We have to start somewhere

A conversation with novelist Moniru Ravanipor -- in San Francisco


We have to start somewhere
by Lalé Shahparaki Welsh

A week before she speaks at the Iranian Literary Arts Festival in San Francisco (November 14-17), I ask novelist Moniro Ravanipour to give some insights into her world of forbidden expression and her take on the Iranian philanthropy. [Also see original Farsi translacript]

I know you’ll be talking about this at the ILAF panel on Saturday but why do you think Iranian literature isn’t world literature yet?

We’re all waiting for a miracle. We’re waiting for the sky to open up and for everything to just fall into our lap. We don’t think each of us has a personal responsibility. At this point in time, there may be more than 6 million Iranians living abroad, many of whom are financially secure, specially the ones that live in the US—But after all these years away from home, where is that center in the name of Iran? Where is that place that looks like it was built on uniquely Iranian effort? As you know, most American universities are supported financially by American individuals, and people invest heavily in arts and culture. What do we expect? We expect others to pick up the slack for our culture. Opposition to fundamentalism has become hosting a million dollar wedding, and patriotism is reduced to serving Ghormeh Sabzi and Chelow Kabab.

Don’t you think other cultures have the same issues?

The Goethe Institute has branches all over the world. How come we’ve done nothing?

If the people of the world aren’t familiar with the guidance of Mahmood Dowlat-Ababdi or Ahmad Mahmood, then at least they know Rumi. Why is there no cultural society in his name yet? Not just for the sake of it, but for the promotion of storytelling and literature—to support talented writers, and to give literary grants! Does everyone else have to do everything for us?

When I was in Iran I was so excited to hear about Anoushe Ansari’s flight into space. This event momentarily changed the closed and tired atmosphere in Iran, and planted seeds of hope in the heart of every Iranian woman. So I wonder, does Ms. Ansari ever think in her mother tongue? Don’t other people of means want to do something to promote their own mother tongue?

So you think Anoushe Ansari has a responsibility to her mother tongue? Why her? Why not the government of Iran?

We have to start somewhere. Time has shown that the political system in our country can only change our holiday “Chehar-shanbeh Soori” (literally means ‘Wednesday celebration’) which is a sign of friendship and peace into “chehar-shanbeh Sooozi” (which translates to Wednesday inferno). The system that has created the conniving mentality of pitting “us” against “them” and it has to be removed by the root, before we can do something for our own language. This language is a gift that has been handed down to us and the least we can do, is as much as forefathers did, which is pass it down to the next generation. We need to build hope against all this hopelessness that’s so rampant in our country.

What is your experience publishing books in Iran? What is it 8 or 9?

The experience of publishing a book in Iran is an extremely difficult process. The last 30 years have been (cleansing/censorship) but it has had its highs and lows. I was very beleaguered around my first book. The book was enslaved and held hostage for 8 years before it got to print. But after 1369 (1990) the situation got a little better and I was able to publish my books: Del e Foolad (Heart of Steel), Ahl e Ghargh (The Drowned) and Sangha ye Sheytan (Satan’s Stones). Since we are the mercy of censorship, we cannot follow the usual writing protocol. Often, a writer’s first book takes much longer to get published than their second or third. Censorship, which is a relic from the days of slavery, enslaves writers, painters and filmmakers. It does not allow us to publish our books in an organic way. This is why authors like me have learned to write the book and let it sit at home until it’s due for publication. I only published two books in the 1370’s (1990’s) Koli e Kenar e Atash (Gypsy by Fire) and Siriah Siriah. In the 1380’s (2000’s) which is not over yet, I have two books published; Namhaye Nazly (Nazly) and Zan e Foroodgah e Frankfurt (Woman at the Frankfurt Airport). I also have 3 other books ready for print: Fereshetei Rooye Zamin (Angel on Earth) Shabhayeh Shoor Angiz (Wonderful Nights) and Asheghan e Ahd e Atiq (Ancient Lovers).

I am saddened for myself and my fellow writers who are embattled with a group of narrow minded, self absorbed people with underdeveloped principles, who still think they can create the world in their own image.

Tell us about the state of literature inside Iran.

It’s been about 9 month since I left Iran but I am well aware of what’s happening there. I know that Vistar Bookstore has been destroyed and Yaaghoob Nad-Ali has been tried and imprisoned. Until the last day I was in Iran and was reading the books that have been printed, I got the feeling that because most writers, think we’re not supposed to be political, they have simply retreated to the kitchen. Only a very few have maintained their integrity. In reality, our literature doesn’t have much stamina against the oppression of being “red lined” with increasing limitations on a daily basis.

As you know living and writing under the rules of another is not a modern human condition. We would fool ourselves into thinking that censorship is not so bad and it can even promote creativity. This was a mantra that many belabored and consequently endorsed the current condition of Iranian Literature. Like a condemned prisoner we convinced ourselves that someday our sentence would be over and so we turned a blind eye to many of society’s injustices. A free thinking writer does not acquiesce to the mind-numbing laws of oppression. A free thinking writer is against oppression, not a party to it. Of course, I do know writers who write independently, and do not give in to the absurdity of censorship.

How do you spend your time in the US?

I have an office at The Black Mountain Institute, an affiliate of the University of Nevada which I go to everyday. It is run by Carol Harter who used to be the Dean of the University 10 years ago. This institution is really a sanctuary for writers from all over from Jamaica, to Africa to New York. What’s attractive for me is the tireless work of women like Carol who put so much into bringing color to the cultural face of their home towns. There are women here that put everything they have into the furthering of cultural causes. The University of Nevada and its affiliates only thrive on contributions from individuals. Unlike wealthy women in Iran who see friendship as serving Ghormeh Sabzi and Kabab, wealthy women here place a great deal of importance on preserving the integrity of their societies.

I don’t know when we are going to realize that our language is our nation, and it goes wherever we go in mind, body and soul, and is part of the fabric of our existence.

[Also see original Farsi translacript]



Thanks Ms. Welsh

by farrad02 on

Good work!



by Faribors Maleknasri M. D. (not verified) on

yes it is so. many rich iranians begged for an audienz and they got the permission from HIM. they offered money. as answer HE should have said: go and make a clean Work, I do not want anything from you. It is said that rich iranians in USA and CANADA did a lot for the revolution as the bazaries in tehran as the farmers as the workers as the army as the teachers as the customs-officers as Bank-people as students as schoolgirs and schoolboys as mothers as sisters as brothers as grand PAs as grand MAs as sons in lows as brides as bridegrooms as neighbures as relatives as ..............but the most effective action came from workers of the oil facilities. they stoped delivering on USRAEL and the apartheid in south africa and the army of the most little satan in Iran. since then the south africans are Fans of iranian revolution. as the bushy bushy went there and asked them to interrupt their relations with IRI they nerely throw him out of their country.Now all the named and unnamed iranians will celebrate the CHAHARSHANBEH SUZI and burn down the devils as a political action. However only symbolically. Greeting


Moniru a hero?

by Faribors Maleknasri M. D. (not verified) on

Of course she is one! No body doubts. She is a "IRANIAN" hero. Greeting


this is a ridiculously

by Shiva (not verified) on

this is a ridiculously superficial and baseless interview. Moniru Ravanipoor is a wonderful writer and here there's not even a speck of allusion to her writing. What kind of festival is this going to be for literature????
and one correction: not all wealthy Iranian women serve ghormeh sabzi! there are lots of wealthy Iranians, men or women who have made wonderful contribution to their country.



by Faribors Maleknasri M. D. (not verified) on

dont YOU mind about Norooz or CHAHARSHANBEH SUZI. The coming Norroz will be the happiest one iranians have celebrated. Please acknowledge the following:
Iran's nuclear power plant in Bushehr will operate under the strict control of the UN's nuclear watchdog, a senior Russian official says.
"The IAEA will arrive in Russia to put a seal on the fuel containers," added Ivanov.
Ivanov stressed Russia would provide Iran with the first consignment of nuclear fuel as soon as his country resolves its payment disputes with Iran.
NUCLEAR FUEL WAS SCHEDULED to arrive at the plant IN MARCH - iranian NOrooz ( new year ) Holiday - and Moscow had agreed to make the plant operational in September. The Russian contractor, however, has so far failed to fulfill its commitments.
Some western countries claim that Iran intends to use its nuclear technology and power plant in Bushehr to develop nuclear bombs, but Iran says it is building the facility to produce electricity.
the self named Tazi shanassan know of course also every thing about iran. The Norroz is the first day in spring. and just imagin: the Nuclear plant Bushehr starts Production in the Norroz holidays. isnt it wonderfull? The coming norooz is God blessed, it is a yomollah my friend. what a glory. the devils - that are the great and the little satans - are God damned. that is no pitty.Since 1978/79 have iranians and all other Moslems - from Indonesia to andalusia - learned to concentrate on principals. so forget all you have learned about omar! These ARGIFS are not actual any more because the Nation can not be decomposed by them any longer.Just forget them my friend. Greeting


az zamani ke.............

by Faribors maleknasri M.D. (not verified) on

man agar be ingilissi minevissam baraye in ast ke hurufe farsi nadaram. albate pessaram chandin bar barayam barnamerisi kardeh, vali motassefaneh nemitavanam an barnamera be kar begiram. Mazuram! inja as forssat estefade mikonam va migujyam: har bar ke kalemeye CHAHARSHANBEH SUZI be khateram mi a yad yek no khshhali dar khod ehssass mikonam. dar alame takhayol lashe haye jezghale shodeye shayatayn ra dar attashe CHAHARSHANBE SUZI mibinam. hamantor ke nevissande ye maghale neveshte: mana ye CHAHAR SHANBE SUZI inferno of wendsday mibashad. in this inferno tamame shayatayn khahand sucht wa khayli as melatha ye jahan rahat khahand shod. anha hamegi as ironiha tashakor khahand kard. man as tamam khanandegan an maghale khahesh daram be mohtawaye siassi kalame tawajoh konand. CHAHAR SHANBEH SUZI= Inferno of wendsday relates to devils, so God will they will all burn out.
CHAHAR SHANBEH SUZI what a beutiful word. J
ust this morning I heard in radio: american authors and literates do not want to bother their readers with political subjects! In iran every atuthor MUST perform her/his social duty, speak and write politically. the iranians have only one weapon to defend themselves: political education. In america this education have only authores. they keep the american nation away from politics. so can bushy bushy and condolence do the job. Greeting


Charshanbeh soori is an anti

by tazi shenas (not verified) on

Charshanbeh soori is an anti Omar idea and ritual. Omar's pic was usually burned in fire and after charshanbehg soori norooz comes. if charshanbeh soori is taken away next will be norooz. you must tell the world that any of these actions are pro omar and pro tazi. if anyone is tazi parast they must be idetified and told to leave.
dman omar the bastard who took our land 1350 years ago


Moniru is a hero!

by 141 (not verified) on

I loved every word Moniru said, what a wonderful person and what a great interview and conversation. Makes me jealous I wasn't in that room. Great job Lale jan! Moniru shows that there are signs of life in the intellectual community and that the flame and spirit of defiant free thought and free will has not been extinguished by those that don't get it, and fear anything that is not specifically in Mohammad's plagiarized book, and therefore want to choke it's breath.


az zamani ke USrael shoroo

by Raha (not verified) on

az zamani ke USrael shoroo be eshghaal-, chapaavol- va baalkaanize kardane keshvarhaaye oon mantaghe karde, iraaniaa(ke tedaade ziaadishoon ham bishtar be engelisi minevisand) bishtar be fekre 'aazaadiye' hamvatanaaneshoon oftaadand. oon ham be ghole aghaaye Faribors Maleknasri, az injaa. yaa be ebaarati invare god istaadan migan lengesh kon.

dar haale haazer hamsaayegaane Iran, sarbaaz-haaye mosallahe amrikaa'ee, englisi, Esraaeeli va.. baa selaah-haaye moderneshoon hastan. faaseleye beyne chahaarshanbe-soori va infernoye haghighi in rooz-haa kheyli kheyli kam shodeh.

Bush Administration War Plans //www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&...


we have to start..........

by Faribors Maleknasri M. D. (not verified) on

we? in the diaspora? from hier chnging things there in our country? Our country? we have no country. most of us living in the diaspora have not even had ever a country. the country belongs to those who have done something for it. they have founded a new country. it was no easy play. Blood and life had to be sacrificed. they, the ones who sacrificed lay in BEHESHTE SAHRA. THEY are the real owner of "our" country. the disenteds protect now if neccessary with sacrificing moer blood and more lives. they have decided to make out of CHAHARSHANBE SURRY CHAHRSHANESUZY: Yes it mean INFERNO. Inferno for devils, bushy bushys and condolences. you understand? In a time where the devils stand on the doors of "OUR" country grunting and barking the iranians have realised these devils need an inferno. they will perform it if the devils would ever do a damn thing to THEIR country. No body can do anything either right nor wrong to our country. because just simple: we have not got any. CHAHRSHANBEH SUZY what a PLEASANT PLEASING AGREEABLE OBLIGING and COMPLAISANT kind of word. Iranians in IRI: put paid to the thing celebrate the CHAHARSHANBE SUZY. God`s Blessing be with you. Greeting.