Thursday, October 21, 2010

Translated masterpieces of Iranian novels

This is a growing list of WONDERFUL Iranian novels; all classics. And luckily they are now available in English, German, Dutch, French. I provide a hyperlink so you can investigate them further. They are not expensive, so perhaps it is a good idea to take a break from Iranian bloggers, the contemporary phenomena, and try to understand Iran through the writings of some of the finest writers of the country. ***s reflect my personal favorites. The books are not listed in any particular order. I just list them sequentially, as my search stumbles upon. I will add to this list as I come across other books of note. I have not read any of these books in translated versions; I would love to hear your opinion if you pick one up.

Yes ... perhaps 50 years too late, but Persian literature is finding a place on the world's reading list.


離婚 said...

Very interesting, thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

dear Ms. Naj,
Your kind offer of the novel to political junkies is touching,but for your visitors who can only spare 3 to 4 minutes from a fix of political bloodlust, please check out this U-Tube tune:
" I Shot You Babe " by DJ Foundation.

Naj said...


well the blog used to have more enlightened visitors. I hope I can get back to the mood of posting timeless and meaningful things. The political junk is not my cup of tea; really.

By the way, today I learned of an Israeli-passport holder gentleman of Iranian-Jewish heritage who is a frequent visitor of no one but Mahmoud the Ahmadinejad! These politics are just distraction. As long as we oppose WAR by anyone against anyone, we may have a bit of luck containing these arms dealers!

parvati_roma said...

Thanks for this great post, Naj! Saved, FB'd, tweeted... now I'm happily exploring your hyperlinks to make my first choices :)

goatman said...

But has world literature made its way to Persia?

Naj said...

Parvati; you are very welcome!
let me know which you read :)

Naj said...


uhmmm ... yes! For at least 2500 years, already. And the modern literature translated in Iran is still impressive.

Unfortunately, sometimes the tranlators will have to cut out the juicy sexy stuff; but the average Iranian university student is just as up to date with world literature as a European one!

Anonymous said...

You forgot Da

Naj said...

what's Da?!

radius said...

Dear Naj, I was browsing through your older posts, first only as a short intermezzo during an important presentation I should prepare, but more and more caught by the variety of your thoughts. Now I came along your list of persian novel that you recommend, conveniently even with the German translations. Some of them I red already, like H. Golshiri's The Prince (in German it is called "Prinz Ehtedschab") and "The man with the red tie". Recently I discovered Amir Hassan Cheheltan, "Killing Americans in Tehran" and "Tehran Revolution Road". I found his style very nice, a very clear language and almost crisp thoughts, but still not trying to teach anything, just telling well observed stories.
How is he anticipated in Iran, do you know ?
best regards, Michael

Naj said...

Hi Michael, shame on me, I don't know any of these books. Please do tell me more.

Naj said...

Of course, that is not because Amir HOssein Cheheltan is not famous; just because I have not had a chance.

radius said...

Dear Naj, I heard about Cheheltan from the DAAD foundation, since he lived for a year or so with a fellowship of them in Berlin. His famous "Killing Americans in Tehran" (btw. I found the title really shocking) I red almost complete during one Saturday in a bookstore. Its a great novel, fantastic modern style, it browses through the last 50 years Iranian history, telling the personal stories of 6 or 7 people. I liked Cheheltans sober style, he does not like to impress us with any cheap oriental decoration. The other novel, "Tehran Revolution Road" (Achlagh-e mardom-e chiaban-e enghelab) was never published in Persian yet. Its a very complex story of an established physician on present Iran, who works part-time at Evin prison. He falls in love to one of the patients. And there are of course many inside details about the characters of the prison personal. Despite the ever-present brutality, as a reader one never looses the hope that at the end the human values will overcome. Maybe I am hopeless in my positive view, maybe somebody like you who knows the reality and the extent of oppression sees it much different. I a much highly praised novel (promoted and discussed in many US and British journals) by Azar Nafisi, "Reading Lolita in Tehran". But here you got the feeling that the author just tries to hide from the reality in an ivory tower of intellectual debate. It is like when you walk through a dark forest, which is always more scary, although you know there are only old trees. But since you can't see anything, your phantasy creates the worst monsters all around. In contrast, when you pass in daylight a really dangerous creature in the countryside, it is never scary, since everything is clearly visible. So maybe if the danger or the terror is described with simple words, it looses its mythological fear for us, and one understands that it is just profanity of some mentally sick human beings. This is what I felt reading Cheheltans recent novel. And maybe this is what the IRI brain police is so afraid of: that the people understand that all these basidj and IRGC thugs are only mean folks for whom this is a job to earn some privileges, but that they are not driven by any political ideology.
I just saw that the English translation will be available only in 2014 (but Amazon "offers" you to pay right now. Haha, they learned their business well)

best greetings, Michael

Naj said...

Thanks for sharing your reading of the book. I will certainly obtain and read it. You are lucky in Germany, as you get many Iranian novels before even we do!

You referred to Cheheltan's straight writing and lack of orientalism. Actually, orientalism is not something Iranian writers in Iran are too involved with. Iran is ful of really great writers and novelists. I am so happy they are getting noticed. My dream is to someday contribute to the translation pool!

Things in Iran are really not as scary as the media makes you believe. It is not like there is a "brain police" that is preventing people from thinking. Iran is not a fascist society, it is not a stalinist state and people really do have a lot of freedom to talk whatever they want. Every now and again, some get unlucky; and those suspected of posing a real threat, or being in collusion with the "enemy" get a very harsh treatment. The Basiji and IRGC members are also not all "mean" and wicked characters. A lot of them are true and genuine soldiers, who care about safety, security and independence of the country. There are, like any system, those who are opportunists, corrupts and traitors. It is they who give the whole a bad reputation. Iran is a complex society; just keep reading and looking and don't believe ANY narrative, no matter how much you trust the narrator. There is always an alternate reality elsewhere, a story untold, a story forgotten. And, remember, those of us who are in communication with you, with the west, are not representative of Iran as a whole. We are a slice. The stories that get publisher's interest are those that cater to the main taste and curiosity of the society; reducing the country to a cartoonish image, that repeats from book to book.

I really enjoy our conversations and I hope you find my blog useful.


(Since we are in the same 'business', I am still curious, how do you know my blog? ;) )

radius said...

Dear Naj, I only recently found your blog, it must have been via other bloggers favorite lists or via a comment you made somewhere else. I found it takes a long time and it is rather by accident that one finds somebody on the web who writes about themes that are interesting, not just Iranian cuisine. I became interested in your country three years ago, through a student in our institute who did her master for 6 month. When she went back to Sweden to her Persian family I tried to keep a relation through e-mail or blog, but it appeared she was never very talkative. Another colleague of mine is in Germany still temporary, with his family. We have very common interests, but he is always afraid of writing something on the web or exposing himself with too much.
In both cases, reading or writing on blogs was and is for me a compensation, since the Iranians I know personally either could not or did not want to write on blogs.
I trust that your description of the daily life in present Iran is the relevant picture for the majority of the people. And I understand that you feel the necessity to correct the picture that somebody has from the outside (only coined by media, movies, and books). But let me assure you, I never would take a novel or stories as an authentic documentation. Whatever was the writers intention, the book usually develops its own life when the reader opens the first pages.
You said that you hope to contribute one day to the translation pool. But I think you should better write yourself. I think this is your real talent. I think that as an interpreter, you have much too much your own opinion and ideas.
best greetings