Literature May Help Us Judge Better in Moments of Crisis: Moradiani


Nasrollah Moradiani (born in 1984) holds a BA degree in English Translation and an MA degree in Translation Studies. His master’s thesis was concerned with the impact of literature in translation on the fictional world of two Iranian writers Mohammadali Jamalzadeh and Sadeq Hedayat. Moradiani is also a published translator; his works cover a wide area of interest from translating coursebooks to literary theory and fiction, including Constructing Cultures: essays on literary translation by Susan Bassnet (Qatreh: 2013); Betrayal’s Felicity: Butler, Blanchot, DeMan (Bidgol: 2015), Hungarian Fiction of Magda Szabo (Bidgol), and Mikhail Bakhtin’s Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (Hekmat-e Kalameh: 2017). Next to teaching Translation in theory and practice at university, Moradiani is the editor of fiction at Bidgol Publications in Tehran. What follows is Moradiani’s responses to Parsagon’s Top 7×7 Questionnaire:

PARSAGON: Which works of world literature would you mark as the most influential on your life and career? How have they moved you?


  1. Notes from Underground by Feodor Dostoevsky

It was the voice of the narrator that haunted me when I first read the novel. For, what later I recognized to be called Skaz in Russian literature had an influence on the reader, in this case on me, that was contrary to the effect the narrator tried to exert upon the reader: antipathy. On a broader context, on a political level, (for me) not only the novel proved to be an important novel in Dostoevsky’s new phase of writing after his exile in Siberia, but it also manifested a position on how Russians at that time were going to face Western culture, literature and tradition on the whole.

2. Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Macbeth is one of my favorite books for accumulating two things that I like to read about in literature: the renaissance, and killing. Reading about the Renaissance and works by writers of the period is very exhilarating for me, for it shows us a Europe on the qui vive, when they were looking deeply for their past.

3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

When I first began reading Proust, I was very young and it was a really big change in the way I perceived the world around me. The people and their intentions, their inner animosity towards each other, and the distance between them. Having read the first three volumes, I am about to read the rest…

4. Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality among Men by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

This essay on inequality among men was the first serious text I read in English and since then Jean-Jacques Rousseau has been an important figure to me. After that, I read other works by him and it came as a revelation that he was the writer I felt sympathy with from the beginning. 

5. Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment? By Immanuel Kant

The answer Kant wrote to someone from the Prussian government while it might have been the answer to the question in the mind of many others in Europe that time, was interesting for me for two reasons: Not only his intelligence and certainty was against the odds (given the obscurity of the notion at the time), but also it made me wonder how the countries in the Middle East would respond to the same question in our time.

6. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

I believe one of the reasons any reader of Don Quixote in Persian might enjoy this pillar of Western literature is its exquisite translation beautifully done by Mohammad Ghazi. Nevertheless, when I read an essay on the novel by Carlos Fuentes I came to understand its importance in relation to other literary works written before and after the so-called first novel in the Western tradition.

7. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

When I think about French literature, this novel by Flaubert comes first to my mind. Being the novel with an anti-heroine who faces the contrasts in modern times and contradictions between desire and law, and rural and urban life… I believe it’s a novel every Iranian must read.

PARSAGON: In your opinion, which literary/artistic texts from Iran should the world read or see? Please mention your top seven choices and why you have chosen them. 


  1. Memoir of a Translator by Mohammad Ghazi

The book is one of my favorites not only because of its comic, sometimes satirical, language and relating of real experiences of a man I adore, but also because it reveals many things about Persian culture and bureaucracy of the 20th century vis-a-vis modernity.

2. Agitated Oil Dream by Mohammad-Ali Movahed

The subject matter of the book is enough in itself to make this book one of the most important works written in recent decades in Iran. Besides, its delightful Persian prose and the lived experiences of the writer and his mastery of the subject makes its reading also an enjoyable informative experience.

3. Nocturnal Harmony of Lumbers’ Orchestra by Reza Ghassemi

One of the best novels written in recent decades, it is about a Persian émigré who lives in France, the ennui of living in a place he doesn’t know, and the restraints he faces while trying to make relations with people other than the people who are originally from his native country, and finally trying to escape what he calls “the eyes that always followed him” during his life. It is also very well-written, demonstrating the author’s knowledge of Persian classic literature.

4. Anti-Terra: A Critical Study of Vladimir Nabokov’s Novels by Azar Nafisi

Two important things distinguish this work of criticism from its Persian peers: first, it is methodologically prepared. Secondly, the author is well aware of why she chooses Nabakov and her subject matter. Gives a lot of information about Nabokov and also analyzes the novels written by him.

5. The Leopards Who Have Run With Me by Bijan Najdi

A collection of short stories I read when I was quite young. The prose is alive, full of metaphors and what can be called the feel of Iranian everyday life.

6. An Introduction to Rostam and Esfandiar by Shahrokh Meskoob

Written by one of the most prominent authors of Persian in the 20th century, it is believed by many experts to be an important reference book on the Iranian epic story of Rostam and Esfandiar, and Ferdowsi.

7. Diaries and Oblivion, and Other Essays by Mohammad Ghaed

A collection of essays on different issues by one of the best essayists of Iran, with an exhilarating prose that sometimes becomes satirical and caustic.

PARSAGON: And finally, What do you think literature can do (or should do) in times of global crises, such as the pandemics? 


What literature can do for people in hardship and at the time of social crises – I don’t know actually. It’s not an easy question. I can’t imagine man without crisis. Man is always at the threshold of making decisions (the word crisis coming from krisis, meaning decision). Literature may help us decide, may help us judge better in moments of crisis. But after all, reading literature is sublime even without practical functions.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.