Cultural Lumpenism (4)

Keeping up appearances at any cost is Iran’s national lumpenist trait


Cultural Lumpenism (4)
by Azadeh Azad

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6

It is obvious that for Dowlat-Abadi, the origin of censorship by the “cultural management” is not its fundamentalist ideology and repressive attitude, but only its dogmatism. That’s why a few sentences ahead, he sympathized with the censors of the Ministry of Islamic Guidance as victims of their own actions. He said,

“This discourse that they want to hear and hear it from the mouth of others, because they don’t hear it, they constantly repeat it themselves; what’s the use? This will exhaust the system itself and this exhaustion will break it down from within, because you can observe every single individual who works within the country’s official cultural system and notice that each of them, too, is sore-hearted by this issue.” (37)

This is the first time I read about such sympathy for the agents of cultural repression by an “intellectual.”

“Q: I’d like to know how, in the years after the Revolution, this governmental management of the cultural affairs took shape. That is, how did you encounter the first examples of it?

“I think my experience in the first encounters was in the year 1980 or 1981 when “Missing Solouch” was published. They told me they would not give me permission to reprint the book. So, I went to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. I told those gentlemen: “Note that literature cannot be written on order, but is written freely. However, if somewhere there are elements that are against our ethical and cultural and religious standards, it is not bad to notify the person about that. But this literature that is created freely, if it is worthy [read: if it is according to the Ministry of Islamic Guidance’s standards], its worth would belong to everyone; that is, its honour and respect would belong to anyone who is the citizen of a country, it belongs to you as well. Because you’re speaking the same language that I speak.”  So, I convinced them to allow my book to be reprinted.” (38)

The similarity between the cunning language of Dowlat-Abadi and that of the Mullahs is amazing. And how much more proof of the collaboration of this novelist with the Fundamentalist elite who are running the censorship spectacle in Iran is needed?

12.  Dowlat-Abadi’s approval of the censorship of his own work

In the December 2011 conversation between Dowlat-Abadi and two journalists from Shargh monthly magazine, we read the following:

“Q: In the book “Noon-e Neveshtan” [a collection of personal notes], you have written that when in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance of that time they told you that if you want “Kelidar” to become a national and popular work, you need to remove some points from it, this statement had seemed reasonable to you. Do you believe that the writer, when writing, should consider some points for the sake of popularization of his work even if those points are contrary to the work’s structure?

“Dowlat-Abadi: Not while writing. During writing, it is the structure of the work that advances the text. What you are referring to relates to when the work is written; it is another look at it. In other places, usually the editor is the “other” look and overseer of the work. But here …, especially concerning “Kelidar” and the case I have written about, in the “Islamic Guidance” I was given a suggestion and I realized it was very reasonable and I even greatly thanked that person, “Javād Farid-zādeh”. He had seen this point from another perspective and with good intention, and for me another look at the work is very important, and I respect all the reviews of my works - , especially if they have been and are based on honesty. But in the process of writing, I had not paid attention to those points that were referred to.

“Q: But then, you realized it was more reasonable to remove those points. Is that right?

“Dowlat-Abadi: Yes, because the statement was correct and did not hurt the book. There were two sentences and those two sentences could be harmful and I eliminated this harm. Because the objection was justified from all angles. I do not carry a grudge against anyone.” (39)

This writer does not seem to understand the core socio-political meaning of the issue of censorship, nor does he demonstrate any preoccupation with the right of all people, especially the writers, to freedom of expression. Instead, he makes it look like something contingent, unplanned and even positive. Let’s remember that cultural lumpens not only collaborate with repressive regimes, they also lack the capacity for theoretical thinking.

13. Dowlat-Abadi’s defence of the Islamic Constitution in relation to the Freedom of Expression and Cultural production 

“Q: The issue of the legality of conflicts and constraints has always been discussed. For instance, about censorship, there are always two different points of view. One theory, which also belongs to the Iranian Writers’ Association, says that we do not at all believe in something called censorship in order to later determine its criteria. But there is also an opposite view that says this vision is unrealistic, because there is censorship anyway. But now that it is there and cannot not to be there, why not determine positions and criteria for it, so that the task of the writer and artist would be clear in dealing with it, and if a conflict takes place outside of this framework, one would be able to cope with it. What’s your opinion?

“Dowlat-Abadi: I believe that the Constitution has given its view about cultural production.  According to this law, once a work is published, it finds either a private plaintiff or a public plaintiff. That is, either an individual becomes a plaintiff or the government.  And the writer or publisher appears in front of the jury and answers questions and the issue is legally solved. So, there is no need for the imposition of a new law concerning the censorship as well that needs to be recognized by us. You may write a book, I become a plaintiff by referring to some evidence, and then the jury is formed and will handle my claim. This is the best situation.” (40)

Well, looking for the “freedom of expression” in the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran, I found Article 24 of the Chapter III (The Rights of the People), which states:

“Publications and the press have freedom of expression except when it is where there is infringement of the basic tenets of Islam or public rights. In this respect detailed provisions will be laid down by law.” (41)

Based on this article, it is very clear that writers cannot write what they want, but only what is within the framework of the Islamic morality and beliefs. Therefore, Dowlat-Abadi’s convoluted defence of the Islamic Constitution in regard to “cultural production” does not make any sense.

14.  Dowlat-Abadi’s attempts to whitewash the issue of censorship in Iran

In an interview with Elāheh khosravi Yegāneh from the BBC Persian, published on May 21, 2008, Mr. Dowlat-Abadi answered the journalist’s questions as follows:

“Mr. Dowlat-Abadi, before the Revolution our society faced with things like censorship and repression as well. It was actually because of these things that Revolution happened. And in that period, brilliant works were published. From Prince Ehtejāb Golshiri to Bahrām Sādeghi’s short stories. But now …”

“Dowlat-Abadi: That time was different from now in one way and it was the fact that the writers knew "what" they were facing,  “what” knew too “who” it was facing; but now this rupture does not  exist only among the writers,  which has caused everyone to be thrown into a corner of the world. This rupture of the gaze also exists within the spectrum that is responsible for censorship.

“I am sure many of the reviewers in the Ministry of Guidance read literary works with pleasure, but when it’s time for licensing, they think perhaps it’s better if someone else sign it.

“Well, this duality and multiplicity is nothing new in our country and the flaw of the situation is a political flaw. Because different political currents are not evident in our country. They too double act and therefore, you cannot understand this current that is now active in the press section, nor what kind of outlook the Ministry has. Perhaps it agrees with you, we don’t know. Perhaps it’s against you. We don’t even know it is against what. We don’t know it agrees with what. Because the criteria are not clear. When a research book, which was written about 100 years ago, goes to the Ministry of Guidance and stops there, what can I understand from this? This book is not about the present-day and for instance is a study about Dr. Qāni. Why do you prohibit this book?

“During that time, Bahrām Sādeqi’s situation as a nihilist writer was clear. Golshiri’s situation, as a writer who wanted to overcome his own nihilism, was clear. … And Qolām-hossein Sā’edi too, as someone who had the backing of the Constitutional Revolution in Tabriz and was looking for transformation, had a clear situation. In fact, for each of these people and their works, we could define an ID card. The State too knew who was recognized and who wasn’t. But now we are in an unknown situation. No one knows who the other one is. We have neither nihilist, nor liberal, nor community-oriented, and nor abstractionist and we have everything (!) But practically our literary community is suffering from vertigo. So, I cannot have any judgment on it either.” (42)

15.  Dowlat-Abadi’s attempts to whitewash the issue of censorship in Iran before the foreign media

”Now, why do we need  to impose laws for censorship that say there should be censorship but we need to know its limits? Our present problem is a fundamental problem. It means that the government officials make biased thoughtful interpretation [of the Islamic Constitution]. A man believes that he is serving the system, but his service to the system is about blocking any voice. I, who am not the member of this system, believe that such person or persons have an anti-system behaviour, if there is no place to express my opinion. Let me say that I don’t think that in our history there would be little evidence and instances concerning this issue that the closest and most glib-tongued people around important personalities, not only have hurt them, but also have caused their decline. By the way, all those people thought they were acting in favour of those personalities and system.  But I look at it differently. This means that even the person or persons who are very interested in the political system that feeds them, would be better to present a good and honourable face for that political system. And not to end up with a situation that, for instance, when I go abroad, the first question I am asked is: “What is your opinion about the report that 4000 books have remained in the backroom of censorship?” I, of course, do not give an answer that would confirm this view, because I do not know anything about it. But what is this image that you have made of yourselves, that as soon as they meet a writer, this is the question they ask of him?

“Although three books of mine are caught in the audit, in response I said: “I do not think we have 4000 authors whose works have been caught in the Ministry of the Culture and Islamic Guidance. Because if we have 4000 authors whose works are so important that the audit is needed, so what a flourishing society we are!”

What a manipulative and convoluted response to the foreigners for supporting the Islamic regime! Didn’t Dowlat-Abadi tell us the Iranians,  in another occasion, that the censorship – which he calls “audit” while abroad - of the authors gives them the false impression of being excellent writers? So, why is it that he contradicts himself while outside of Iran, by saying that the need for auditing 4000 writers implies that their words are “so important”? And how could he call himself “not the member of this system” when he is doing such a demagogic job to save face of the Islamic regime and its censors?

And Dowlat-Abadi continues speaking to the Iranians:

“But the fact is that the type of method and behavior of the gentlemen has induced this view. Now, the gentlemen may say it is not important to them what others think. But, as an Iranian, it is important to me how my country is being judged, and when I travel to a country in the company of my publisher on the invitation of a cultural unit, I do not want to collapse by the first question. What is this other than collapsing?” (43)

One is tempted to ask Mr. Dowlat-Abadi: Why is it that thousands of other Iranian writers, who live abroad as refugees or expatriates, do not collapse when they are asked questions about the veracity of repression and censorship of the writers by the Islamic fundamentalists? Are they less patriotic than the writers of the regime? Why is it that only those lumpen intellectuals, who are afraid of the light of truth, are worried about collapsing out of shame of defending a fascist regime?

Keeping up appearances at any cost and by doing “Taqiyeh” (Islam-approved lie) is Iran’s national lumpenist trait. It is present in all spheres of social life, from the most private to the most public.

*16. Dowlat-Abadi’s political instability, unreliability and opportunism

Cultural lumpens shift their attitudes and opinions according to circumstances. Whenever they feel threatened, they quickly change direction.

Dowlat-Abadi’s unstable and changing positions on social and political issues, from rejecting his leftist friends to defending the Hardliners to supporting the Islamic Reformists are parts of his cultural lumpenism, which has manifested itself on different occasions.

*A. In a September 2002 interview with a reporter from the governmental

newspaper “Iran”, Dowlat-Abadi said, “I’m a novel writer and especially the job of a novel writer is to create a reality for the sake of escaping the daily adverse reality; …. Therefore maybe it is surprising that you have come to me for political discussion.” (44) Here, the novelist is again insinuating to be is a-political.

Also, in his book “Noon-e Neveshtan” (2009), he said, “All my life I have been escaping from myself and when I write, I feel I am escaping from myself.” (45) For Dowlat-Abadi, writing has always been the best action and the only refuge for freeing himself from difficulties and pains and for escaping from “social immoralities” (46)

Based on the above statements on his motivation for writing, as well as his assertion in a 2007 Radio Zamaneh interview that “we cannot change the world”,

we could assert that Dowlat-Abadi is not a writer in search of truth or concerned about social issues or interested in joining other writers in their struggle to change the Iranian society for the better. After all, he does not believe that anything can change.

However, the writer’s above statements are in complete contrast to his 2007 (1385) interview with Radio Zamaneh, when he spoke of the advice he had recently given to the young, aspiring writers:

“I told them, in comparison to my own youth: you do not believe in anything. One has to believe in something in order to be able to write. For instance, in the modern times, one must have faith in globalization. Think of globalization as a definite and unavoidable matter. So, go and dig. Or on the contrary, for instance think that our society is the centre of a clash between tradition and modernity; believe in this matter. Go and dig, and bring something out of this. But without belief, and writing only for the sake of writing, writing for the sake of becoming a writer, writing for the sake of becoming famous, these do not take anyone anywhere.”(47)

It is astonishing to see that Dowlat-Abadi gives such advices when he not only implies to be a-political, but also explains that writing for him is an escape from his pains, a refuge and a food, towards which he has a “sacred angst” (48).

The first impression the listener / reader gets is that Dowlat-Abadi says whatever comes to his mind or according to some unknown motivation, as he appears quite opportunistic and without any real conviction. But after a while, one realizes that the novelist is trying to speak like a reformist who is concerned about his social surrounding or even world events.

To be continued.


(37). سبز روزنامه کلمه

(38) Ibid.

(39) مجله ماهانه شرق

(40) Ibid.

(41) The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran

(42) گفتگو با محمود دولت آبادی؛ از ادبیات دل نمی کنم . مه ۲۰۰۸   ۲۱ .بخش فارسی بی بی سی

(43) Ibid.

(44)ایران روزنامه

(45) نوشتن نونِ  . ۱۳۸۸ (۲۰۰۹)  ، مرضیه جعفری

(46) Ibid.

(47) ۲۰۰۷ رادیو زمانه، 

(48) ۲۰۰۹ ،  ، مرضیه


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