The Goethe Medal Winner Recommends

Born in 1947 in Damavand, Sayyed-Mahmoud Hosseinizad is a dramatist, short story writer and one of the world-known literary translators of Iran who received the 2013 Goethe Medal for “his services and commitment as a cultural mediator par excellence in literature, theater and film” via his translations of modern German literature. Hosseinizad holds the Goethe Institute’s Diploma of German Language; he received an MA degree in Political Sciences from Germany and upon his arrival in Tehran he started lecturing at the universities of Tehran, Tarbiat Modarres, and Islamic Azad University. Hosseinizad is also a prolific writer and literary critic. He has published two plays: ‘His Head Leans against the Wall like a Stranger’ and ‘Hails Fell Like Mad Earlier This Year’. His three short story collections include ‘The Sticky Darkness of the Night’ (2005; Ghatreh Publications),  ‘When Did This Snow Fall?’ (2010; Cheshmeh Publications), and ‘The Overcast Sky’ (2013; Zavosh Publications).

Over the past 35 years he has translated several books from German Contemporary literature to Farsi, among them: ‘Agnes’ by Peter Stamm, ‘Alice’ by Judith Herrmann, ‘Mobile Phone’ by Ingo Schulze, ‘In the Shadow of My Brother’ by Uwe Timm, ‘Promise’ by Friedrich Duerrenmatt, ‘Suspicion’ by Friedrich Duerrenmatt, ‘The Judge and His Hangman’ by Friedrich Duerrenmatt, and ‘Baal’/ ‘In the Jungle of Cities’/ ‘Drums in the Night’/ ‘One-Act Plays’ by Bertolt Brecht. S. Mahmoud Hosseini Zad is the most significant Persian translator of contemporary German-language literature. Many of his translations have received prizes and have been published in multiple editions, which is extraordinary on the Iranian book market. In lectures and readings, he is also a conveyer of contemporary German-language films and plays. He levels the way of words with discretion and sensitivity and enables cultural and personal encounters that awaken and intensify mutual understanding between people in Iran and in Germany, according to the conferment commission.



PARSAGON  What are the top seven works of world literature that have had the deepest influence on your life and career?

HOSSEINIZAD I am mostly influenced by these works:

  1. The History of Bayhaqi
  2. The Divan of Shams – Jalaleddin Rumi
  3. Les negres – Jean Genet
  4. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  5. The short stories of Ernest Hemingway
  6. Maxim Gorky’s articles on literature
  7. The Frankfurt School

By the Frankfurt School I mean works by main thinkers of the school, such as Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. Once I wanted to translate Martin Jay’s account of the history of the Frankfurt School from its German version. Adorno and Horkheimer are of course available in Persian. One of my regrets is not having translated Wittfogel’s Oriental Depotism. From the same school.

PARSAGON  What are the top seven of your choice (both classic and contemporary) that deserve global attention or have been neglected by world readers and translators?

HOSSEINIZAD   Books and stories that do not present the Oriental properties often desired by Western readers. I mean the cliché and preformatted stereotypes that westerners often prefer for translation into their languages. Books that really approach our literature. The History of Bayhaqi and The Divan of Shams , although in my opinion they are untranslatable. At best we can convey the content, which is a useless effort. Among modern works, I recommend Ebrahim Golestan’s short stories, some stories of [Houshang] Golshiri, and  my own stories of course!

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