Tehran, 1978: Nahid and Masood, both eighteen, are young lovers and young revolutionaries, determined to overthrow the Shah's regime and help to bring about democracy. Their clandestine activities are dangerous, but with youth, passion and right on their side, they feel invincible. Then one night, Nahid allows her younger sister to come along to a huge demonstration. Violence breaks out. Nahid lets go of her sister's hand. Everything changes.
As the revolution sours, and the loss becomes too much to bear, Nahid and Masood are forced to flee to Sweden, on borrowed money with forged passports. Tehran is no longer safe for them, and now they are expecting a baby; they need to get out before they lose everything.
Thirty years later, Nahid lies in a hospital bed replaying her life, raging at her carers, at her recent cancer diagnosis, at Masood, at her - now pregnant - daughter, and at her exile among people who while purporting to understand know nothing of what she has been through. Told with startling honesty, dark wit and an irresistible momentum, What We Owe is a novel of love, guilt and dreams for a better future, vibrating with both sorrow and an unquenchable joie de vivre.
What We Owe by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde. Because it's the best Swedish book of the year and because it's impossible to resist Nahid's voice. A dying woman, full of bitterness about how life turned out, about children who don't understand, about the unfairness of being ill. If you, like me, are of the opinion that Christmas is the holiday to remind ourselves of the importance of life and family, then this simply is the Christmas present of the year
I read this ferocious novel in one sitting, enthralled by the rage of its narrator. Nahid confronts her own suffering with dark humor and noisy honesty, while taking aim at a patriarchal tradition that expects her to be silent
[A] short yet remarkable novel . . . Rather than a gentle meditation on a life lived to the full, What We Owe is filled with the rage of a woman who has been through trauma and loss, who has been left haunted by violence, and who wants more from those that love her - Stylist
What We Owe refuses sentimental consolations . . . Terse, urgent prose-ably channelled by Elizabeth Clark Wessel, the translator-gives pace and heft to a novel of contagious trauma. Still, Ms Hashemzadeh Bonde lets in a closing ray of hope - The Economist
Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde was born in Iran in 1983 and fled with her parents to Sweden as a young child. She graduated from the Stockholm School of Economics was named one of fifty Goldman Sachs Global Leaders. She is the founder and director of Inkludera Invest, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting marginalization in society by backing social entrepreneurs who have developed pragmatic solutions to social challenges.
Hashemzadeh Bonde lives in Stockholm together with her husband and daughter.