31 May

May 2016

1. Painter Parviz Kalantari dies at 85

The diligent artist and illustrator Parviz Kalantari, famous for his indigenous drawings of Iranian nomadic life passed away late May at age 85. “He was from a generation whose main concern was making a bridge between modern paintings and the venerable cultural heritage, which is tradition.” Read more here

2. The Past, the Present, and the Bridge: Ali Dehbashi’s Bukhara Magazine
3. All the world’s a stage for Iranian director Asghar Farhadi at Cannes

Years after Abbas Kiarostami’s starring at Cannes, now it is Asghar Farhadi’s turn to draw attentions to Iranian cinema once again with the awards granted to his latest film ‘The Salesman’. This interview with an AE magazine is worth reading.

4. Tehran International Book Fair 2016 Held

The 29th edition of TIBF was far more exciting than the previous editions partially due to the new location that despite all fears and estimations, turned out to a good move with a considerable impact on sales rates. Marjohn Shirmohammadi’s report offers a thorough survey of the event from different aspects.

30 Apr

April 2016

1. Iranian anthropologist Jaber Anasori dies at 71

Prominent Iranian anthropologist Jaber Anasori, mostly famous for his lifetime of study and research on Iranian ritual plays and ta’zeih (Iranian passion play), died in Tehran, leaving behind dozens of publications, including “Anthropology and the Psychology of Arts”, “Culture and Research” and “Study of Iranian Myths based on Works by Traditional Storytellers”.

2. Iranian scholar Manuchehr Sotudeh dies at 103

A prominent Iranologist, Sotudeh got his Ph.D. from the University of Tehran. He has written 52 books and 268 articles on different subjects during his lengthy career.

01 Apr

Author Ghasem Hasheminejad Dies Aged 76

Ghasem Hasheminejad, author of breakthrough novel ‘Elephant in the Dark’ and eminent scholar in classical Persian literature passed away today, Friday 1st April, having suffered from cancer.

Born in 1930, Hasheminejad was an outstanding novelist, a poet, translator and scholar in Persian mysticism and classical literature. He was best remembered for his well-known detective novel, ‘Elephant in the Dark,’ a pioneer of its kind among modern Persian novels, ‘Kheirunnesa: a biography’, two paramount poetry collections namely ‘Pari Khani’ and ‘Testament of Love,’ and many other publications including textual studies in Persian mysticism. He also translated works by T. S. Eliot and Raymond Chandler as well as the worthy manuscript of ‘The Deeds of Ardeshir Babakan’ (see here) from Pahlavi to Persian. Ghasem Hasheminejad was commemorated during the first edition of Tehran Story Award, held on Dec 24, 2014. [Read a detailed report of the event here.]

(c) photo by Mohsen Azarm
19 Aug

Simin: Versifier of a Nation’s Sentiments & Sorrows

For more than a half-century, the arena of contemporary Persian literature has been graced with the luminous presence of two Simins: Simin Daneshvar and Simin Behbahani. Both women made observable achievements in the realms of prose and poetry. While the former is known as Iran’s first woman short-story writer and novelist, the latter is often regarded the ‘lioness of Iran’ for her bold and courageous revival of the form of Qazale – a quasi-sonnet form – to represent and criticize social problems and inequalities of her time.

Simin Behbahani (Simin Khalili) was born on 20 June 1927 to an intellectual family. Her father, Abbas Khalili, was a poet, writer and editor of Eghdam newspaper who had mastery over Arabic, and had translated Ferdowsi’s The Book of Kings into Arabic. Her mother, Fakhr-e-Ozma, also a poet and a French teacher, was a member of the “Association of Patriotic Women”. Simin started writing poetry as a teenager, and after a period of experimentation with Nimaic verses, she turned to Qazale as the main framework for her poetic creations. She passed away on 19th August 2014 in Tehran, having lived a full prolific life of valor and veracity.

In her long journey of formal experimentation practiced from The Broken Lute (1951), Chandelier (1955), and Resurrection (1971) to Paper Dress (1992), A Window of Freedom (1995), and Maybe It’s the Messiah (2003), Behbahani achieved stunning innovations in the form, rhythmic patterns, and the subject matter of the old Qazale. She had admitted in an interview that her primary works were tracing those of Parvin Etesami, “but soon I could get out of the command of my mentors and quietly I chose a path of my own that was independent. I am still walking on the path of independence. My work mainly considers the Qazale. I’ve reformed the contemporary qazale, and appropriated it so deeply that no more does it resemble the preceding form. That is, the only remaining part of the so-called Qazale is its geometric format, whereas in content, vocabulary and meter, I have hit innumerable records of innovation.”1 Opposing the Iranian poet and critic, Reza Baraheni’s claim that the static structure of Qazale, like that of a sonnet, is retrogressive and hackneyed, Behbahani reasoned that Qazale as a kind of poetic form will never die: “I should state, however, that to compose poems in the manner and style of the past is just useless today. One should accompany the form with fresh thought and expressions and subject matters peculiar to this time and period in order to distinguish today’s Qazale from its former peers. All in all, Qazale may be more appropriate for this era than any other forms of classic poetry.”3

Simin believed ‘contemporariness’ to mean “[the people] want you, want to read you; that you be a part of their destiny, that they be part of your destiny” Few other contemporary poets may compete with her in contemporariness as such. While Simin’s earlier poetry was concerned with the sociopolitical issues of her time, from poverty and the agony of peripheral residents of large cities such as servants, part-time workers, prostitutes and thieves in the 1940s, to more decisive incidents and problems in society including the state of women, she did not succumb to seclusion after the 1979 revolution like so many other intellectuals of the time. Her post-revolutionary poems offer a vivid mirror of the sorrows of a war-stricken nation: portrait of soldiers and combatants injured during the imposed war, martyrdom, bereaved mothers seeking signs of her lost children, aftermath ruins of war and great quakes, and a ceaseless search for the true meaning of freedom, are but few examples of the scenes artistically put into novel poetic meters. As the poetess moved away from poetic conventions, everyday life became a more dominant motif in her poems and in later phases of her career, while aging and motherhood endowed her with a peerless sense of affection and toleration towards her opponents.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XPtdzR1rss ( mine)
  2. Karnameh: 39, quoted in “A Survey of the Elements of Contemporary Life in the Poetry of Simin Behbahani,” Kavoos Hasanli & Maryam Heidari. Social & Human Sciences, Shiraz University: 2007.
http://www.hasanli.ir/far/handler.aspx?detail=95 (trans. mine)
  1. Simin Behbahani, Yad-e Baazi Nafarat, Alborz: 1999. Quoted in “A Survey of the Elements of Contemporary Life in the Poetry of Simin Behbahani,” Kavoos Hasanli & Maryam Heidari. Social & Human Sciences, Shiraz University: 2007. http://www.hasanli.ir/far/handler.aspx?detail=95 ( mine)
16 Oct

Kadkani, a Gem of Khorasan

There are not many literary scholars in the history of Persian literature who are also great poets; neither are there many poets who made it as great literary scholars. Mohammad Reza Shafi’i Kadkani (b. October 12, 1939), renowned poet and literary scholar, is one of those rare exceptions. A native of Neyshabour, Khorasan province in northeastern Iran, Kadkani has written much in admiration of his hometown, yet the universal concerns and experiences conveyed through his words have made his poetry a refuge and a locus of serenity for his audience everywhere.

After spending 15 years from his childhood to adolescence, studying Arabic literature and Islamic jurisprudence, Kadkani left his native city to pursue his academic studies in Persian literature at Ferdowsi University in Mashhad. He later attended University of Tehran where he gained his PhD in literature. While studying in Mashhad and Tehran he took part in various poetic circles and became well known among the literary elite.

Although known for his modern poetry, Kadkani started with the classical form of ghazal, which consists of rhyming couplets and a refrain, with each line sharing the same meter. He published his first poetry collection, Zemzemeh-ha (whispers) in 1965. In his following poetry books Nocturnes (Shabkhani), and Through a Leaf’s Eyes (Az Zaban-e Barg) Kadkani departs from lyrical poetry and adopts the new form known as Nimaic poetry (Sher-e-now/modern poetry). In Kadkani’s writing with this new form come new social concerns as well, and with an elevated epic tone. His fourth collection, In the Garden Alleys of Nishapur (Az kouche-bagh-haye Nishabour) was published in 1971 and is considered by many to be the epitome of Shafi’i Kadkani’s mastery in style and poetic language. This collection became so popular that lines from it are now used regularly in everyday conversations. Echoing the voice he had reached in The Garden Alleys of Nishapour, Kadkani released three new poetry collections six years later: Like a Tree in a Rainy Night (Mesl-e Derakht dar Shab-e Baran), The Scent of Moulian Brook (Booy-e Jooy-e Moulian) and Of Being and Singing (Az Boudan-o Soroudan).

 In 1988 his latest poetry collection, The Second Millennium of the Mountain Deer (Hezare-ye Dovvom-e Ahouy-e Kouhi), emerged. In this collection Kadkani took the voice and style he had perfected to a new level. The philosophical complexities of his poetry in The Second Millenium correspond to the poems’ formal strengths and linguistic intricacies.

After finishing his PhD, Kadkani was invited to remain in the University of Tehran as a professor, a position he still holds today at 75. As a literary critic and scholar, Shafi’i Kadkani has written on imagery and rhythm in Persian poetry, edited the poetry of classical Persian poets and translated works on Islamic mysticism.