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Ghosts of Revolution Book Cover
January 2011
Stanford University Press

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Ghosts of Revolution

Rekindled Memories of Imprisonment in Iran
Shahla Talebi

In this haunting account, Shahla Talebi remembers her years as a political prisoner in Iran. Talebi, along with her husband, was imprisoned for nearly a decade and tortured, first under the Shah and later by the Islamic Republic. Writing about her own suffering and survival and sharing the stories of her fellow inmates, she details the painful reality of prison life and offers an intimate look at a critical period of social and political transformation in Iran. 

Somehow through it all ― through resistance and resolute hope, passion and creativity ― Talebi shows how one survives. Reflecting now on experiences past, she stays true to her memories, honoring the love of her husband and friends lost in these events, to relate how people can hold to moments of love, resilience and friendship over the dark forces of torture, violence and hatred. 

At once deeply personal yet clearly political, part memoir and part meditation, this work brings to heartbreaking clarity how deeply rooted torture and violence can be in our society. More than a passing judgment of guilt on a monolithic "Islamic State," Talebi's writing asks us to reconsider our own responses to both contemporary debates of interrogation techniques and government responsibility and, more simply, to basic acts of cruelty in daily life. She offers a lasting call to us all.


Shahla Talebi is an assistant professor of religious studies in ASU's School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

Praise for this book

"This is a powerful book that significantly enriches readers' understanding of human resiliency under regimes of torture and stands as compassionate testimony to the dialectical relationship between repression and resistance in modern Iran. Highly recommended."

G. Tezcur

"Shahla Talebi's observations about language, writing, death, modes of consciousness, the depravity of the state and its prisons, and the experience of love and solidarity in the most abject circumstances in which she found herself speak for themselves. Her portraits of fellow prisoners are unforgettable. By far the most moving, sensitive, and profound book about torture I have read."

Vincent Crapanzano
The CUNY Graduate Center