Kian Tajbakhsh is an Iranian-American scholar, social scientist, and urban planner. He is currently a professor of urban planning and urban studies at Columbia and a fellow of Columbia’s Committee of Global Thought. (September 2019)

Follow Kian Tajbakhsh on Twitter: @kiantajbakhsh1.

NYR DAILY

My Prison Reading

A cell at Evin Prison, Tehran, Iran, 1986

I began to stack my books in a row on the floor against the far wall of my cell. Quietly, they began to take on the familiar quality of a bookshelf—the various sizes, colors, subjects. I started looking forward to the next book I had yet to read. And as I stared at the little library, I began to experience a most remarkable change in my perception of time. The more books there were facing me, the more the time ahead of me began to take on a palpable, comprehensible texture. The panic of an immeasurable span of time seemed to reverse itself. Rather than too much, there was too little time ahead. The vast, unfathomable expanse stretching to the horizon began to contract.