Hamed Esmaeilion, born in 1977 in Kermanshah, should be categorized among the new post-war generation of novelists in Iran who have a real and tangible experience of the bitter taste of war. Esmaeilion soon left the war-stricken city to study in Tabriz School of Dentistry. Ever since his graduation he has been a restless traveler first to Sari (where he got married), then to downtown of Tehran (where he worked as a dentist for some years) and finally to Canada. A tenacious Persian blogger, Esmaeilion started his literary career as a pupil of Amir-Hassan Cheheltan, an experience which led to the publication of two short story collections: Thyme is not Fair (2008, winner of Houshang Golshiri Award) and The Canary Owner (2010). But he is also a novelist: Dr Datis (2013, Zavosh) and Gamasiab Has No Fish (2014) have both been successful publications as far as critical reviews are concerned, with the latter grabbing the latest Golshiri Award.
As the September special guest of The Parsagon Review, Hamed Esmaeilion has shared his favorite works of fiction with us, and a noteworthy list of Persian fiction, some of which are being mentioned for the first time on Parsagon:
PARSAGON: What are the top seven works of world literature that have had the deepest influence on your literary career?
- Albert Camus’ La Peste (The Plague)
- Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace
- William Faulkner’s Sound and Fury
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude
- Mario Vargas LIosas Conversation in the Cathedral
- Kafka’s The Trial
- José Saramago’s Blindness
Separating these novels one by one to describe the kind of pleasure I have gained from them would not be an easy job. Each book has been written in a unique style and built on its own world. I daresay now each of them has exceeded the borderlines of a book and become a cult-book with fans from all over the world. All I can say is that I have learned from them more about story writing. Having read them I know much more about the history of nations and their legends and politics, death, love and human being.
PARSAGON: What are the top seven works of Contemporary Persian literature that you find worthy of translation to other languages, or think that require more global attention? Why?
- Tehran, City Without a Sky, by Amir-Hassan Cheheltan
- The House of Edrisis, by Ghazaleh Alizadeh
- Missing Solouch, by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
- The Scriveners’ Books, by Abutorab Khosravi
- Lidded Mirrors, by Houshang Golshiri
- I Turn Off the Lights, by Zoya Pirzad
- And Bahram Bayzaee’s screenplay Ayyar-e Tanha (Lonesome Knight)
I don’t know about poetry; all these books are works of fiction, some of them translated already, some not. I believe that a foreign reader will not take as much pleasure in reading these works as a Persian reader, yet they are the bests of the last two or three decades of Iranian literature and, together, they offer a portrait of contemporary Iranian man: urban or rural, intellectual and philistine, victim or tyrant, and political or submissive (Of course, except for Mr. Bayzaee’s work that shows a span of time in the seventh century h. history of Iran). They are richly colored by contemporary political events and this is in line with my literary taste and writing preferences.