A co-edition between Arte and Caetla, the book has already been sold for publication in several countries, including Germany, Italy and Spain, and wider distribution is expected shortly.
Neyestani, orginally an architect, began publishing his drawings in 1990. His cartoons and illustrations were deemed 'too political' by the administration from early on and his work was relegated to the children's section of certain newspapers. The controversy that landed him in prison in 2006, however, was over a cartoon that featured a cockroach to whom a man was speaking Farsi, but the cockroach could only answer in the Azeri tongue; the Azeris are an ethnic minority, mainly located in northern Iran. The cartoon sparked tensions and protests between ethnic groups, resulting in the deaths of 19 people. Neyestani was quickly rounded up and thrown into Iran's Evin prison, where he was subject to verbal and 'moral torture' for three months. Upon his release, he decided to flee his country, which took him on a five-year odyssey of stopovers in several countries, including Turkey, China, and Malaysia, before ICORN was able to secure him a placement in Paris.
Neyestani is hoping to stay in France, for he believes that returning to Iran anytime in the near future would result in further jail time.
The novel, inspired by Kafka's short story about a man transforming into a cockroach, recounts Neyestani's time spent in prison after the publication of his cockroach cartoon. To see a sampling of Neyestani's cartoons (in French), please follow this link.
Neyestani anticipates his next major project will comment on the controversial 2009 elections in Iran that secured Mahmoud Ahmedinajad a further term as president.