Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Writing is a Haven: The Second Part of my Article for the Literary Review of Canada


ECHOES FROM EXILE: WRITING IS A HAVEN

By Ava Homa
Literature, music and art were my friends and shelter, my hope and my salve. The rebellious poetry of Ahmad Shamlou and Forough Farrokhzad, the mystical writings of classic Persian poets Rumi and Hafez, the enchanting short stories of Hedayat, Choubak and Golshiri healed me, despite the corrosive environment in which I was living. Writing was and is a necessity of my life; more than theme and content, the beauty and uplifting nature of literature, its power to humanize, mattered to me. Literature, art galleries and the classic Persian music of Nazeri and Kamgarha helped me feel less bitter and isolated and more forgiving and compassionate. Writing was also a haven, a type of therapy; it gave meaning to my existence, it was a means of reflection, discovery and joy.
While I was studying for my master’s in English language and literature, I attended many fiction and screenplay writing workshops. After two years of weekly writing, Siamak Gloshiri, my knowledgeable, charming, but picky, instructor, singled me out to tell that I had a gift for crafting fiction, and if I continued working at it, I would make it big one day. That day was a turning point in my life. I felt blessed.
While striving to master the art of fiction, I became less engrossed in my own life and more observant of other women’s pains and struggles. I remember, for instance, that my aunt told me of the unstoppable sobbing of a neighbour who had returned home, after visiting her parents, only to find a woman living in her house with her husband. The IRI law believes any husband has “the right” to temporarily “marry” another woman if he feels like it. This is, of course, not prostitution because the temporary wife is a good Shiite divorcée or widow who needs the “financial support” she gets from the temporary husband. The permanent wife, in the meantime, has to shut up and obey. My aunt’s neighbour, whom I never met or whose name I never knew, haunted me and appeared in my stories. Because such stories, obviously, criticized one of many oppressive family laws, IRI wanted the writer to shut up.
My stories were considered “publishable” in their sophistication but “unpublishable” due to Iran’s censorship: the forbidden topics of desire and the subtle criticism of the political situation meant that I received many rejections. By the time I left the country, I did manage to get one book and five stories published, but still had two unpublished books and ten unpublished stories. I was partly surprised and partly relieved when I found out recently that some of those literary journals, such as Jen o Pari, have been shut down despite their caution and conservatism in what they published. Stories of modern Iranian women followed me to Canada and TSAR Publications published some of them here in a collection titled Echoes from the Other Land.

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