Iran Literature

By | December 16, 2021

The Iranian literary panorama continues to record a greater success of works in prose, in terms of both production and reception, to the detriment of poetry, a privileged literary form from the origins of the Persian literary tradition up, at least, to the last century. In the world of prose it is the short story (dāstān-e kutāh) that is best suited to immediately tell the sudden changes and traumas, first of all the 1979 revolution and the long Irān-῾Irāq war fought in the Eighties, of a nation in search of balance.

The most recent Iranian literature has increasingly moved away from a programmatic social commitment and has instead shown itself to be inclined to reflect on the minute stories of everyday life in which anxieties, frustrations and hopes common to different latitudes lurk. It is a literature of questions on the sense of self and of life that goes beyond space-time boundaries to take on a universal dimension.

A massive female presence has been confirmed in the Iranian literary panorama of the last ten years. Catapulted onto the social scene by the revolution and the war, women dominate the literary scene both in terms of the number of readers, of social impact and in terms of dealing with issues of urgent interest such as gender relations and identity issues. For Iran 2008, please check

Among the names that emerged in this period are Sārā Sālār (b.1966) and Mahsā Moheb῾ali (b.1972), winners of the prestigious Golshiri prize (dedicated to one of the fathers of contemporary Iranian fiction) in 2010, respectively with Ehtemālan gom shode -am (Probably I got lost), in the best first novel category, and with Negarān nabāsh (Don’t worry), in the best novel category. From the personal and convinced writing of the Sālār a portrait of the capital emerges with all the dark sides of the western metropolis and also the novel of the Moheb῾ali has as protagonist a delusional Teherān shaken by violent seismic waves. They continue to be prolific authors by now acclaimed by critics and readers such as Farkhonde Āghā᾽i (b. 1956), Shivā Arastu᾽i (b. 1962), Nāhid Tabātabāi (b. 1958), Faribā Vafi (b. 1962). The latter, in particular, has been awarded several prizes (of which Ba῾d az pāyān, 2014, After the end) stands out for having brought to the fore – through a minimalist language and a strong intimistic tone – stories of ordinary women, engaged in the difficult management of a family everyday life in which their role seems increasingly narrow. Vafi’s stories, like those of many other contemporary Iranian writers, dig, not without humor, into the instability of gender roles, the crisis of which seems to fall within a broader and more complex question on the formation of individual, public and national identity.

Compared to the past, post-revolutionary literature is characterized by a wide diversification of themes, languages ​​and narrative techniques. Writers such as Mohammad Rezā Safdari (b. 1953), for example, fall into the category of so-called regional authors, whose works are permeated with the atmosphere and colors of their area of ​​origin and offer a wide range of ethnographic information.

In the field of the most recent literature for children and adolescents we remember names such as Faribā Kalhor (b. 1961), Mortezā Khosronejād (b. 1954) and Mohammad Rezā Yusefi (b. 1953).

Unbounded is the production that falls within the genre of war literature or Sacred defense (defā῾-e moqaddas, a term used by the propaganda of the Islamic Republic to define the ‘war imposed’ by Ṣaddām Ḥusayn). Among the authors of short stories and novels focused on the themes of war and alienation, fruit of the direct experience of life on the front, there are Habib Ahmadzāde (b.1964), author of Dāstānhā-ye shahr-e jangi (2006, Racconti from the city at war) and Shatranj bā māshin-e qiyāmat (2008, Chess game with the Last Judgment Machine), and Ahmad Dehqān (b.1966; Man qātel-e pesaretān hastam, 2010, I am your son’s killer). These works, although often exploited for propaganda purposes, do not lack clear critical intentions and are characterized by an almost total lack of demonization of the enemy.

A literary case widely supported by the Iranian government is that of the monumental (2008, Madre), a work in which Seyyede A῾zam Hosseini (b. 1972) collects the testimonies of a girl, Zahrā Hosseini, during the capture of Khorramshahr. In 2009 this work received the most prestigious government literary prize, named after the well-known pre-revolutionary intellectual Jalāl Āl-e Ahmad, in the presence of the minister of culture Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini and the speaker of the Parliament ῾Ali Lārijāni.

Among the boldest experiments in the field of postmodern narrative remember about the case of Abu Torāb Khosravi (n. 1956), after the successes of Asfar-and kātebān (2000, The scribes books) and Rud-and Ravi (2003, The River Ravi), in 2014 he received the Jalāl Āl-e Ahmad award for his novel Malekān-e ῾azāb (Angels of Torment). Among the most popular Iranian writers who came to literature following the ideals of the revolution, Mostafa Mastur (b.1964), whose latest collection of short stories (Tehrān dar ba῾d az zohr, 2010, Teherān in the afternoon) has been reprinted 12 times in less than a year. Among the youngest authors are Rezā Amirkhāni (b.1973), belonging to the so-called mosque generation, whose novels always turn out to be best sellers that attract both government support and public success while not garnering unanimous judgment from critics. and Mohammad Tolou῾i (b. 1979) who, with an innovative language, gave voice to the most original characters of recent Iranian fiction.

In the non-negligible field of poetry, some of the most popular names in recent years are those of Bahāre Rezāi (b. 1977), Rojā Chamankār (b. 1981), Minou Nosrat (b. 1957), Ahmad Rezā Ahmadi (b. 1940), ῾Ali Asadollāhi (b. 1987), Rezā Chāichi (b. 1962).

There is no doubt that the years of Aḥmadīnejād presidency (August 2005-August 2013) were difficult for the book market, with a skyrocketing cost of paper and harassment of independent publishers and organizing committees of non-literary awards. governmental. The market, blocked by very meticulous censorship controls, mostly offered reprints, often subject to revision. On the ground of culture, and in particular of fiction, real political battles have been fought that have damaged authors and readers.

Among the literary personalities who disappeared in this period are Esmā῾il Fasih (1935-2009), author of the famous Sorayā dar eghmā (1984, Soraya in coma) and of the first novel on the theme of the war Irān-῾Irāq, Zemestān-e shasto do (1987, The winter of 83); Simin Dāneshvar (19212012), wife of Jalāl Āl-e Ahmad and one of the few active authors since the Pahlavī era, and the poet Simin Behbahāni (1927-2014), remembered as ‘the lioness of Irān’, who in 2013 had received the Hungarian Janus Pannonius Prize, a sort of Nobel Prize for poetry.

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