Discovering Herta Mueller After Prison

world | Jan 20, 2010 | By RFE/RL 

Blogger and former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who was jailed in the postelection crackdown and released last month on bail, writes about how he enjoyed reading novels during his time in Tehran’s Evin prison.

We developed a habit of reading novels in the last few months of prison. Each family would bring novels for us and all of us would enjoy reading them.

I used to prefer reading memoirs before, and I could say I have probably read all the memoirs published in the Persian language, but I rarely read novels. Now, I realize what I had missed by not reading novels.

I would take notes about every novel that I read to later publish something of the same sort on my blog, which would now focus more on literature. Since my release, my favorite pastime has become reading novels.

I recently visited the bookshops at Karim Khan street. Many learned writers were present among the publications. One of these writers, who had won the Nobel Prize for literature, had written a book called “The Land Of Green Plums.” I finished that book yesterday, and it was pretty interesting.

Herta Mueller is the author of the book, which was translated by Gholamohsen Mirzasaleh. The book is about the suppression during the [Romanian] communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. I remember his last trip before his execution...was to Iran. Ali Akbar Velayati, then the foreign minister, came under harsh criticism by the parliament and was almost impeached.

The hero in the story is under constant threat while all of his friends either commit suicide or betray him. Everyone pursues their dream of escaping to Germany.... The book is more literary and poetic rather than narrative. I truly enjoyed it. It was printed by Mazyar publications.

One of the beauties of this book is that the first and the last sentence are identical. When we close our lips and do not speak, it tends to become intolerable; that is when we speak and make fools of ourselves. When we read a novel, we get lost in its feeling: the best conditions for escaping the realities of the world around us.

Fortunately, the tradition of novel translation has evolved with great speed in Iran. Special thanks to all our translators who work hard to introduce world literature to us Iranians; and moreover, thanks to all our talented writers who create novels that meet the international standards of writing.

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