Brief Encounters with the Enemy

Fiction

By Saïd Sayrafiezadeh
(The Dial Press, Hardcover, 9780812993585, 240pp.)

Publication Date: August 13, 2013

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Description

The first short story collection from a writer who calls to mind such luminaries as Denis Johnson, George Saunders, and Nathan Englander

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY BOOKPAGE AND BOOKISH

When The New Yorker published a short story by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh in 2010, it marked the emergence of a startling new voice in fiction. In this astonishing book, Sayrafiezadeh conjures up a nameless American city and its unmoored denizens: a call-center employee jealous of the attention lavished on a co-worker newly returned from a foreign war; a history teacher dealing with a classroom of maliciously indifferent students; a grocery store janitor caught up in a romantic relationship with a kleptomaniac customer. These men’s struggles and fleeting triumphs—with women, with cruel bosses, with the morning commute—are transformed into storytelling that is both universally resonant and wonderfully strange. Sometimes the effect is hilarious, as when a would-be suitor tries to take his sheltered, religious date on a tunnel of love carnival ride. Other times it’s devastating, as in the unforgettable story that gives the book its title: A soldier on his last routine patrol on a deserted mountain path finally encounters “the enemy” he’s long sought a glimpse of.
 
Upon giving the author the Whiting Writers’ Award for his memoir, When Skateboards Will Be Free, the judges hailed his writing as “intelligent, funny, utterly unsmug and unpreening.”  These fiercely original stories show their author employing his considerable gifts to offer a lens on our collective dreams and anxieties, casting them in a revelatory new light.

Praise for Brief Encounters with the Enemy
  
“With impressive guile and design, Mr. Sayrafiezadeh uses the arrival and escalation of that war as the through-line connecting each personal drama. . . . These calculated echoes work to unify [his] haunting book in a way that story collections rarely manage.”—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
 
“In his memoir, Sayrafiezadeh told the remarkable tale of a childhood steeped in doomed dogma. His stories . . . offer something more: a searing vision of his wayward homeland, delivered not in the clamoring rhetoric of a revolutionary, but in the droll monologues of young men who kill because they lack the moral imagination to do otherwise.”—Steve Almond, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
 
“Sayrafiezadeh’s eight interlinked stories are just as fulfilling as any novel you’re likely to read this summer.”The Boston Globe

“A tantalizing fiction debut . . . [that] menaces and mesmerizes.”Elle
 
“This is the domain of almost aggressively ordinary guys—guys who may be a tier or two up the ladder at their retail or call center jobs, but who don’t get there without incurring the envy of former classmates still working the mailroom. The recurring motifs include 99-cent American flags, putting in a word with the boss, idealistic Army recruitment brochures and unseasonable temperatures. Each time they recur they are more potent, and poignant. The collection is readable, and real, and hopefully a harbinger of more fiction to come from Sayrafiezadeh.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“Funny and surprising . . . Sayrafiezadeh’s simple style can fool you into thinking that his struggling narrators are plain and unassuming. They are anything but. . . . Each story compels you to read the next, and no character escapes unscathed.”The Daily Beast




About the Author

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh was born in Brooklyn and raised in Pittsburgh. He is the author of a memoir, When Skateboards Will Be Free. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, McSweeney’s, The New York Times Magazine, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading, among other publications. He lives in New York City and teaches at New York University.




Praise For Brief Encounters with the Enemy

One of New York’s 100 Most Important Living Writers as ranked by Flavorwire • One of TheMillions’s Most Anticipated Books for the Second Half of 2013 • One of Paste’s 20 New Books to Read This Summer • A Los Angeles Times Summer Preview Pick

“With impressive guile and design, Mr. Sayrafiezadeh uses the arrival and escalation of that war as the through-line connecting each personal drama. . . . These calculated echoes work to unify [his] haunting book in a way that story collections rarely manage.”—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
 
“In his memoir, Sayrafiezadeh told the remarkable tale of a childhood steeped in doomed dogma. His stories . . . offer something more: a searing vision of his wayward homeland, delivered not in the clamoring rhetoric of a revolutionary, but in the droll monologues of young men who kill because they lack the moral imagination to do otherwise.”—Steve Almond, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
 
“Sayrafiezadeh’s eight interlinked stories are just as fulfilling as any novel you’re likely to read this summer.”The Boston Globe
 
“A tantalizing fiction debut . . . [that] menaces and mesmerizes.”Elle
 
“This is the domain of almost aggressively ordinary guys—guys who may be a tier or two up the ladder at their retail or call center jobs, but who don’t get there without incurring the envy of former classmates still working the mailroom. The recurring motifs include 99-cent American flags, putting in a word with the boss, idealistic Army recruitment brochures and unseasonable temperatures. Each time they recur they are more potent, and poignant. The collection is readable, and real, and hopefully a harbinger of more fiction to come from Sayrafiezadeh.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Funny and surprising . . . Sayrafiezadeh’s simple style can fool you into thinking that his struggling narrators are plain and unassuming. They are anything but. . . . Each story compels you to read the next, and no character escapes unscathed.”The Daily Beast

“Sayrafiezadeh’s genius is not only in the way he almost painfully keeps our attention on the powers at play in these peoples’ lives, but in his sentences themselves. His deceptively simple prose has a grip that gently pulls but never slackens. The words and images pour in and the reader is pulled in, on and through these stories effortlessly, stories that seem to get better with each read.”Washington Independent Review of Books

“Remarkable . . . Brief Encounters with the Enemy does something rare in that it contributes something new and ‘essentially different’ to the literature of war—our stories, about what it’s like over here. It’s discomfiting, and surprising, and illuminating to say the least. I’ve not read anything like it before.”—Scott Cheshire, The Millions
 
“An arresting fiction debut . . . With insightful humor and a keen eye for offbeat details, Sayrafiezadeh, entertaining and political without being heavy-handed, is a force to be reckoned with.”Booklist
 
“Accelerating through the curve with characters who are colossally misguided and still likable—reminiscent of Junot Díaz’s Yunior—this is an astounding first collection.”BookPage

“Saïd Sayrafiezadeh is a masterly storyteller, working from deep in the American grain. This is a splendid fiction debut.”—Philip Gourevitch, author of The Ballad of Abu Ghraib
 
“In this beautiful collection, we see the wages of war, brought very close to home.”—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion
 
“Bizarre and compelling and painfully funny, and something else, too: important.”—John Wray, author of Lowboy
 
“A vivid collection about the indignities and consolations of dead-end jobs, the joy of a stolen kiss, and the mysteries of friendship.”—Nathaniel Rich, author of Odds Against Tomorrow
 
“Saïd Sayrafiezadeh is a slyly subversive absurdist whose true subject is the deeply serious matter of our obligations to one another as human beings.”—John Burnham Schwartz, author of Northwest Corner
 
“Fun, moving, and reads like the work of a master.”—Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life
 
“Gritty, compelling stories about our embattled working class. This is a thrilling report from the trenches.”—Edmund White, author of Jack Holmes and His Friend
 
“Perfectly calibrated, laced with hard-earned moments of vulnerability, rendered in language that is at once plainspoken and lyrical.”—Teddy Wayne, author of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine

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