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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 2. Zemestān-e 62: A New Normal in the Persian War Novel


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A New Normal in the Persian War Novel

The Theme of War

Zemestān-e 62 addresses many themes, among which the Iran–Iraq War takes center stage. It characterized the war “as [a] cholera and pestilence [that] had come over people’s children’s lives.1 They fall like leaves during the autumn.”2 By using war as the dominant theme of the novel, it is likely that the author managed to ease the personal tensions that it created for him. The novel also explores people’s displacement and fear, family disruption, and the destruction of cities and landscapes as the colossal effects of war. For instance, in the following passage, from an essay written by one of the narrator’s students, the onset of the war and its devastating impact on civilian life in southern Iran are depicted:

The beautiful silver-colored moon sparkles on the blue and starry sky of Dezful. People are sleeping in their homes. Suddenly, the Russian ground missiles from the Iraqi military base, which is under the commandership of the lunatic barbarian Saddam Hussein, breaks the heart of the night and destroys the houses of innocent civilians. … In the distance, between Andisheh and Shahid Qāsemi Lane, houses and stores have been transformed into a puddle of mud and dirt. … People have gathered at this spot, and aid-workers are trying their best to offer relief. Dirt has completely covered the entire street. The...

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