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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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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,...

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