Transactions by Ali Alizadeh

Globalisation is often referred to as a phenomenon conducive to prosperity and progression for anyone prepared to engage it. The idea of a ‘level playing field’ has become a familiar concept. Yet perhaps not enough is written about its more destructive ramifications and far-reaching shadows. Ali Alizadeh has said that his latest book, Transactions, is an attempt to expose globalisation’s dark secrets. Yet this collection is not so much a critique of globalisation as it is a scenic view of our modern world, and the cultures that exist within it.

Transactions is Alizadeh’s first major work since his acclaimed book of poetry, Ashes in the Air, which was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards in 2012. It is a collection of short stories heavily shaped by his personal experiences as a migrant from Iran, with many of the pieces set on the fringes of Eastern and Western society.

There is a Ukrainian prostitute in Amsterdam and her reclusive neighbour who has escaped the tyranny of Iran, a Liberian woman desperately seeking asylum, and a rich Emirati girl whose father’s wealth has made her indulgent and cruel. These are just some of the characters in Transactions, many of whom are testaments to globalisation’s unnerving capacity to inflict human suffering in forgotten regions of the world. Some are excessively wealthy and extravagant, while others are hopelessly poor and vulnerable.

With only a handful of pages to craft each story, Alizadeh manages to cultivate powerful themes and compelling characters, provoking strong emotional reactions with each new turn. A remarkable work.

Dexter Gilman is a freelance reviewer.