01 Dec

Time and the Parsagon Journey*

In the early snowfall of September in Calgary-my adopted home, and the short and windy autumn that ironically followed the snow, I imagined this moment. This day in November, that I knew I would be out of the country, sitting in a San Francisco cafe and write down my thoughts on Parsagon. When I was in Tehran, autumn was my favorite season. In Calgary it is short and heralds a long and cold winter, so I savor every hour like I would every drop of a good coffee.

When temperature fell below zero, I imagined the future in present, the time when I would get a second chance at autumn in another country. And now I am present in the future I had imagined in the past, and I wonder about time and what it means in our lives.

What is “time”? Are we right in measuring it the way that we do-by its relation to present? To our present? Aren’t our experiences of life highly influenced by our understanding(s) of time? Can we feel differently about our lives if our conception of time was dramatically different?

Perhaps time is regressive. We grow old, we move to places far from family and friends. We lose loved ones to change or to death. With much hope we look to the future, only to see that future often brings loss and pain. In fact, in those times of hardship that we wish to pass soon, we are at the same time wishing the passing of our time on earth. Most of us have stories to tell about “the good old times;” these stories accumulate as we grow older.

Perhaps time is redemptive. Don’t many of us long for a better time to come? When our personal problems are solved, when the world is peaceful, and stories of wars and epidemics are no longer on the headlines. After all, isn’t hope-our motive force in life, the child of redemptive time?

Time is repetitive. Seasons pass. Routines become tedious and wear down one’s creativity. Yet we need repetition; a new day is a new chance. A new year is a new beginning.

Time can also be understood as rupture, the infinite possibilities of the future are ahead of us. Time will bring new opportunities that our focused mind, trapped in the limitation of “the now,” can yet not see. It will bring new challenges as well.

People understand time differently in different cultures. It is a beautifully ambiguous concept. For me, as a parsagoner, time is not one of these. It is all of these together. It is measured by my experiences with the people I have had the privilege to know since my academic journey started in 2002. I reflect with nostalgia on my time as an undergraduate student in Tehran, collaborating with some of my fellow parsagoners in student journals and poetry clubs. The passage of time has only improved our relationships, introduced us to more possibilities, and made us more creative in our collaborations. The Parsagon Review is an outcome of these, and an outcome I am proud of. And sure, we have all been bored at one point or another with routines and with issues that may arise in any collaboration, but working together has become only better and more interesting through time. Every new project is more exciting. Every month is a new Parsagon! I am only looking forward to what time will bring.


* This editorial is inspired by Felski, Rita. “Telling Time in Feminist Theory.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 21.1 (2002): 21-28. JSTOR. Web.
Artwork: “Present”, by Iran Darroudi

 

01 Nov

On Mobility and More

After years of dreaming, months of contemplating and discussing and weeks of researching and writing, The Parsagon Review was launched in November 2013; a year ago. The Parsagoners have addressed different aspects of the contemporary Persian literature in the course of the past year. We have received articles and poems from interested readers who would like to contribute and have attracted much feedback and several reviews by critics and reviewers.

In November 2013, when I, as one of the members of the Parsagon Editorial Board, was contributing in the launching of the first issue of The Parsagon Review, the notion of mobility was the last thing I would ever think of. My participation in a UNISA Post-graduate Summer School on Mobility in Pretoria, South Africa this Iranian autumn/South African spring (Oct. 25-31) revolutionized my vision of what we do as Parsagoners. With the Parsagon Project, part of which is The Parsagon Review, we have been contributing, on a global scale, to the mobility of the Persian Literature and Culture.

Mobility is associated with movement and dynamism; not only in the physical word but also with regard to the more abstract realm and the world of ideas. Virtual mobility constitutes an indispensable part of mobility due to the ever-increasing access of the individuals to the internet.

Mobility is not a new concept to the literary world; the spread of ideas, exiles and self-exiles of writers and literary figures – to mention but a few- have served as the nucleus for many world-class works of literature. Ostensibly, the whole literature revolves around the notion of mobility; why should one write if he/she does not want his/her text to be published or read?

Even when writing in our journals, which many of us want to keep confidential, at the back of our minds we are imagining an audience, we are writing for someone, we have this craving for being read.

Now, after a whole year of committed work, we hope for more mobile months ahead of us and the Parsagon Review.

Associate Editor,
M.Kh.

(c) Artwork: From “Catching the Moon” by Farideh Lashai
01 Oct

For the Love of Autumn, For the Promise of Hybridity

How do we know why we love something? Or, how would our feeling of appreciation be different if we begin to understand why we have been loving something?

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Autumn has always been an object of beauty for me, stimulating a deep but inexplicable enthusiasm. This year, my reading of Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks has coincided with the emergence of the fall, when autumn rains pour over the city, and drinks, foods, and sweets are mixed with pumpkin flavor. In the last autumnal days of the summer, I am given a more concrete reason to scrutinize my feelings about autumn.

In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon applies psychoanalytic theory to explain the “so-called dependency complex” of the black psyche, analyzing it as symptomatic of a racial/colonized construct. After a thorough study of the black man and his relation to language, sexuality, and self-recognition, against the backdrop of his lived experience, Fanon ends the book with a gesture towards a “New Humanism”: “My final prayer: O my body, always make me a man who questions!” (206). Fanon’s call for lifelong inquiry introduces his desire for a dynamic subjectivity which does not rest and moves beyond the place of the unknown, or the unknowable.

Through his observation, Fanon introduces a zone of nonbeing, a site he describes as “an extraordinarily sterile … region, an incline stripped bare of every essential from which a genuine new departure can emerge” (xii). He locates this zone in the heart of the black experience, in a world ruled by white standards, where the black man neither belongs to whiteness, nor can exist through his blackness.

It might at first seem that for Fanon the zone of nonbeing traps the black psyche, and maybe other kinds of oppressed psyche as well. But an inspirational observation of the nature of autumn might suggest the possibility of being in this suspended zone through reconciliation of diverse forces, and could turn its apparent impotence to productivity. Fanon suggests such productivity in his description of the zone when he writes of emergence. For autumn is when the Manichean dualism gets deconstructed; it is a season neither governed by light nor obscured by darkness, neither melts in the heat, nor freezes in the cold. Autumn is the celebration of the birth of the second half of the year, which is inclined toward its ending; where light and dark, hot and cold, beginning and end mix and reconcile. Autumn is full of life in a deathful way, as such it becomes rich with potential energy. It exhibits its own shine and color, which is neither bright and white, nor dark and black, and possesses its own temperament, one that is neither hot nor cold. Autumn embodies some level of each of these qualities and has experienced all of them.

Interpreting Fanon’s zone of nonbeing through this notion of the fall season has turned my abstract enthusiasm into a tangible feeling for the most dynamic time of the year. I experience autumn as the natural incarnation of any kind of being which questions the rigid dualisms and embraces hybridity, a manifestation for the “New Humanism.”

 It might sound naïve to a critical theorist, but may not to a poet!

Work Cited:
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove Press, 2008.

01 Sep

Shade of Shahrivar

It’s Shahrivar again, month of honey-sweet grapes and golden melons. For a Middle-Easterner, it’s also a month of uncertain feelings and mellow breezes hesitant between heat and cold.

Shahrivar roughly equals 23 August to 23 September, matching summer’s lunacy with fall’s frenzy, departing from the joy of leisure for the pleasure of learning.

Shahrivar is the time of worries for school, anxieties of change, butterfly feelings of a new beginning. For the tech-phobic elderly, as for late Sohrab Sepehri,  it’s a journey in time to Pink-Floyd memories of school:

“School had scissored my dreams, broken my prayers. School had hurt my doll. I would never forget my first day there. They kidnapped me betwixt my games and plays and forced me to the nightmare of school… I found myself lonely there, like a stranger. And then it was Fear which went to school every time, instead of me.” (from I’m Still On Travel)

Shahrivar is the most abstract month in the Persian Calendar, owing its title to an Amshaspand (Zoroastrian Spirit whose name literally means Sovereign) that represented Divine Power, Glory and Dominion. In the celestial world he stood for the heavenly kingdom and upon the earth, he manifested an ideal kingdom in which God’s will manifested itself through conquest over evil forces and elevation and illumination of the destitute and the poor. He was the Guardian of Metals and would resurrect and assess the people and their deeds at the end of the world with molten metal. Ergo, he is known as the spirit of Rewards and Punishment in the after-world.

Shahrivar’s counterpoint, Sawrwa, is a demon representing chaos, misdeed, and bad government.

Shahrivar in the present world has also cradled one the greatest catastrophes: September 11 is not an incident but a turning point in our history and culture, whose aftershock is still felt and perceived all over the world, a time when Sawrwa won the battle with Shahrivar.

From a Manichean viewpoint, Shahrivar is a cauldron of myths and incidents, a battleground between Good and Evil. Demons may win a battle or two, but that won’t be be the last battle and as true Manicheanists by nature, let’s pray for the conquest of goodness once again and for all.

01 Aug

Hails to the e-Real

Browsing in the card catalogues of libraries always fascinated me for two reasons; firstly, the excitement of finding the book I eagerly wanted to read, which could easily lead to the disappointment of the item’s unavailability, and, secondly, the opportunity of coming across other interesting titles/authors. As a high school student, I discovered many titles, which up to this day, remain among the best influential books I have ever read.

University libraries opened new horizons into my life with the whole range of titles and authors they offered. I always loved the smell of the old books and the untouched sheets of the new. However, with the growth of the interest as well as the need for the e-books and online libraries, I started missing the “real libraries” as I call them.

I always enjoyed browsing the databases to which I was given access; still, I missed the scent of the dust on the books. Years passed; I widely used and read e-books, I never reconciled with the idea of the e-books and e-libraries though.

A couple of days ago, over a weekend, I started searching based on key words in the e-references to which my university provided me with access. I started at 10 AM and by the time I made myself feel that I am done, it was already past 2 PM. At this time, I was enjoying a strange kind of satisfaction; as if I have been really walking in “real libraries” not “virtual libraries”. That epiphanic moment happened: when the virtual became more actual than the “real” itself. I was beforehand grateful for all the e-resources and journals, but not a real believer in them. If I was to choose between the e-book and the hard-copy, I would definitely go for the latter.

The irony lies in the fact that I have been contributing to the promising Parsagon e-journal. I believed that Parsagon will thrive sooner or later but now I have trust in it more than before.

So, this month, I invite you, with a stringer faith, to stay tuned to our August edition which features Goli Taraghi’s profile …..