“Hitchcock and Agha Baji”: The MacGuffin in Iran

By Susan Harris

Behnam Dayani's "Hitchcock and Agha Baji," from our inaugural July/August 2003 issue, combines an Iranian teenage film buff, a Hitchcock classic, and a character straight out of the Arabian Nights to rich and entertaining effect. After seeing Psycho, the Hitchcock-crazed narrator returns home in a fugue state of fear; when his toothless great-aunt, Agha Baji, appears at the front door, he mistakes her for Norman Bates's mother and faints. Agha Baji asks the narrator to take her to see Psycho.  In response to her only question—"why do you think the son kept his ma's skeleton?"—the narrator tries to explain that the skeleton is the "distractionary gizmo" found in all Hitchcock films, the MacGuffin. Agha Baji's misinterpretation of this term, and what the narrator learns about her mythic early life, suggest that in this story Psycho is the MacGuffin: the real story lies elsewhere.

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