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Writing War in Contemporary Iran

The Case of Esmāʻil Fasih’s Zemestān-e 62

Saeedeh Shahnahpur

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.

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Chapter 1. Esmā′il Fasih and His Oeuvre


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His Life and Career

Esmā′il Fasih was born on February 21, 1935 in Bāzārcheh-ye Darkhungāh, which lies in the southern precincts of Tehran.1 Fasih’s father, Arbāb Hasan, was an illiterate grocery store owner, and died when Fasih was only two years old. In 1941, at the age of six, he started his schooling at ′Onsori Elementary School in Tehran. This period coincided with the outbreak of the Second World War, when the Allied forces occupied Iran. It was at this age that Fasih discovered fiction through one of his sisters. This sister, who used to borrow books such as Leyli and Majnun by Nezāmi of Ganja (d. 1209) and works by Michel Zevaco (1860–1912), would read them aloud to him at home. When he turned ten, Fasih became a dedicated reader. This hunger for reading fiction led Fasih to choose writing as his career. Regarding this, he states that “a compulsive reader might become a compulsive writer in the course of time.”2

He continued his education at Rahnamā High School in 1947 and there earned his diploma. This period in Fasih’s life corresponded with the coup d’état of August 19, 1953, which resulted in the fall of Mohammad Mosaddeq (1882–1967) and his nationalist government.3 During Mosaddeq’s premiership, the government had announced that whoever wanted to be exempt from ← 23 | 24 → conscription would...

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