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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 3. Gender and Class Disparity


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Characterization or the identification of fictional characters, through their speech, actions, external appearances, and behaviors, is one of the key dimensions in literary analysis, including in Zemestān-e 62. Fasih ascribes to his fictional characters the properties of individuals whom he has met during his lifetime; this does not mean that he simply copies them from life to writing. In this regard, he asserts:

In my view, either in a novel or in a short story, the writer does not take his characters from the air, but he or she chooses them from his or her own life, especially those who had inspired the writer. However, it is possible that in the course of the story, the author adds some characteristics to those characters, or increases the number of them, or even transforms them. I do not think that in any of my works there are characters that are outside my destiny and personal life.1

Therefore, they are identical with real individuals in several ways: physically, behaviorally, and psychologically. The various characters react to the Iran–Iraq War in different ways, but in each case, they react directly and personally, so that the war’s transformation of their lives is expressed via the transformation of their feelings and experiences. The fictional characters are introduced and portrayed by the omniscient narrator, Jalāl Āriyān, who is highly communicative with them. ← 107 | 108 →


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