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Literary Border-Crossings in Iran

July/August 2003

Crisscrossing the boundaries of literature, theater, and film, Iranian writers draw on a rich cultural heritage and volatile present. Playwrights Bijan Mofid and Bahram Beyzaii dramatize the fall of Mossadeq and the death of Sindbad the Sailor. Tirdad Zolghadr returns to Tehran in a brilliant blend of fiction and autobiography. Behnam Dayani relates a relic of an abusive past to the “MacGuffin” of Hitchcock’s Psycho. Kader Abdollah explores the meaning of language in a folkloric tale and a piercing interview with Frits Abrahams, while Firouz Nadji-Ghazvini captures the desolation of an addict in war-torn Tehran. In addition to her luminous translations, Zara Houshmand introduces us to poet Ahmad Shamlou and to the roots of Iranian theater. Finally, Salar Abdoh discusses the style and substance of Iranian film as seen at home and abroad.

From “The Moon and the Leopard”
By Bijan Mofid
Why should I give up the light that I’ve held?
Translated from Persian by Zara Houshmand
From “The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad”
By Bahram Beyzaii
We are going to seek happiness for you and your children. All of us! Because one hand alone is useless. Are you ready?
Translated from Persian by Zara Houshmand & Bella Warda
From “A Little Less Conversation”
By Tirdad Zolghadr
To describe Tehran would be like spelling out a frenzied, hourlong dinner table discussion to a complete newcomer.
Hitchcock and Agha Baji
By Behnam Dayani
I expect to see a person, but there is no one there. The door frame, black and empty like a grave, appears before me. Suddenly, my heart beats faster.
Translated from Persian by Nahid Mozaffari
From “Cuneiform”
By Kader Abdolah
She felt a heavy load on her shoulders. She couldn’t eat, and she began to weep.
Translated from Dutch by Sam Garrett
Freedom Can Be a Nightmare: An Interview with Kader Abdolah
By Frits Abrahams
An exile’s life is unstable. Ruled by fear, especially when you’re so deeply involved with a language.
Translated from Dutch
From “Snow over Tehran”
By Firouz Nadji-Ghazvini
“Your eyes are full of sadness, friend.”
Translated from Persian by Zara Houshmand
Iran in Theater
By Zara Houshmand
In the wake of Sept. 11, the ta’ziyeh themes—of martyrdom, doomed battle against impossible odds, and the slaughter of innocents—might be expected to offer some insight into the alien psyche of Islam.
By Ahmad Shamlou
If this is life—how pure!
Translated from Persian by Zara Houshmand
By Ahmad Shamlou
And so we repeat the round / of night and day
Translated from Persian by Zara Houshmand
A couple at the tomb of the poet Hafez.
By Adam Jones. License: CC BY 2.0.
The Fish
By Ahmad Shamlou
I think my heart has never been / like this / so warm and red.
Translated from Persian by Zara Houshmand
Iran as Cinema
By Salar Abdoh
Why are so many of us going back? More precisely, why are so many going back to make films?
Translated from Persian by Zara Houshmand