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Coleman Barks and Rumi's Donkey

The essential problem lies in the fact that Barks intentionally changes Rumi, perhaps for the better, but at the expense of distortion and misrepresentation
Majid Naficy

Barks who does not know Persian, first rewrites some of the old translations in English. Then, by using an unpublished John Moyne's translation on one hand, and with the blessing of a Sri Lankan sufi saint living in the US, Bowa Muhaiyaddeen on the other hand, Barks publishes a new English version of rumi in free verse. No doubt that Coleman Barks's version of Rumi has released these poems from the confines of Departments of Near Eastern Studies but unfortunately, as we will see, he has tied them in the cage of his personal taste. He approaches Rumi's poetry as sacred texts, which need to be dusted from the passage of times by a touched devotee and prepared for the Post Modern, New Age market in the West. The New Age movement finds a remedy for modern alienation in old recipes, such as horoscope, Extra-Sensory Perception and divination >>>

Zani beh range ghoroobhaaye jomeh

On the publication of Leila Farjami's poetry collection, "Eteraafnaameye Dokhtaraane Bad"
Mandana Zandian

Shureshian-e armankhah

Mossadegh and the Tudeh Party
Maziar Behrooz

Thanks to Shah Isma'il
A book on the advent and the evolution of Shiism

Ranin Kazemi

I have chosen to bring this title to this forum's readers' and writers' attention because I believe the on-going discussions here about aspects of contemporary Iran, as well as the social and political life of Iranians outside the country would benefit from some of the points raised in this book (and by extension from further interest in historical Shi'ism). The Shadow of God and the Hidden Imam is a study of the role of Shi'ism in Iran's social and political life from its beginnings to the late nineteenth century. It focuses on social action and social change brought about by such forces as charisma and reason. These are, of course, Weberian concepts, but they are studied here in the light of new findings. Shi'ism, as a world religion, is considered "a source of motivation" for social action and a force for social change >>>

By far the most comprehensive study of Sarbadar history

Ranin Kazemi

This book is a major contribution to the scholarship on the forty-five-year history of the Sarbadar dynasty. The dynasty came to power in fourteenth-century Khurasan when the Ilkhanid government of northeastern Iran, after the death of 'Abu Sa'id, had disintegrated into several local domains. In this book, John Smith goes through a variety of literary and numismatic sources, compiles their relevant historical facts, and reconstructs the political development of the period (736-82/1336-81). In so doing, he provides a critical analysis of the primary literature, develops methods to overcome their inconsistencies, and produces a chronology as well as a coherent account of different episodes in Sarbadar history >>>


World pleasures

Snapshots from Marjane Satrapi's new illustrated book
Mehrdad Aref-Adib

Where is the tavern?

Jahanshah Javid

A few days ago I got my signed copy of Reza Ordoubadian's "The Poems of Hafez". It is a collection of 202 ghazals translated into English. And I did what every Iranian does with Hafez: tap into his infinite wisdom with a faal:

You hear a discerning voice: Do not confound it.
... You are not discerning: there lies the rub.
My concern is not for this world -- or the other;
... Blessed God! What temptations crowd our heads!

Unravelling the semantic complexities of Iranian politics
Excerpt from Daniel Lafond's "Conversations in Tehran"

Iran is an Islamic republic, conceived in the image of the community founded by the Prophet Muhammed when he emigrated from Mecca to Medina in 622 to begin the Islamic era. As if that were not enough, Iranians must also contend with the startling innovation in Shi’ite tradition, devised by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.... It is a hybrid, one-of-a-kind regime, designed to perpetuate the power of the religious establishment over society. But it is also a regime that must tolerate within it other voices, other forces. These may not be completely secularist, but they are bitingly critical of the mullahs’ attempts to obtain a stranglehold on power >>>


Shahrnush Parsipur's novel reveals ongoing tension between
rationalism and mysticism, tradition and modernity, male and female, East and West

Excerpt from Touba and the Meaning of Night (2006, The Feminist Press) by Shahrnush Parsipur, translated by Havva Houshmand and Kamran Talattof. From a distinctly Iranian perspective, Touba reveals ongoing tension between rationalism and mysticism, tradition and modernity, male and female, East and West. Speaking in an idiom unique to its author and indicative of a new tradition in Persian women’s writing, the epic also defies Western stereotypes of Iranian Women and Western expectations of Iranian literary form >>>

Persian Girls

Excerpt: latest book
Nahid Rachlin

Weeks went by and I didn’t get any letters from Maryam, even though I wrote to her weekly, sometimes daily. The only news I had about her was through bits and pieces I heard exchanged between Mohtaram and Father. Maryam’s depression wove like a dark thread through their conversation. I was lying on my bed crying when Pari knocked on the door and came in. “Come with me, I want to show you my room,” she said, putting her arm around me. I dried my eyes and followed her. Her room was between mine and Manijeh’s, along a row that included our brothers’ and parents’ bedrooms. “I still remember when Aziz took you away,” she said. “I was almost five then but the memory stayed with me because I missed you. Poor Aunt Maryam to have lost you, but I’m happy to have gained you back.” >>>

Longing to touch the untouchable

On Sadegh Hedayat's "The Blind Owl"
Shadi Gholizadeh

Kafka furtively writes, hunched over in an almost madman’s frenzy, the role of Abgrund in Die Brücke. What better way to convey the intensity he feels than to cast his protagonist literally as a bridge- how else could he exhibit her fragility, her need to be used? Munch almost falls over himself as he grabs for the red paint- red for the halo of the Madonna-yes, red- a bright gaudy red, and she is stripped, naked, but how else could he have possibly shown the raw sexuality of a virgin, how else could he have made them understand? Hedayat is lying down as he imagines her, the object of his narrator’s affection, being killed-twice-, slashed and cut and stored away-twice- or maybe three times, he still has not decided, for how else could he express what her presence has caused him and how much unbearably more her death will cause? >>>

Kaashteem, dero kardeem

Memoirs of a "government servant" in the 1960s and 70s
Houshang Pirnazar

THIS is beauty

Far from “breaking my spirit”, Sadegh Hedayat's "Blind Owl" woke me up
Shadi Gholizadeh

My last day in Iran, she shoved a thin paper package into my hand and whispered “read it. THIS is beauty” before she walked back to her library. I held the package close and while sitting in Tehran’s dingy airport staring at a group of unshaven, smarmy men hungrily grasping the eight-foot-tall modelesque blonde KLM flight attendants (a fundamentalist Iranian man’s wet dream) for photos they would probably eagerly flaunt for years, I opened it hoping to find an underground Euro fashion magazine, but instead pulled out a slim paperback entitled “The Blind Owl”.  Damn. Now, THAT, was a letdown if there ever was one. I laughed at the strangeness of my cousin and threw the book to my mom asking her why the hell anyone would read a book about an owl, and a blind one at that >>>

The first encounter

Book excerpt: A different interpretation of the Greek-Persian wars
Dmitry V Shlapentokh

This is a history of a man, one of countless billions, who has lived and died on this planet.  This is the history of Themistocles – the history of a politician who lived in Greece 2500 years ago.  He is of importance to us, for it is he who first leads his Greeks against the Persians; it is he who leads the first democracy against the first truly global despotic empire.  Thus, it was a  war not only of personal triumph, but of the triumph of democracy against the regime of despotism.  In the views of Western historians (and it was they who dominated the field), the Greeks could not but be victorious, for democracy and political liberties were viewed to be not just as a goal in itself, not just as the bright future of humanity, but as prerequisite for political might itself.  Therefore, the Greeks’ victory was inevitable, and therefore too, Themistocles’ personal misfortune was to be no more than a personal tragedy.  This work suggests a different interpretation of events >>>

The Shahnameh

Every time one of my Persian American or Persian Canadian friends goes home to Iran for a visit they always ask me what I would like them to bring me back for a present
Brian Appleton

last summer the younger sister of one of my dearest Persian expat friends brought me back a beautiful illustrated copy of the Shahnameh. I had never read it although I had heard references to it for many decades. I made several false starts but now I have finally started reading it in ernest and it is filled with the very sort of rise and fall of individuals, kingdoms, lovers, prosperity and pestilence, war and peace, intrigue and goodness... for generation after generation after generation, which is the very sort of thing I started this essay by talking about it. To read a classic about this gives me hope that humanity will survive and overcome the IRI, the Bush administration and the Zionists... just like we have lived to watch the rise and fall of the USSR in our life times and the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Ukraine and on and on and on which is still unbelievable to me... as was the reunification of Germany... >>>

Running on the edge

Khaled Hosseini’s "The Kite Runner" reveals plight of women in Islamic countries and gives ammunition to Western hawks
Homayoun Abghari

Despite its dramatic portrayal of life in Afghanistan mainly before the communist takeover and less emphatically during and after the Russian occupation, Khaled Hosseini’s novel “The Kite Runner,” which has won vast literary acclaim in the west, and specially here in the United States, is for the most part a depiction of Afghan life and culture through the lens of an American. More specifically speaking, the writer describes life and political events of Afghanistan in a way that can appeal to the American perception of how life must have been, or is, in Afghanistan. Some writers are just lucky to coincide with certain events and political trends. Very few people remember Alexander Solzhenitsyn and his Gulag Archipelago. But Solzhenitsyn won international fame and prestige and even a Noble Peace Prize in the 1970’s simply because he got a free ride – well not quite very free - on the wave of the Cold War that landed him on the shore of great world renown and acknowledgement >>>

Subtle warmth and admiration
Farid Parsa

Jason Elliot's journeys in Iran in his recent book, Mirrors of the Unseen (London : Picador, 2006), is both entertaining and revealing. As he travels in various parts of the country he unobtrusively weaves the past into the present, informing the reader of the culture with a long history that has contributed copiously to the narrative of human civilization at various junctions of time. Elliot's observation and interaction with people draws a realistic picture of the Iranians today, with their proclivity for pleasure, protest and piety. Elliot has a great ear for humor as he diligently notes them down whenever he sees them, whether in the eccentric behavior of his individual guides, or the paranoia of his bourgeois hosts who believe Iranians leaders including ayatollah Khomeini are the puppets of the Western governments >>>


Seven thousand years of wine

Excerpt & images from Najmieh Batmanglij's
"From Persia to Napa: Wine at the Persian Table"

Wine is seen as the natural partner of many great cuisines, but few people associate it with Persian food, one of the world's most sophisticated culinary traditions. The ties, in fact, are age-old. Iran was one of the nurseries of the wine grape, and, as empires rose and fell there, princes, priests, poets and people in ordinary walks of life all embraced wine in various ways. After Islam came to Iran, wine drinking sometimes slipped from public view, but it never disappeared >>>


Mellow man

Photo essay & Maroufi's new novel, "Fereydoun seh pesar daasht"
Jahanshah Javid


Fereydoun Seh Pesar Daasht

New novel
Abbas Maroufi

Pileh kardan beh melliyoon

Jalal Matini's unfair judgements on the role of nationalists in the 1979 Revolution
Hassan Behgar

Nine ghazals

New translation of Hafez poems
Reza Ordoubadian

Satisfaction of human appetites

New translation of Hafez poems
Reza Ordoubadian

How does one fall in love with Hafez, or any other artist, for that matter? Hafez is one of the principal foundations of the Persian culture, someone whose word is not just experienced on the surface, but whose word provides an inner light, a sense of otherness, that permeates the way of life of the people who experience it. Hafez is, with Rumi, Sadii, and Ferdowsi, one of the rare souls who has molded the thinking of the Iranian people and Persian speakers all over the world for six centuries. One need only go to the traditional music of Iran to notice how often the poems of this fourteenth century poet (1325?-1389? A.D. ) are used as the lyrics for the most delicate airs of the Iranian people. No one who has lived any period of time in Iran escapes exposure to Hafez because he is everywhere in the culture: in the market places and in the streets, on the radio stations and among lovers, between husbands and wives, children at school and taxi drivers >>>

Islam in public

Book excerpt
Elham Gheytanchi


det iranska nationaleposet

Swedish translation of the Shahnameh
Anja Malmberg and Namdar Nasser

Negaahi beh "Ravaabete Iran va Amrika"

A new book on Iran-US relations published by the Iranian Foreign Ministry
Hassan Behgar

Celebration of life

Jahanshah Javid

A few months ago I was on and "From Persia to Napa: Wine at the Persian Table" caught my eye. They said it was going to be on sale soon. Well, it's finally here and publisher Mohammad Batmanglij emailed me last night that my complimentary copy is on its way. I'm thrilled. I have not read a word of the book yet, and I'm not even a fan of wine (I like beer), but Najmieh Batmanglij's choice of subject is so original and refreshing that I can't help but strongly recommend it to everyone. It shows a side of us that celebrates life. And I'll drink to that, anytime.

Through the desert

Excerpt from "Veiled Souls"
Katrin Kassiri & Reza Safarnejad

In 1976 Iran is a peaceful, prosperous and Westernized country. Katrin is an eight year old girl growing up in Northern Iran in a family who follows a minority religion known as the Bahai Religion. Katrin's seventeen year old sister, Nassrin, commits suicide when Katrin's father disapproves of Nassrin's relationship with Hossein who came from a Moslem family. As the family works through their grief, Iran's political situation destabilizes when various political factions such as pro-democracy students and Islamic fundamentalists vie to overthrow the government through a violent revolution. The bloody revolution is followed by a full-scale with Iraq, as Iran's government cracks down on the civil rights of its citizens and openly discriminates against Bahais. Katrin who sees no future for herself in Iran decides to leave for the United States, but she has to brave a trip through the desert of Eastern Iran into Pakistan with the aid of human traffickers >>>

Lessons in success

Hopefully younger Iranian-Americans will try to emulate the success of their Jewish-American counterparts

I thought of what I'm about to write here after a brief conversation with a fellow Iranian-American. A young man in his late 20's who although was well educated surprised me with his comment that he was considering changing his name to a Jewish name. When I asked why -- he explained that in his field of work he deals with wealthy individuals and the Jewish people are more wealthy than other Americans. I asked him what about the overwhelmingly large percentage of Iranian-Americans who are also affluent. Just as I had expected he said he doesn't want to go after them because they don't want to work with Iranians!  Well after that exchange for some reason I got motivated to learn if in fact Jewish Americans do have most of the wealth in this country, and as I was doing my research I digressed into learning more about their success story especially after I came across  The Jewish Phenomenon: Seven Keys to the Enduring Wealth of a People >>>

Here we are

Capturing a new literature by Iranian women of the diaspora
Jasmin Darznik

A quarter century in the making, Iranian-American literature has reached its most vibrant and exciting phase ever. And at last we’ve got the book to prove it. Edited by Persis Karim, Let Me Tell You Where I Have Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora is the first anthology of writing by women of the Iranian diaspora. It contains over a hundred selections of poetry and prose by more than fifty writers. With humor, rage, eloquence, and compassion, its contributors give voice to what it means for Iranian women to live -- and write--in the West today >>>

Profound message of peace

Ann Tyler's Digging to America opens a window to a place that both the Iranians and Americans know only too well
Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani

The recent world events have introduced a new wave of books about Iranians and in fact, there has been more written about Iran during the past two decades than any other period in the history of literature. It is as if the political turmoil has finally awakened the world to not only the existence of the Middle East but also its people, their stories and ancient culture. The sudden interest has flooded the market with books, films and other artful means of information. A bookworm myself, I keep a keen eye out for such books and often read them as soon as they become available. An avid fan of Ann Tyler’s, I looked forward to her upcoming book, Digging to America, and when I learned that the story also portrays Iranian characters, I asked my bookstore to notify me as soon as it came in >>>

Iranian characters
Yassaman Jalali

Iranain authors and even Iranian characters in books are showing up more and more on the literary scene. For example I just came across these 4 new books, 2 with Iranian authors, 2 with Iranian characters:

* Digging to America
by Anne Tyler (she is the late Taghi Moddaressi's wife)
* The Rug Merchant
by Meg Mullins
* My Father's Notebook
by Kader Abdolah
* Jumping Over Fire
by Nahid Rachlin

Honey and Vinegar

Attitudes toward Iran's Assyrian Christians
Eden Naby

Even as the number of Assyrians in Iran diminishes toward the point of extinction, the attitudes about them appear to harden into chauvinistic prejudice. The recent remarks of a high cleric in Urumiyah NOT to buy Assyrian property because they are all leaving and then the property will be free, symbolizes the latent prejudice against non-Muslims. To see similar sentiments expressed by Muslim Iranian émigrés is nothing short of disgusting. The review of Dr. Rami Yelda's book, A Persian Odyssey: Iran Revisited (New York, A. Pankovitch Publishers, 2005) is particularly replete with assertions based on a clear inability to read a well-written and sophisticated book. Indicative of this tendency is the misspelling of the author's name, "Yalda" for Yelda, and then a play on the Persian borrowing of an Aramaic/Syriac word referring to "birth."

Cold & dark

Writing journey to Iran with chip on shoulder
Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani

In A Persian Odyssey, Dr. Yalda, an Assyrian-Iranian-American, pays a visit to Iran, his place of birth and where he grew up. Had the author been less partial, A Persian Odyssey could have been the ideal guide for those who know little of Iran. Since the Islamic revolution, not too many writers with Dr. Yalda’s impressive background have attempted such a daring tour. He takes us from the shores of beautiful Caspian to the mountains and down to the arid desert while telling historical tales along the way and describing the ancient architecture in a most eloquent fashion. Unfortunately, he goes through his journey with a chip on his shoulder and a heart as cold and dark as his namesake, Yalda – the longest night.

Master of the jinn

Excerpt from a Sufi novel
Irving Karchmar

“Not so long ago, as time is counted, there came to a certain oasis far in the western desert a faqir.  He was a Qalandar, a wandering darvish, who had walked the deserts of Africa and Arabia for many years, seeking only solitude wherein he could remember his Creator and contemplate the Divine mysteries.  His virtue and faith, his submission to the will of God, had been rewarded with tranquility of spirit, and his sincerity and devotion on the path of Love was such that the Hidden had been revealed to his heart, and he had become a Wali, a Friend of God.

* Rooz-e avval-e eyd
* Monsieur Hitler

Two short stories from "Aroosi-e Khaaleh, va..."
Vida Ghahremani

Jumping over fire

New novel
Nahid Rachlin

Soon after Maman and Baba took Jahan from the orphanage in Shiraz and brought him to our home in Masjid-e-Suleiman, she got pregnant with me. Jahan was only a year older than me and as we were growing up he was always at my side. He was ahead of me in his development and always took the lead. He taught me new words, held my hand and helped me walk. We spent hours playing together in our spacious house in the Iranian American Oil Company compound. We had a courtyard, a swimming pool and a finished basement. Our parents’ bedroom was on the first floor. Jahan’s and mine was on the second floor and we were able to break rules, indulge in mischief without always being noticed.

Strange and dangerous life

Jewish Muslim, Lev Nussimbaum
Farid Parsa

Lev was born a Jew but embraced Islam and the Orient affectionately. He tried to promote Islam among Europeans. He wrote books on Islam and the life of Mohammed, under the name Essad Bey. He even wrote a book on Reza Shah, originally published in German, during the Nazis era in Vienna. Lev was specially intrigued by Eastern leaders who used the West to their advantage, eiss tells us, and people like Ataturk and Reza Shah Pahlavi became a subject of his fascination for a while.

Tulips from the blood of martyrs

I'm an anthropologist and specialist on Iran, and lived there in 2002 with my two sons
Diane Tober

I took a long hike up to the top of Isfahan's mountain, Koo-ye Soffeh, to visit a monument of unmarked graves. At the top there were about twelve coffins arranged in a circle, like a clock without hands. In the middle of the circle stood a tall pole. Whipping in the wind at the top was the flag of Iran, with the name of Allah written in the center in the stylized form of a red tulip. Below it were several green flags that had been tattered by the wind and faded by the sun. The sun was setting behind the mountain and the last few rays left a faint shadow across one of the graves, resembling a sundial. "What does time mean to the dead, or to those who are left behind?" I wondered.

What is left for me from Sadegh Hedayat?

By M. F. Farzaneh, translated by Moe Maleki

To say that Hedayat’s absence from our generation was irreparable would not be egregious. Hedayat was the trailblazer among Iran’s intellectuals. It was he who disparaged the lofty machinations of the intellectuals and made light of them. It was he who held merit superior to cavalier arrogance. It was he who, in circles that comprised Iran’s intellectual elites, dissected the politics of his day and had the efficacy and courage to accost the den of thieves, idiots, and treasonous individuals.

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Book of the day

The Persian Garden
Echoes of Paradise
By Mehdi Khansari, M. Reza Moghtader, Minouch Yavari
>>> Excerpt