Writing War in Contemporary Iran

The Case of Esmāʻil Fasih’s Zemestān-e 62

by Saeedeh Shahnahpur (Author)
©2019 Monographs XIV, 186 Pages


Writing War in Contemporary Iran offers a complete account of Esmā’il Fasih’s life, works, and position in contemporary Iranian literature. This book uses a text-based analysis of Fasih’s wartime novel Zemestān-e 62 (The Winter of ‘83, 1985) as a case study, and illustrates how the book set a precedent for anti-war novels that appeared in the period following the Iran–Iraq War. Unlike the many one-dimensional novels of the time which focused only on state ideology, Fasih’s novel grapples with broader issues, such as the state’s war rhetoric and the socio-political realities of life in wartime, including the impact of the War of the Cities on the daily lives of Iranians, government policies and their enactment, and the contribution of the upper class to war efforts. In this vein, The Winter of ‘83 was the first Persian anti-war novel that was different in that it did not present a glorified or heroic vision of the war and its participants. Furthermore, the book deals with the analysis of Fasih’s postwar novels, which emphasized the roles and sacrifices of Iranian women during the war—a neglected theme in Persian war novels—marking him as one of the most culturally important war writers in contemporary Iran.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Notes on Translations, Transliterations, and Endnotes
  • System of Transliteration
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Esmā′il Fasih and His Oeuvre
  • His Life and Career
  • Pre-Revolutionary Writings
  • Post-Revolutionary Writings
  • Wartime Novels: Reaction of the Upper Class
  • Post-War Novels: Representation of Female Martyrs
  • Collections of Short Stories
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Chapter 2. Zemestān-e 62: A New Normal in the Persian War Novel
  • The Theme of War
  • On Martyrdom and Martyr: The Uses of War Rhetoric
  • Reflections on Love and Death as an Inseparable Union
  • Anticipation in Zemestān-e 62 versus Waiting for Godot
  • Together but Alone
  • Chapter 3. Gender and Class Disparity
  • The Upper-Class Characters
  • The Working-Class Character
  • Female Characters
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Chapter 4. Spatial-Temporal Significance in War
  • Cities at the Warfront
  • A City Outside the War Zone
  • Temporal Indications
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index of Esmā′il Fasih’s Fictional Works
  • Index of People and Places
  • General Index

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The current book was developed from my doctoral thesis, successfully defended in September 2016 at Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS). At the initial stage, my PhD research was directed towards writing a comprehensive account of Iranian war fiction in post-revolutionary Iran in order to examine how this genre was used as a mobilizing tool during the Iran–Iraq War. After reading wartime novels published inside Iran, I realized that Esmā′il Fasih’s Zemestān-e 62 was divergent from other novels of the time with respect to the use of narrative elements. It was also surprising that a very limited number of works have been written in English on the significance of this novel, or the position of Esmā′il Fasih in contemporary Persian literature. Therefore, I decided to write my research exclusively on Fasih and his Zemestān-e 62, intending that it be a valuable contribution to the field of Iranian Studies.

“How and why can an entire book be devoted to the study of Zemestān-e 62?” I often received this common question from academics and non-academics alike when I discussed my work with them. For most of them, it was hard to imagine how it is possible to analyze this novel in such a way that produces a book. The reason that the current book deals only with Zemestān-e 62 is derived from the fact that it is packed with references to the socio-political ← ix | x → stance of the post-revolutionary Iran, as well as the government’s wartime policies, aspects that had no place in commissioned novels during the war, and could otherwise only be seen in post-war novels. Moreover, Fasih’s reputation, both in Iran and abroad, rests heavily on Sorayyā dar Eghmā and Zemestān-e 62, which became the most controversial novels of his oeuvre. Sorayyā dar Eghmā primarily deals with Iranian intellectuals’ life in exile and scenes from the War of Cities, while Zemestān-e 62 is Fasih’s first war-centric novel which was well-received by its readers, despite the fact that it was banned for several years (between 1987 and 2003) inside Iran due to (as claimed by the Iranian government) its anti-Islamic and anti-government tenors.

For the development of the original manuscript, I must thank several people, whose encouragement, inspiration, and support paved the way for the final production. First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my mentor, Dr. Ali Asghar Seyed-Ghorab for his continuous motivation, guidance, and support. His inspiring suggestions have been invaluable for the improvement of this book. I would also like to thank Dr. Alireza Korangy Esfahani and the Pennsylvania State University Press for giving me permission to reuse my published article in this book.

I am very grateful to my family, especially to my parents, who have always supported me in following my dreams. My special thanks go to my brother for being my best supporter and motivator. I must say that without his genuine support and encouragement I could not have finished this book. I would also like to express my thankfulness to my sisters for their support and help. Without a doubt, my younger sister was the one who patiently listened to my concerns and motivated me with writing. I thus dedicate this book to my family as a token of appreciation for what they have done for me.

I would also like to express my gratitude to all the colleagues and staff of LIAS for the most amiable working atmosphere, enabling me to complete this book on time.

My special thanks go to Jenneka Janzen, for the copyediting of the manuscript as well as for her invaluable suggestions. She was always available when I needed help with any kind of editing matters. I will never forget her sincere assistance.

Last but not least, I must thank the editorial and production team of Peter Lang Publishers for their kind cooperation. It was my great honor and privilege to work with them.

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I have endeavored to remain as faithful to the original Persian texts as possible. Where I have occasionally felt that a literal English translation rendered the meaning of a certain passage somewhat unclear, I have added words in order to clarify the intended meaning. Unless otherwise stated, translations of the Persian texts referenced in this work are my own.

Throughout, I use the Common Era calendar in writing dates. For the publication dates of Persian sources, I have used their Common Era equivalent.

Any references to “Persian,” “Persian writers,” “Persian literature,” “Persian poetry,” “Persian novel” etc., imply only that the relevant literary works were written in Persian by Iranian writers; Persian is not only the official language of Iran, but also that of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and other parts of Central Asia.

Regarding the transliteration of Persian names, words, and terms, I have used the system of transliteration below. For the sake of simplicity, I have used Anglicized forms of Arabic and Persian words which have become common in English. For instance, I write “Quran,” rather than “Qur′ān” or “Koran.” I have also remained faithful to the transliteration of names or titles in quotations. The names of Iranian authors, critics, and poets who have had their ← xi | xii → works published in English have not been transliterated, whereas the names of those whose works have appeared solely in Persian have been. For transliteration of Arabic names and words, I have followed the system used by the Encyclopaedia of Islam, with the exception of the letter (ق) which is transliterated as “q” instead of “ḳ.”

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The Iran–Iraq War: An Overview


XIV, 186
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (November)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XIV, 186 pp.

Biographical notes

Saeedeh Shahnahpur (Author)

Saeedeh Shahnahpur is currently a researcher at Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), and has published a number of articles on Iranian literature.


Title: Writing War in Contemporary Iran
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