Interview with Mahmoud Dowlatabadi carried out by Kamran Rastegar, Tehran 2006.
Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, by many estimates, is Iran’s preeminent living writer. Born to a family of modest means in a small village in Northeastern Iran in 1940, Dowlatabadi came of age in a time when Iran’s rural population was emigrating to the cities, looking for new lives and new ways of living. In this sense, he is one of a generation of new voices to seek their place within the field of modern Iranian literature, those not from the urban middle or upper classes. His work to date encompasses over ten novels, as well as many novellas and short stories. Any list of his major works would have to begin with his massive 5-volume novel Kelidar, and also include the novels Missing Soluch (English translation by Kamran Rastegar, published by Melville House Publishing, in the US in 2007) and The Legend of Baba Sobhan. Part of Dowlatabadi’s remarkable achievement has been the raw force of his literary style, and the subtlety of his prose – in particular in treating issues of poverty and marginalization. Where previous Iranian authors tended to represent poverty as either grotesque or heroic (or, in some cases, as both), Dowlatabadi is perhaps the first to attempt to represent the complex ethics of poverty that result in horizontal violence between similarly dispossessed groups, and the ways in which poverty instills violence and repression even into the intimate spaces of the family. In addition, Kelidar and Missing Soluch both present complex female characters as major voices within their narratives. Despite facing obstacles, Dowlatabadi has remained a prominent voice for freedom of thought and creativity in Iran, and has continued to be productive in writing as well as criticism.
Camera: Golnoosh Golshani
Video Editing/Subtitles: Maryam Ghorbankarimi
©Kamran Rastegar 2006-2010