Porochista Khakpour On Persian Curses

Don't cut your fingernails at night.
  • Transcript


Question: What kinds of curses do you remember from your childhood?

Khakpour:    There are small things I can think of straight off the bat.  But for instance I remember growing up and my mother always saying, “Never cut your fingernails after dark.”  And to this day I probably have never cut my fingernails after dark.  And I thought about it and I researched this a little bit.  It doesn’t appear in my novel, but I was interested in why on earth do a lot of Iranians think that you can’t cut your fingernails after dark.  And the origin, I believe, of this superstition is it was in the Arab pre-electricity.  People would actually get hurt, you know, utilizing scissors and cutting their fingernails, or toe nails, or whatever in the dark.  Or with kerosene lamps or whatever they used.  I don’t know.  But it seemed to me that that was the reason.  But I love that.  I love that sort of folklore.  But there’s tons of stuff like that.  I grew up as a child completely neurotic because of all these things my parents would tell me – these ancient cultural voodoo that was always sort of present in our household.  And it made me very, very stressed out as a child.  How do you merge that with sort of modern living and trying to assimilate to this new world that you’re in?  It was very difficult for me.  You know I was very cognizant of learning English in the U.S.   And I was . . .  It was very harrowing for me because I was always trying to fit in and do it fast before anyone could notice a difference.  But you know the minute some kids would meet my parents . . .  You know the minute they entered the picture it seemed like they would just unravel my whole . . . my whole guise.  So I was always a little bit at odds with them.  I think that is definitely explored ad nauseum in the book.