An excerpt from Pamuk‘s talk:
[…] I think there is one essential distinction, perhaps in my part of the world is more important … There are two kinds of people, especially in writing, printing, journalism, media and so forth and so on.
One, who can – in his or her life – consistently manages to side away, by … in a very continuous and in fact rather dignified way, not to say the unsayable while maneuvering, and in a nice way … and there are … I have so many good friends, which I respect – who maneuver like that around the bounds of unsayable taboos. And there are people, I like them better but they … most of the time in trouble or say … I have this feeling that sooner or later they will break a jar or a … or a mirror or a glass, sooner or later find themselves, because perhaps one they are not very caution, because one perhaps they are really angry, because perhaps one they fancy themselves freer than really they are. Say something. I am not here referring to myself. But essentially these people push the limits imposed on freedom of speech, not that they are brave but then – there is a screw loose in their mind … I mean it […] hear more
I will quote some excerpts in my next posts.
[…] Bill Moyers: You went to Iran a few months ago. Tell me about that.
Robert Bly: Yes, they flew us to Shiraz where Hafez‘s grave is. So, we got up in the morning, and we went to the grave. And about 8:00 in the morning, you know, children started to come. Maybe third grade children. And they stood around the little tomb and sang a poem of Hafez‘s. Really charming. And then they went away, and now some fifth graders came. And they stood around the tomb and sang a poem of Hafez.
And, of course, every poem of Hafez is connected with a tune, so you teach the children the tune, and then they have the poem. So I said to myself, “Isn’t that unbelievable? And why don’t we do that? Why don’t we go to the grave of Walt Whitman and have children come there?” Do you understand what it is–
Bill Moyers: I do. I don’t have an answer. Why don’t we?
Robert Bly: Because we don’t love– we don’t bring Walt Whitman and love him in the way that the Iranians bring in their poets and love them. So, that’d be great if children could go to Walt Whitman‘s grave and recite little poems.
Bill Moyers: What do you think it would mean if we went to the graves of our poets?
Robert Bly: You’d bring the poets into the heart, instead of having them in your head in graduate school. And that’s what you do with children. You bring children in, and they get associated with the heart when they’re very small, and then they can feel it all through their lives. […]
Hafez’s tomb by night
The first half of the interview is about Atwood novel The Handmaid’s Tale which, in her words, is “a blueprint of the kind of thing that human beings do when they’re put under a certain sort of pressure.”
“… A seaman’s yarn about getting lost in a life boat with a tiger and so on and so forth. And many strange and wonderful things happen to him until he pitches up on the shore of South America. Where upon, according to him, the tiger jumps off the boat and runs off into the woods. And he’s found starving on the shore, and he’s put in the hospital. And then these three Japanese insurance inspectors turn up to find out what happened to the boat that blew up at the beginning of the story.
Then he tells them this whole story. And they confer it among themselves and they say, “We think that maybe your story isn’t true. And that there was no tiger.” And you know he says, “Well that may be so, but tell me this, which story do you like better? The story with the tiger or the story without the tiger.” And the other men confer amongst themselves and they say, “Well actually we like the story with the tiger better.” And our narrator starts to cry and he says, “thank you.”
I am tired of my feeble companions.
The lion of God, the heroic Rustam, is what I desire.
Bankrupt as I am, I still won’t accept cheap flowers.
A mine of precious stones is what I desire.
Weary of these weary people, I am weeping.
The shouting and jumping of drunkards is what I desire.
Pharaoh in his tyranny fatigues my soul.
The light of Moses of Imran is what I desire.
“We have searched,” they said.” It cannot be found.”
That which cannot be found is what I desire.
All things come from Him, yet He remains hidden.
The hidden whose works are manifest is what I desire.
“A Bird In The Garden Of Angels is out!
If you’re a fan of Rumi, this new anthology, on the poetry sections of which I collaborated with primary author John Moyne, is one you will want to get. A Bird In The Garden Of Angels is also a wonderful introduction to Rumi for those new to his work, or those who may know of him but don’t know much about him.” … read more
Previous post: It is all connected
Translated by poet and essayist Richard Jeffrey Newman
“Whether you call the literature Iranian or Persian, it deserves and should command your attention, not only because the current political situation between the US and its allies and Iran makes it imperative that people throughout the world (though perhaps especially in the US) understand Iran and Iranians as much as possible, but because it is a worthy literature in its own right, confronting in important and complex ways, from at least the 10th century onward, the questions of identity and meaning that we all wrestle with, no matter what language we speak, where we live now or where we were born.” It Is All Connected
“Gathered together under the title “The Revolution Is What Made This Issue Possible”, the poems, stories and essays in this issue include works written – from outside Iran, inside Iran and the Academy – from the 10th through the 21st centuries …” more
Richard Jeffrey Newman website and blog
ArteEast: Works of artists from the Middle East and its diaspora
The Translation Project: contemporary Persian literature
Persian Arts Festival, New York City
The last issue includes her thoughts about the the recent arrests, the one-sidedness of the media on Iran/Islam related issues, the covert black operations – reportedly including a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation if Iran’s currency and Mr. Baghi’s letter regarding these current issues, etc.
She also presents the following links:
What is it that you fear, Mr. Bush? by Judith Ernst: As I fly out of Iran after a visit to the garden city of Shiraz, I am puzzled by your belligerence […] Mr. Bush, who is it that you fear? … read more
Cheney’s Iran-Arms-to-Taliban Gambit Rebuffed, by Gareth Porter
Slide show of the performance, with excerpts and an interview with Gord-Afarid, Fatemeh Habibizad, the first Iranian woman Naqqal – a performer reading and enacting stories of the celebrated Persian epic The Book of Kings: the revival of the traditional storytelling. Update: With English subtitles
Colors of Iran: Iran’s first International Children’s Book Festival, Kerman, 2005
A three-minute documentary by the renowned director Abbas Kiarostami, made on the occasion of Cannes Film festival’s 60th year, including 24 Iranian actresses whom he has worked with over the years.
Previous post: Reading more than Lolita in Tehran
“… During these years, when many books and media reports about Iran were published, I would search for the Iran that I know, for my friends, for myself. But we wouldn’t be there. Usually in these books and news reports, everything would revolve around religion or politics, and people would be villains or victims … “This picture is full of holes! That is not about me! The culture I grew up in has its flesh and blood just like yours. It has good and bad things just like every culture. Shake my hand and you will feel it!” … Jasmin and Stars is that cultural handshake … to feel the warmth, the tenderness, and the laughter that I describe from personal experience in present-day Iran … Both Iranians and Americans have been barred from this handshake by the political perspectives that make every American a greedy imperialist and every Iranian a petty fanatic … enough is enough and talk to each other – we will be surprised at how similar we are.
… main purpose is to search for a meaningful way to approach an unfamiliar culture, a way in which the humanity and depth of that culture is felt and enjoyed rather than masked from view. At the same time, it critiques the lopsided and exaggerated presentation of the eastern cultures in current western writings, a trend that I call the “New Orientalist narrative. ”
The cover of Reading Lolita in Tehran has caused controversy because it presents a cropped image. The full image depicts two young girls, involved in the election of the reformist Iranian President Khatami. The girls are reading a newspaper in anticipation of the election results … The full and cropped images would send two very different messages … Critics have compared the book to its cover image because it also omits the aspects of the culture that show that Iranian women have agency and are actively improving their lives.
The jacket of Jasmine and Stars shows a full image of two Iranian women in a demonstration outside Tehran University in 2005. The women hold signs that say they object to injustice to women and demand equal rights with men. They smile and look directly at the camera. The goal is not to show a rosy picture of gender equality in present-day Iran — had that been the case, there would be no need for the signs these women carry. The point, however, is that the picture demonstrates women’s agency in the face of all odds and their active presence in the public domain. In other words, the cover shows that Iranian women are not passive victims.
The greatest omission in the content of Nafisi‘s book is that it overlooks the agency and presence of Iranian women in the social and intellectual domain. That is ironic particularly because the book’s main claim is to tell the untold story of women in post-revolutionary Iran … you would not be able to imagine that vibrant Iranian women writers … ever existed, let alone imagine that they wrote during the same period that Nafisi’s book covers. You would not guess that post-revolutionary Iranian cinema has [outspoken] women writers and directors …or that women activists such as the Peace Nobel Laureate … And these are only a few examples.
I have dedicated my previous book, Recite in the Name of the Red Rose, an analysis of 20th century Persian poetry, to my father — my first and best teacher of poetry. My father was as emotional, fussy, and talkative as the poets themselves. Jasmine and Stars, however, is about stars: those who brighten the world by simply existing. Rumi, the celebrated Persian poet of the 13th century said, “If you lose your way in the desert you look at the stars to decide which way to turn. Do the stars speak at all?” His point was that stars teach simply with their presence. That is my uncle the painter; he brightens the lives of those who are around him and shows them the way, often without uttering a word. He is a great painter, yet his greatest artistic achievement is his life. I had to dedicate the book to him.
About the New Orientalist narrative: … They say that the discontented people in the problem-ridden areas in the Middle East are by and large the monsters that you are afraid of. This quick validation of fears brings something of an immediate relief … I must say most readers do still feel that these books do not give them the full picture and continue to search for more.
I think what is most surprising to the reader would be the humor and the openness of the people I write about. We would hardly see a picture of a smiling Iranian face in the media or hear about their openness to other cultures. When I tell my friends that The Da Vinci Code is a bestseller or that Bill Clinton’s My Life has sold thousands of copies in Persian translation this year, even the people who know something about the rest of the world are surprised … These are facts that are simply omitted from the picture … to read the interview, see here.
Fatemeh Keshavarz is professor of Persian and comparative literature and chair of the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis. She is author of four previous books, including Reading Mystical Lyric: The Case of Jalal Al-Din Rumi and a volume of poetry. Visit her homepage
Easy to remember, hard to forget: colorful mosaic of cultures, ethnicities and languages
Iran Target of Apparent Disinformation Ploy
Challenging the New Orientalism: Dissenting Essays on the “War Against Islam”
The History of Herstory
Windows on Iran
Hell Is Not The Other
An Iranian Feminist Critique of Diasporic Memoirs
In a time of pending war against Iran, after the catastrophic consequences of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq (with more than 655,000 deaths in Iraq alone), a particularly lucrative industry of Iranian and Muslim women’s memoirs has mushroomed in the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocities. These women’s memoirs have assumed center-stage in appropriating the legitimate cause of women’s rights and placing it squarely in the service of Empire building projects, disguised under the rhetoric of the “war on terror.”
As feminist scholars of Iran and its diaspora, we suggest that these memoirs and their authors must be understood not only in terms of the politics of reception in the United States but also in terms of the U.S. imperialistic project that is informed by the historical Euro-American colonial discourses of civilization. At a time when the neo-colonial and imperialistic projects seek to build a case for military attack or “regime change” in Iran, we ask, how are these memoirs complicit with these projects?
We identify this memoir genre as a part of industries of knowledge-production that reinforce and fuel the gendered and raced context of global capitalist relations, where the binarized notions of “freedom” and “progress” in the “West” are juxtoposed to “backwardness” and “barbarism” in Iran and in the rest of the Muslim world. Identified as an authentic and authoritative site where the “silenced” Iranian woman finally finds a voice with which to speak, these memoirs reproduce reductive but familiar narratives which pin the constructed “Third-world woman” against her male counterpart while setting the stage for what is presumed to be her salvation.
In this context, the patronizing language of women’s rights as human rights presumes and actively constructs the category of the oppressed “traditional” Iranian woman, often unaware of her own imprisonment by Islam and patriarchy. The “sombre” woman, in this narrative, must be trained to realize her rights as an individual, imagined as a “modern woman” who embodies an idealized middle class norm of Euro-American consumption.
Once the favored tale of “civilizing missions”, the contemporary rescue fantasy now has a new twist. Rather than being spoken for by ambassadors of “civilization”, Iranian women are able to speak for themselves courtesy of international publishing houses. Women selected according to the resonance of their experience within this narrative become the mouthpiece for the “authentic” Iranian experience, making the current construction of the “rescue fantasy” more insidious than ever.
These memoirs have proved widely popular in the mass market, while the mainstream media legitimizes their authors as “Iran experts” and “women’s rights activists,” thus ignoring the well-informed and critical Iranian feminist scholarship in Iran and its diaspora. In fact, we are not the first to challenge the construction and mobilization of gendered “victims” in furthering imperialistic projects. We draw from a rich body of feminist scholarship such as those of Roxana Bahramitash, Inderpal Grewal, bell hooks, Minoo Moallem, Negar Mottahedeh, Ella Shohat, and Gayatri Spivak to call for a critical analysis of women’s participation in these industries and question the taken-for-granted notions of civilization, terror, freedom, democracy, and fundamentalism. We ask why this critical scholarship is ignored, while others have been tokenized and granted generous media coverage?
As an example, we call attention to the way that Hamid Dabashi‘s astute critique of the memoir genre, “Native Informers and the Making of the American Empire” (al-Ahram, 1 – 7 June 2006, Issue No. 797), was maliciously attacked and his arguments deliberately distorted by North American neoconservative outlets as an assault on Iranian women’s struggle for autonomy, freedom and democracy. That Dabashi‘s critique was singled out while the works of women feminist scholars were ignored is a telling example of the sexist assumptions and essentialist gender and racial binaries that underpin the genre’s popularity. Assuming a monolithic category of “woman,” such binaries grant authenticity of voice to certain women such as Azar Nafisi, who are assumed to represent all “Iranian women,” while denying legitimacy to Hamid Dabashi, who becomes the ideal type of the “misogynistic Middle Eastern man.” Furthermore, by dividing the world into binaries of East and West and assuming an inherent notion of Iranian-ness, both the promoters of this genre and nationalist elites tokenize certain Iranian writers and make them the representatives of a homogenously imagined Iranian people and culture.
We deplore the marginalization of critical engagements with this genre and declare that the version of the romanticized and Orientalist portrayal of Iranian history and women’s struggle depicted in the recent memoir industry is not only a gross distortion and undermining of Iranian women’s active participation in political and cultural spheres, but it also deliberately represses working class and rural women’s hardships, hopes, desires, and aspirations.
In today’s Iran, women are at the forefront of literacy, educational, artistic, journalistic, and legal advancements. In a social, literary, and political tradition of resistance that extends from generations of peasant and working class women down to Tahereh Qorrat al-Ayn, Shirin Ebadi, Shams Kasma’i, and Forough Farrokhzad, Iranian women continue to struggle for their dignity and civil rights. Iranian women took two monarchic dynasties to task and they now hold the Islamic Republic responsible to address their demands. Any military or economic sanctions against Iran will only set Iranian women back in their achievements, and cause nothing but hardship and tragedy (as disastrously evident in Iraq today).
We are firm believers that historically, any militarist mobilizations, nationalist or imperial have been to the detriment of Iranian women’s lives and their struggles against misogynistic laws as well as their aspirations for welfare and democracy. We object to militarism imposed by “local” and diasporic nationalists, religious or secular fundamentalists, or neo-colonialists and imperialists. We consider any bullet fired at the direction of Iran, or any other country, targeted against the historical struggle for freedom, equality, dignity, and democracy.
February 23: Another case, with a very interesting analyse: The Disrepute of Reason II: Hirsi Ali, Cause Célèbre
Where I Have Been
The first anthology of writing by women of the Iranian diaspora, featuring over 50 contributors.
In Emerging voices from “Enemy” Nations, Statesman, Brad Buchholz writes:
“Assembled by California poet and former Austinite Persis M. Karim, “Let Me Tell You” features a Who’s Who of prominent Iranian-American writers (Tara Bahrampour, Gelareh Asayesh [and here], Roya Hakakian). Yet the beauty of the book is in the breadth of its writing, not the luminosity of any individual voice.
I’d never heard of Sholeh Wolpe or the late Susan Atefat-Peckham before this book; now I want to read everything they’ve ever written. Their poems are daring and wise, full of love, breathtakingly tender and honest. Do they write with a woman’s sensitivity? Absolutely. Do I feel as though I’m reading “women’s literature”? Absolutely not. It’s deeper than that — both arresting and sublime in a way that transcends gender.
My preconceptions about Iran — about women and the veil, and how being “covered” relates to both body and culture — were blown out of the water by this anthology. Many of the essays run with the idea that American culture is far more repressed when it comes to matters of the body than the Iranian culture. They suggest there’s more touching, more openness among Iranian women.
Sharon L. Parker, in “Departures and Arrivals,” writes that her mother’s depression was a taboo subject in the American suburb where she lived for a time. But in Iran, the entire neighborhood was intensely and compassionately involved, grieving in communal empathy whenever her mother’s sorrows became particularly incapaci- tating.
“There is a tremendous sort of communal energy (in Iran). The whole business of the body and sexuality is completely misunderstood here (in the United States),” says Houshmand, the child of an American mother and an Iranian father who grew up in Iran in the 1970s. “We just assume because there is a covering and because there is some kind of conservative religious thing, that it fits with Western Victorian values. And it’s very, very different.”
Tara Bahrampour, writing about leaving Iran for a new life in the United States, writes this: “Once in America, I forgot the pleasure of casually entwined fingers, or arms linked together in friendship. I strictly followed the rules of American adolescence and made it clear to my family that kissing me was no longer acceptable. Physicality became confined to romance, and it was many years before I began to remember the comfort that comes with owning, and being owned by, a huge affectionate clan.”
What could be more universal than this longing for connection? It’s the foundation of the writing, the inspiration of these books, the best hope for our future.”
Speaking of “Let me tell you” and the “Literature from the Axis of Evil“, Brad Buchholz writes: “… they tell stories. They take us behind the veil, onto loading docks, through mine fields, by way of fiction, memoir and poetry. They reflect the better nature of humankind, as well as the fallibility and ignorance that is common to us all. They consider difference, and distance — even if it’s in the form of a poem, in which a palm tree and a star talk with one another in the spirit of adoration and longing.
Star said to Palm: How far
would I fall to your knots
and root? Palm said: Thousands
will kneel before you.
Star: I am
just white dust behind rippling
Palm: See how
my green blades wear you …….
“Short stories and fiction excerpts from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Sudan, and other countries from whom the government would rather we didn’t hear“
Not knowing what the rest of the world is thinking and writing is both dangerous and boring.
Words Without Borders
“During the Cold War, writers behind the Iron Curtain—Solzhenitsyn, Kundera, Milosz— were translated and published in the United States, providing an invaluable window on the Soviet regime’s effects on daily life and humanizing the individuals living under its conditions.
Yet U.S. Treasury Department regulations made it almost impossible for Americans to gain access to writings from “evil” countries such as Iran and Cuba until recently. Penalties for translating such works or for “enhancing their value” by editing them included stiff fines and potential jail time for the publisher. With relaxation in 2005 of the Treasury regulations (in response to pressure from the literary and scientific publishing communities that culminated in a lawsuit), it is now possible, for the first time in many years, to read in English works from these disfavored nations.
The New Press and Words without Borders are proud to be among the first to offer American readers contemporary literature of “enemy nations.” Literature from the Axis of Evil includes thirty-five works of fiction from seven countries, most of which have never before been translated into English.”
Review, Statesman: Emerging voices from “Enemy” Nations, Brad Buchholz
A fascinatingly exotic word/thing
Just like Ustad/Usted, Chess, Paradise and Hell … etc…
Born in Iran and Northern India
And brought right into to the West
From Spanish Granada to California
By Semite peddlers at God’s behest
Its juice redder than the blood of Mithra
Yet sweeter than the thrill of conquest
Update: Thank you Dr. V. for further explanation:
Here’s a link to an interesting albeit incomplete article on that particularly rich topic:
“It was associated with the ancient Greek cycles of winter and summer. On Cyprus, where, according to legend, the goddess Aphrodite brought the fruit from Phoenicia, the pomegranate was a symbol of love. Pomegranate trees dedicated to Aphrodite were planted in her temple precint, which was at that time the most important temple of love in the ancient world. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the pomegranate blooms at the same time as the rose, another plant dedicated in ancient times to the goddess of love.
The Romans called the pomegranate the mala punica (Phoenician [i.e. Lebanese]apple) […]
In Iran, arils are crushed and the juice is cooked to make a syrup called robb-e anur, used in Persian cookery. […]
The Spaniards introduced it to the Americas, and when missions were established in California in the 1700s, pomegranates were among the first plants brought from Mexico by the friars. California is still the main center of pomegranate cultivation in North America.”
The truth is the world (The West, but also Arabs, Jews, Asians…) owes a lot to ancient seeds/traditions that came from Northern India and Eastern Iran: for centuries, “Semites” (Babylonians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and finally Arabs) have traveled with these Persian/Indian seeds and replanted them in Athens, Alexandria, Rome, the South of Spain and finally California.
This is how our Civilization was born.
It’s up to us to protect and nurture that rich cultural heritage, at a time when bearded Pharisaic fools from Jerusalem, Riyadh and Qandahar want to destroy it in the name of “Yahweh’s Law”.
And all the rest is just commentary a famous Iraqi-born Middle-Eastern philosopher famously said!
On-iranian-israeli-alliance … & … other things I don’t understand!
Where Nietzsche speaks about the Persian notion of history and cyclical Eternal Time, he writes: “I must pay tribute to Zarathustra, a Persian, for Persians were the first who thought of history in its full entirety.”…”It was much more fortunate if Persians became masters (Herr) of the Greeks, than the very Romans.”
The first western country who began to study the Iranian literature and appreciate it was Germany. The German scholars were in touch with Persian literature and poetry through the translation of Sa’adi’s Gulistan and Bustan in 17th century.
Germany acquired a far better appreciation and understanding of the East than France and England. The scholars and poets of Germany were looking for inspiration from other sources than those offerd by Greek classics and mythology. They studied with zeal the literature of the East.
For Nietzsche Hafez represents a prime example of ‘Dionysian’ ecstatic wisdom which he extols so extensively in his philosophy. The number of references to Hafez in his writings are considerable. The name of Hafez, usually in the company of Goethe, appears about ten times in his writings. He admires both as summits of human wisdom. For him Hafez exemplifies the Oriental free-spirit man celebrating joys of life as well as its sufferings. Nietzsche commends such an attitude as sign of a positive and courageous valuation of life. There is even a short poem in Nietzsche’s Collected Works, entitled An Hafis. Frage eines Wassertrinkers -To Hafez: Questions of a Water Drinker. The poem glorifies the insightfulness of Hafez and his poetical achievements. At the end, he asks Hafez, as a ‘water drinker’, why he demands wine while having the power of making intoxicated everybody.
Hafez and Mowlavi (Rumi) both have verses concerning the need to create a “Real Man”:
A real Man cannot be found in our earthly world,
We should make a new world and a new Man. Hafez
Yester night a Sheikh was seeking with a lamp all over the town,
Stating that he was tired of devils and wild beasts and was looking for a Man.
I told him that we have already searched everywhere for him, he could not be found
He said I am looking for that who could not be found. Mowlavi