Forum on Contemporary Iranian Literature

6 Dec 2017

By Dr Laetitia Nanquette


In September, I was involved in organizing two events at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, with the help of Candle & Fog, an Iranian-British publisher specializing in publishing contemporary Persian texts translated into European languages. We discussed the circulation (translation, distribution and reception) of contemporary Iranian literature around the world and the state of the literary field in Iran today with prominent translators from Persian into English, the American translators Caroline Croskery and Paul Sprachman, and the Iranian writers, Ahmad Dehqan and Houshang Moradi Kermani. I had selected these writers because they have an excellent literary reputation and also because their texts are well-known among readers and have sold well, in a country where many books are published but many also do not sell more than 1500 copies. Both writers have had their works translated into several languages, their books have been adapted into films and they each are the reference in their particular genre: Moradi Kermani for his young adult and children fiction, and Dehqan for his writing on the Iran-Iraq war, a genre that has a particular history in Iran.

During the first event on Thursday 14th September, I moderated a roundtable in English with the American translators. On Tuesday 19th September, Massoud Behnoud, writer and journalist for BBC Persian, based in London, moderated a roundtable in Persian with Ahmad Dehqan, Houshang Moradi Kermani, Afshin Shahneh Tabar, the director of Candle & Fog, and Caroline Croskery. The event was covered by BBC Persian. It was also covered by the official press in Iran.

Despite some issues around visa for one of the writers and last minute rescheduling, the events went ahead and were an excellent opportunity to gather Iranian studies scholars, Iranians from the diaspora and Iranians from Iran, with their different views and stories. In the past decades, it has been difficult for Iranian writers from Iran to get visas from the UK and to travel in official capacity outside their country. These events were thus a great opportunity to have a scholarly and literary discussion among people working with contemporary Persian literature.

Left: Ahmad Dehqan, Houshang Moradi Kermani, Afshin Shahneh Tabar, the director of Candle & Fog, and Caroline Croskery
Right: Dr Laetitia Nanquette with the American translators.