From an award-winning young author, a novel following a feisty heroine’s idiosyncratic quest to reclaim her past by mining the wisdom of her literary icons—even as she navigates the murkier mysteries of love.
Zebra is the last in a line of anarchists, atheists, and autodidacts. When war came, her family didn’t fight; they took refuge in books. Now alone and in exile, Zebra leaves New York for Barcelona, retracing the journey she and her father made from Iran to the United States years ago.
Books are Zebra’s only companions—until she meets Ludo. Their connection is magnetic; their time together fraught. Zebra overwhelms him with her complex literary theories, her concern with death, and her obsession with history. He thinks she’s unhinged; she thinks he’s pedantic. Neither are wrong; neither can let the other go. They push and pull their way across the Mediterranean, wondering with each turn if their love, or lust, can free Zebra from her past.
An adventure tale, a love story, and a paean to the power of language and literature starring a heroine as quirky as Don Quixote, as introspective as Virginia Woolf, as whip-smart as Miranda July, and as spirited as Frances Ha, Call Me Zebra will establish Van der Vliet Oloomi as an author “on the verge of developing a whole new literature movement” (Bustle).
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PRAISE FOR FRA KEELER: Winner of the Whiting Award, 2015 National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree, 2015
A Slate Overlooked Book of 2013
“It’s a stunning psychological thriller, a total identification with madness that creates drama without either belittling or romanticizing the insane.” LOS ANGELES TIMES
In Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s debut novel Fra Keeler, a man purchases a house, the house of Fra Keeler, moves in, and begins investigating the circumstances of the latter’s death. Yet the investigation quickly turns inward, and the reality it seeks to unravel seems only to grow more strange, as the narrator pursues not leads but lines of thought, most often to hideous conclusions.
THE TITLE WILL BE RELEASED FEBRUARY 6, 2018
PRAISE FOR CALL ME ZEBRA:
"Rich and delightful...crackles throughout with wit and absurdity...a sharp and genuinely fun picaresque, employing humor and poignancy side by side to tell an original and memorable story." — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Extravagant...an arresting exploration of grief alongside a powder keg of a romance."— Booklist
"Zebra is exile as education, history as passion, life as literature, and literature as death." — Tom McCarthy, author of the Man Booker Prize finalist Satin Island and Remainder
"A penniless orphaned refugee, Zebra knows she can count on two things: literature and death. She builds a fortress out of both, surviving on fury, on memories and manifestos, until life begins to break through. Can Zebra handle life? Can literature handle Zebra? Reader, go find out! Call Me Zebra is like nothing else I've read, geo-political and bookish and sexy, quite refreshingly nuts and yet a ripping good read. Also, there's a stolen bird! I'd say I couldn't put it down, but Zebra would never approve a cliche, so I'll pay it a compliment she might actually accept: this book metabolized me." —Danielle Dutton, author of Margaret the First
"There’s something really radical about this epic and ecstatic quest. It’s in the tradition of Cervantes’ ingenious nobleman, but also deeply in conversation with Borges’s Pierre Menard and Kathy Acker’s own Don Quixote. The young female narrator of Call Me Zebra luxuriates in the tradition of Enrique Vila-Matas’s literary sickness, or Kafka writing that he is made entirely of literature. A hilarious picaresque, perverse and voracious."
—Kate Zambreno, author of Heroines and Green Girl
“This novel is not about a zebra but about a whole sharp, amazing, malicious and wicked zoo. Please enjoy responsibly.” —Quim Monzó, author of A Thousand Morons and supporting character in the novel Call Me Zebra
"Call Me Zebra is a book about everything—exile, love, loss, literary theory, the insouciance of time, the history of Iran, funerary rites, and the idiosyncrasies and intricacies of the mind. In the main character, Zebra, we receive ‘a scribe of the future,’ one who can synthesize great swathes of literature, history, and politics to produce insights that transcend categorization, insights that illuminate existence, its ascending flights and horrors.Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, the author of Call Me Zebra, has written a marvelous book that is at once contemporary, in conversation with fiction writers such as Valeria Luiselli and Rachel Kushner, and simultaneously reaches back to the eccentric talkers and characters in the work of Vladimir Nabokov and Italo Svevo. Call Me Zebra risks the grand, the large, the sublime as a means of answering the questions we speak only to ourselves when we think no one is listening." — Roger Reeves, author of King Me
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FRA KEELER, 2012
"Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi writes sentences that are crisp and formal, but the madness they depict is anything but. Her ambition of taking you inside a completely unreliable narrator never compromises her strong narrative drive. Controlled yet bizarre, it pulls you in. The judges admired her courage and formal daring, and the underpinnings of discipline that allow words to recur like waves on the shore while always seeming new.” WHITING WRITERS' AWARD SELECTION COMMITTEE
"A rare gem of a book that begs to be read again. A surrealist triumph." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi is the descendent of writers as brilliant and disparate as Max Frisch, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Per Petterson. Fra Keeler is a compelling and humorously associative meditation on how 'one lives against one's dying,' and how that living will be in contra-distinction to all that explains that death on paper after its fact. Would that more book groups read books of this complexity and intelligence; discussion would reach on into the wee hours!" MICHELLE LATIOLAIS
“Obsessive. Surreal. Darkly comic. Chilling.” ROBERT COOVER
“A stunning psychological thriller.” LOS ANGELES TIMES
"Fra Keeler is mysterious, experimental, and surreal. [Van der Vliet Oloomi] might just be on the verge of developing a whole new literary movement." BUSTLE
"You ask: What sort of fiction are we reading here? Anticipating just this question, on her 'Acknowledgments' page, Oloomi provides a checklist of books and films that she says made this work 'possible': works by Cesar Aira, Thomas Bernhard, Luis Buñuel, Nikolai Gogol, Alfred Hitchcock, and Clarice Lispector, to name only a handful from her inventory of what one could call the 'literature of madness,' if 'madness' were not so reductive a term for the complexities to which Fra Keeler pays tribute." GERALD BRUNS
"Fra Keeler disturbs, distorts, and disrupts the reader's way of seeing." DINAW MENGESTU
“Fra Keeler firmly establishes Van der Vliet Oloomi in the tradition of writers like Nikolai Gogol, Clarice Lispector, Witold Gombrowicz, and Cesar Aira.” THE COFFIN FACTORY
"Oloomi enters so fully and sympathetically into the mad logic of her narrator that scenic detail, chronology, cause and effect, and even such mundane props as cactus, mailman, and ringing phone are bent, doubled, or subsumed by the paranoid geometries of meaning he draws... Subtly menacing, but not without humor, the novel derives momentum and tension from the space between its clear, intelligent language and the absolute unreliability of its narrator." SLATE
"Fra Keeler reminded me of Rivka Galchen’s Atmospheric Disturbances, Roberto Bolaño's The Third Reich, and Jean-Philippe Toussaint's Reticence, not to mention big classics like Lolita." THE MILLIONS
"Fra Keeler is wonderfully imaginative, the work of a terrific young writer." LYNNE TILLMAN
"In Fra Keeler a mind churns on itself, while reality—if it is reality—comes rushing at it with a strange stutter, everything a bit lost, a bit off, and ready to be ground up further by the uncertain perception of the narrator. This is a book by turns funny and strange, but always entertaining." BRIAN EVENSON