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July/August 2003

Literary Border-Crossings in Iran


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.

Iran in Theater

Last summer in New York, two Iranian theatre events cracked open a small window on a dramatically alien world. Each made its impact without benefit of a text that could be comprehended by

from The Moon and the Leopard

In The Moon and the Leopard, author Bijan Mofid developed a hint from a folk tale into a verse drama about the tragic love of the Leopard King for the Moon, first glimpsed as a reflection in

from Cuneiform

Hadjar bore seven children. Aga Akbar was the youngest, and he was born deaf and mute. She knew it even in the first month. She saw that he didn't react. But she didn't want to

Freedom Can Be a Nightmare: An Interview with Kader Abdolah

This interview was originally published August 12, 1995, in NRC Handelsblad. A unique phenomenon in Dutch literature: Kader Abdolah, a political refugee from Iran who writes little gems of

from A Little Less Conversation

Golmohamad turns and makes for the cab. The driver nods and mumbles politely as he turns the key in the ignition. He's wearing a light gray suit and looks like a young Leonid Brezhnew.

from Snow over Tehran

The smell of breakfast and cigarettes permeated the street around the teahouse. On his way in, Bahman recognized the errand boy from the public bath who was coming out with a tray of

Hitchcock and Agha Baji

To my grandmother, and all other grandmothers whom we never treasured as much as they deserved. On that sunny autumn Thursday afternoon, between the hours of two and seven, three unusual

from The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad

Men The market was greedy for hope. In the war-torn bazaar there was cheating and there was the hangman's rope. Sindbad (to a passerby) Do you know where I can find Nofal the


On the death of the poet Forugh Farrokhzad Searching for you on foothills of mountains, on thresholds of oceans and meadows, I cry. Searching for you in windy passes I cry at the crossroads


If this is life-how low! and I, how shamed, if I don't hang my lifetime's lamp high on the dusty pine of this dead-end lane. If this is life-how pure! and I, how stained, if

Iran as Cinema

The movie theater I found myself in was called Freedom; it stood on the corner of two main boulevards that, like the majority of streets in Tehran, are named after martyrs of the revolution:

The Fish

I think my heart has never been like this so warm and red. I feel even in the worst moments of this fatal night several thousand sun-springs in my heart surge up from deep


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