15 Sep

Books that Changed My Life: Fereshteh Ahmadi

Books that Changed My Life
By Fereshteh Ahmadi
Translated from Persian by Melika Majlesi
Release Date: September 2017, Vol.03

“Thrush in the Cage” written by Nima Youshij is the first book that I borrowed after my first library subscription. I was only ten, and with this book I felt I seriously stepped into the world of readers. Impressed by the big notebook on which my name was written and the subscription paper that my teacher had to sign, I read the book even more carefully and turned my thought to the moral point of the story. Surprisingly not long after this feeling, another book drove me towards a completely different world: “Devil in the Dusk”1. The cover showed the picture of a blond girl who was running along a street and a black car was chasing after her. I was still reading books from the ‘C’ Category2 when this book thrust me into forbidden realms. Overjoyed by the criminal love story, I left everything behind to finish reading it overnight and give it back to the owner. After a day or two, a student’s mother came to our school, smote the book on the desk and shouted,“This is the book a ten-year-old kid should read? A ten-year-older should read Parviz Ghazi Saeid?” I hadn’t paid attention to the the writer’s name, but thanks to the wrangle I started to seek and read all the books written by Ghazi Saeid. And, overnight, I kissed the world of children goodbye and entered the genre of Detective-Romance – which saved me much time.

The year after, I was reading “Amir Arsalan Rumi;” I explored the labyrinth of stories and the joy of storytelling as I told those tales to my father. He was fond of continuous stories and told them well. He had told me the tale of  “Amir Arsalan” during the long war nights when electricity was cut off, but my version of the tale  was different.  He was an enthusiastic listener and and used to waited impatiently for me to tell the rest of it the night after. “How far does the story go,” he would ask me.

The book “Justice Has Been Done” translated by Iraj Pezeshkzad (or authored, yet ascribed to a Jean Maguer) was the first novel I read. It made me a little confused. Its structure was very different from the stories I had read by then. The narrator was changed in every chapter and the adventures were not that interesting. Also the ending was not clear, or at least, not clear enough  for a person like me who was not familiar with modern stories; it was vague and confusing. Later on, when I read a book about the differences between old tales and modern stories, all the mentioned differences were true about “Justice Has Been Done”, so the book became a gateway for me to the world of modern stories. I still remember its yellow hardcover  and the amazing subtitle, saying “a novel”.

I  was able to identify with Jane Eyre; I could understand her anger, knowing that I had a hard long way to go just like her. After that, I became more interested in reading stories about women – women who stand against fate, resist circumstances that other people have conspired against them, and if they  cannot fight empty-handedly, they just leave; women who keep going and never look back until they can take the first step towards building their own future in a totally new place. Reading about Bronte sisters and their early death encouraged me to start writing quickly. It had been a while since I started writing stories and it had come to my mind that I wouldn’t have enough time. I was in haste to read all books in the whole world and to know how all the authors became authors. I would read their biographies and once I realized that Victor Hugo told his first sad story to his mom when he was four, I felt being left behind, so I embarked on reading “The Waves” by Virginia Woolf and I understood absolutely nothing! But I persistently kept reading until I finished the book and then read Charles Dickens and Jack London. I liked the persistence and intelligence of “Martin Eden” as I had found out that we had no other choice than being persistent and smart. The moment after reading Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,”I was struggling to understand the story in ways other than my own, not the meaning and the concept behind it but the way the story was created. I drew Gregor’s house plan, his room and the way characters moved, etc. Could I understand it a bit more? Nope. But I kept doing this later on because I enjoyed it and it made me remember the story with details. Today I know that it is a very efficient method to untwist a story into its constituent parts. I went on with considering “The Waves” as a serious challenge and later when I read Woolf’s other books, such as “A Room of One’s Own”, I came to the realization that I liked this woman and her description of female classic writers as “grandmothers of our literature today” made me feel more connected to a nucleus, to some people, and to a certain emotion or endeavor. It made me feel as if I wanted to convey it to others, an attempt to make an often rare and elusive emotion more understandable or more endurable. And this could be my goal for the rest of my life.

  1. “Devil in the Dusk” is the tatile of a popular detective story published in installments in Ettela’at Magazine by Parviz Ghazi-Saeid before the 1979 revolution.
  2. Books appropriate for kids and young adults in Iran are put in A to G categories, from preschoolers (A) to high schoolers and above (G).


Born in 1972, Fereshteh Ahmadi is a graduate of architecture from The Univerity of Tehran. She started her literary career as a critic and writer in the 1990s. Her debut work, Nameless, is a story for young children. Her first short story collection named Everyone’s Sarah was released in 2004. “Television,” a short story in this collection, won the Houshang Golshiri Award in 2005. Her two novels The Forgetful Angel (or Fairy of Forgetfulness) and Cheese Forest, were both published in 2009 the former of which received the statuette of The Booksellers’ Best Book of the 2009 Rouzi Rouzegari Awards. Her latest book is a short story collection titled Heatstroke (2013). Fereshteh Ahmadi has been a jury member of Rouzi Rouzegari Awards and the Houshang Golshiri Award and resident writer at IACF.


17 Aug

Peyman Esmaeili’s Favorite Books

Peyman Esmaeili was born in 1977 in Tehran. He studied electronics engineering at Iran University of Science & Technology, meanwhile he was a member of the university’s poetry club and manager of the founding board of Nationwide Students Literary Society. He is a published writer with two short story collections Snow and Cloud Symphony (winner of Mehregan, Golshiri and Press Critics & Awards) and Reach Your Raincoat Pockets (praiseworthy finalist of Isfahan Literary Award), and a novel titled The Guard (2014, 2nd). Siamak, The Guard‘s protagonist, commits murder and is consequently drawn to an incandescent white limbo in the South of Iran where he has to shoulder the weight of guilt and remorse. The magic setting of the novel – ripe with a sense of horror and fear, amalgamated with a narrative in-cold-blood – recently won him the first  “40 Literary Award” (an award annually granted to the under-forty Iranian writers with a future). Here he shares his favorite reads with the Parsagoners:

PARSAGON: What are the top seven works of world literature that have influenced your life and literary career? 

ESMAEILI: I have been influenced by plenty of writers, have delighted their books and sometimes turned back to some pages in their stories for revelation. Among them I can mention the following books and writers:

  1. Heinrich Böll’s The Clown
  2. J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and short stories
  3. Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men and The Road 
  4. Stanisław Lem’a Solaris 
  5. Houshang Golshiri’s short story collection Dark Hand, Bright Hand as well as the novel Prince Ehtejab
  6. Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night and Shoughterhouse-Five
  7. James Graham Ballard’s Crash and Empire of the Sun as well as short story collections


PARSAGON: Which seven successful Persian literary works would you recommend for translation into other languages?

ESMAEILI: Among Iranian stories I would like to mention the following, each of which has been inscribed in my mind as a pretty pattern in the art of story writing, and whose translation into other languages could help share their beauty with other people and cultures. I am trying to mostly focus on the new generation of Iranian story writers as their books provide an introduction to contemporary Iranian fiction:

  1. Scorpion on Andimeshk Railway Stairs and The Concert of Forbidden Tars by Hossein Mortezaeian Abkenar
  2. Fifty Degrees Above Zero and Roving Under Haloxylon Tress by Ali Changizi
  3. Laughter in the House of Solitude by Bahram Moradi
  4. Partridge Hunting by Reza Zangi-Abadi
  5. The Rituals of Restlessness by Yaghoub Yadali
  6. Hush and Fault Time by Mohammadreza Kateb
  7. Like A Scent in Breeze by Razieh Ansari

    photo: Hamid Janipour | Graph Studio






11 Apr

Elli Dehnavi Recommends

Dehnavi-elliBorn in 1980 in Mashhad, Elli Dehnavi is a writer, editor, and literary translator who also does academic research on Middle Eastern cinema and literature. She studied English Literature, and started writing stories and translating works of fiction and critical theory in her early twenties. She is the author of Burnt Papers (Kaqazhaye Sookhteh), a collection of short stories that was published in 2011 in Tehran. She was the editor of Inquire: Journal of Comparative Literature for two issues, one on Literature and Identity, and the other on the Literature, Culture, and Cinema of Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey. At the moment, she is preparing a second collection of short stories. Parsagon asked her about her favourite works of literature and cinema by women.


Parsagon: What are the top seven works in World Literature and Cinema by women that you have read in the past couple of years?

Dehnavi: Well, I can definitely tell you about the works I admire, the ones that have stayed with me. I would like to focus on contemporary works of fiction and non-fiction if it’s fine with you.

  1. Alice Munro’s “Walker Brother’s Cowboy”
  2. Joyce Carol Oates’ “Deceit”
  3. Hanan Al Shaykh’s The story of Zahra
  4. Sally Potter’s Orlando
  5. Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
  6. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus
  7. Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness

Parsagon: What are the top seven works by Iranian women writers or filmmakers that you admire?

Dehnavi: My favourite list is much longer but here is a small selection.

  1. Simin Daneshvar’s Sovashun
  2. Shirin Neshat’s Women without Men
  3. Marjane Satrapi’s Embroideries
  4. Rakhshan Bani-Etemad’s The May Lady
  5. Farkhondeh Aqai’s Az Sheitan Amookht va Soozand (Learnt From Satan, and Burnt)
  6. Fariba Vafi’s The Dream of Tibet
  7. Susan Taslimi’s A Hell Let Loose