Saturday, May 06, 2006

That's Some Fine Writing: Nasrin Alavi

Just when I had decided to stop reading repetitive travelogues, memoirs, or even analyses, on Iran, I receive a copy of Nasrin Alavi’s We Are Iran. I finished it in just a few days, although it was 362 pages of very small print. Delightful, refreshing, and uplifting are the words that come immediately to mind, but with a little more reflection, there is more to it that that. Nasrin Alavi’s book is an archive of the reflection of hundreds of underground lives in today’s Iran. It is vivid and unadulterated. It portrays young Iranians under a massive veil, unknown and unseen. As a result, it is bold and daring. This kind of writing is the sort of writing that Margaret Atwood calls a real writing. You write with the right hand and erase it with the left, writing anonymously.

Blogging, with its short history, seems a perfect medium in Iran, and well used. Reading the book, I felt quite jealous of my compatriots living in Iran. I don’t know when was the last time I have heard from a young person here in US a complete sentence with beginning, middle and end, which makes any sense. (I quit my teaching job in college not to read their meaningless term papers.) Now here in Iran there are 64,000 bloggers to read with such alertness, openness, knowledge, and even wit.

What is even more impressive is their thorough cheerfulness. Even when the writer is angry and annoyed, even when he/she is talking of the pain of injustice, of cruelty, he/she still expresses it lovingly and compassionately, you don’t even sense bitterness. You feel you are one of them, that you are not excluded. I don’t know it is the writers’ skill or subject matter or both which cleans the pages of that bitterness and anger that we the reader in the diasporas have to bear.

Ms Alavi very masterfully has categorized the materials and selected the pieces so uniformly that one thinks they are written to order for her particular chapter of book. That indeed indicates the unity and harmony of the writer with the subject matter of the bloggers. The book is in fact a demonstration of a democratic “republic of letters” which is growing faster than anyone expected. Ms. Alavi is a pioneer writer on that front.

I do recommend this book to all who are eager to learn about Iran> today. I would recommend it to all young second generation of Iranian that have left Iran when they were very young or those who are born here with hope that their knowledge of their original country is not totally based on what they have heard second hand from another second hand and most of the time biased source. Yes there are a tremendous amount of problems back home, but there is also life, there is hope, and plenty of love.

To read the rest, click here.