in dark, tight-fitting clothing and a balaclava, holding a torch in one hand…” This story has no dialogue, minimal interaction between characters (there’s a sleepy wave at one point) and yet manages to challenge a lot of our assumptions about light and dark, glare and shadow, and what we’re truly afraid of losing.

Collected in The Book of Tehran, Comma Press, 2019, originally published in Fish Eyelid by Cheshmeh, 2016

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