Leave a comment

In Teheran, Noir is a political act

Writing crime fiction in post revolution Iran

Back in the day, so my mother tells me, on the rare occasions when my father took her along to one of the cabarets of old Tehran, the tough guys—the lutis—the bosses, the knife brawlers, and the traditional wrestlers, would lay out their suits and jackets on the floor of the place for my mother to walk on. It was a gesture of supreme respect for one of their own. And it says a lot about a Tehran that simply doesn’t exist anymore—a Tehran of chivalry and loyalty, a place where allegiances meant something, where friendships harked back to a classical world of warriors from the great Persian epic, the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), and to the medieval Islamic notion of the ayyar brotherhood in Iran and Mesopotamia where the bandit and the common folks’ champion were one and the same, and where every man followed a code of honor set in stone.

Or else, all of this may simply be wishful nostalgia for something that didn’t exist even back then. Back then means a time before the Islamic Revolution of 1979. That watershed event that sits in the mind of every Iranian as a chasm, a sort of year one after which everything strange became law. The brutal eight years of war with Iraq—the longest conventional war of the twentieth century—the persistent pressures from America in its own everlasting twilight war with Iran, the official corruption of the new ruling class, and the snowballing inflation turned just about everyone into a “night worker.” Living an honest life was no longer an option. Prostitution, theft, an explosion in the drug trade and addiction, the selling off of raw materials and historic national treasures—plus endemic, in-your-face bribery—became a way of life. Meanwhile Tehran grew and grew, until it was one of the megacities of the world, now pushing at fifteen million stray souls—a leviathan that can barely stand itself, a purgatory of unmoving traffic, relentless pollution, and noise and anger and inequity, surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the world.

Tehran, then, is a juxtaposition of ugliness and beauty that breaks the heart. A place where not one but two inept dynasties came to miserable ends, and where, arguably, the third most important revolution in history (after the French and the Russian) was started. It is also the city where Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt met to divvy up the world while the flames of WWII were still burning. And it was where one of the CIA’s first manufactured coups (with the prodding and support of the British—who else?) against a democratically elected government was put into motion, thus ushering in years of a dictatorship which in turn was swept aside by the first real fury of fundamentalist Islam, a harbinger of the world we now live in and call post–9/11.

Read More

Advertisements


Leave a comment

I want to stroll Tehran’s streets at night, like men can: writer Fereshteh Ahmadi

Under Hassan Rouhani’s less repressive regime, female authors are starting to see their books in print, and daring to dream of greater independence.

Even the gentle references to sexuality in Fereshteh Ahmadi’s short story Harry Is Always Lost meant it was hit by the censors…

But that was under hardliner president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Now the story is in print thanks to a little more leeway in censorship under newly re-elected president Hassan Rouhani.

Ahmadi’s work as a writer is particularly striking because she comes from a country where conservative attitudes towards women are prevalent… Ahmadi’s success is testament to female writers thriving in Iran’s literary scene.

Ahmadi, who has been a judge in a number of Iranian literary prizes, was born in the southern city of Kerman in 1972. She studied architecture at Tehran University and worked as an architect for some years before dedicating herself to writing. Her first collection of short stories, Everybody’s Sara, was published in 2004 and she has written two novels: The Forgetful Angel and The Cheese Jungle.

“The eight years under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a real catastrophe,” she says. “A lot of books did not get permission for being printed, a lot of books had permission but they were blocked from being reprinted. In the past four years under Rouhani a lot of books managed to get permission, get printed, for many writers they finally succeeded to publish their work.”

Read More


Leave a comment

Iran threatens Frankfurt book fair boycott over Rushdie speech

Minister says The Satanic Verses author’s scheduled address next week ‘crosses one of our red lines’: The Guardian

Salman RushdieIran is threatening to boycott the forthcoming Frankfurt book fair because organisers have invited Salman Rushdie to deliver the keynote address at the opening press conference.

In February 1989, Rushdie was the target of a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic and the country’s former supreme leader, over the publication of The Satanic Verses, which was described as blasphemous against Islam. His fatwa provoked an international outcry and caused the UK to sever diplomatic relations with Iran for years.

Read More


Leave a comment

Iraqi writer brings Persian literature to Arab world

Ghassan Hamdan was born in Iraq, raised in Iran and has spent part of his life in Syria. He considers both Iran and Iraq equally his homeland. He began his career by translating Persian poetry, but in the past few years, he has been translating and publishing Iranian novels for the Arab world, specifically Egypt. He has published translations of more than a dozen novels by some of Iran’s most famous writers.

Read More


Leave a comment

Persian literature seats to increase in Italy

Iranian Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Ali Jannati who is heading a delegation in Italy met with his Italian Education Minister Stefania Giannini in Rome on first day of his visit on Friday.

The two sides stressed necessity of strengthening and expansion of scientific ties on archaeology, human sciences and Persian and Italian literatures between universities of the two countries.

Read More


Leave a comment

Shakespeare in Tehran

Stephen Greenblatt on being invited to deliver the keynote address to the first Iranian Shakespeare Congress: The New York Review of Books

greenblatt_1-040215.jpg
Marco Moretti/Anzenberger/Redux

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan, the last stop on Stephen Greenblatt’s trip to Iran

In April 2014 I received a letter from the University of Tehran, inviting me to deliver the keynote address to the first Iranian Shakespeare Congress.

Instantly, I decided to go. I had dreamed of visiting Iran for a very long time. Many years ago, when I was a student at Cambridge, I came across a book of pictures of Achaemenid art, the art of the age of Cyrus and Darius and Xerxes. Struck by the elegance, sophistication, and strangeness of what I saw, I took the train to London and in the British Museum stood staring in wonder at fluted, horn-shaped drinking vessels, griffin-headed bracelets, a tiny gold chariot drawn by four exquisite gold horses, and other implausible survivals from the vanished Persian world.

Read More


Leave a comment

Faani: ‘Vaziri’ introduced Polish literature to Iranians

The Memorial ceremony of Roshan Vaziri, translator of Polish literature, was held last night at Farzan Rouz Publications as the scholar Kamran Faani, said: “Vaziri was the first translator who introduced the Polish thoughts and literature to Iranians.”

According to IBNA correspondent, a memorial ceremony was held to honor Dr. Roshan Vaziri, translator of Polish literature, last night at Farzan Rouz publications attended by  Dariush Shayegan, Babak Ahmadi, Jaleh Amouzgar, the Polish Ambassador to Tehran Juliusz J. Gojlo, Vaziri’s family and a few other literary and cultural figures.

Read More


Leave a comment

Azar Nafisi: ‘Books are representative of the most democratic way of living’

The Iranian author talks about the struggle for freedom in Iran and the west – and her distrust of the virtual life: The Guardian

Azar NafisiAzar Nafisi, 58, is an Iranian writer and professor of English literature. She lives in Washington DC and became an American citizen in 2008. In 1995 she quit her job as a university lecturer in Tehran and taught a small group of students at home, discussing works considered controversial in Iran at the time, such as Lolitaand Madame Bovary. Her 2003 book based on this experience, Reading Lolita in Tehran, was on the New York Times bestseller list for 117 weeks and won a string of literary awards. Nafisi’s latest non-fiction book, The Republic of Imagination (Viking), is described as “a passionate tribute to literature’s place in a free and enlightened society”.

Were you surprised by the success of Reading Lolita in Tehran?

I thought if it sold 9,000 copies that would be great. [It sold more than 1.5m.] Even friends and colleagues discouraged me: “People are focused on [the US invasion of] Iraq and you are writing about these dead writers that no one cares about?” But you write because you want to write. I wanted to talk about a time when I found myself voiceless and I found my voice and my connection to people through books.

Read More


Leave a comment

Iranian artists take part in 2nd Delhi Literature Festival in India

Several Iranian illustrators, graphic and calligraphy artists participated in the 2nd edition of the Delhi Literature Festival: FARS News

The festival showcased the cultural, literary and the artistically achievements of lovers of the Iranian and Indian culture and art. Continue reading