Nonfiction | October 08, 2011

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As best as I remember, the super 8 silent video camera was a present for my fourteenth birthday. It involved a certain amount of pleading and door-banging and huffing and goose-stepping around the living room and usual good old-fashioned blackmail—but not too much, as my parents, in conflict with one another and, unbeknownst to their children, near divorce, were easy prey. Now, over thirty years later, the number 800 sticks in my mind—as in 800 Iranian tomans, equal to about $120 at the time, a large sum (about five months of our live-in maid’s salary). Or was it 8000 tomans, $1200? Eight thousand sounds more realistic for a foreign-made video camera in the pre­revolutionary Iran of the mid-1970s. The super 8 was a Sony, black and sleek, with geared, battery-operated buttons for zoom and focus, the clicky turning of which sounded like happiness. Its hard case was padded with soft, spongy foam. Its manual, colorful and bright and glossy, was in multiple languages in parallel columns—a small modern Rosetta Stone in Tehran, the city in which I was born to a middle-class Jewish family and that I had come to think of as the land of my childhood exile.

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