Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kader Abdolah, a Dutch Iranian writer

“When I write, I’m on the frontline against dictatorship.” The Iranian-Dutch writer Kader Abdolah, who has just completed his latest historical novel De Koning [The King], sees clear parallels between 19th-century Persia and modern-day Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Only now, he predicts, the regime that follows will be democratic not dictatorial.
“I wanted to write a story about my great-great-grandfather. He served as grand vizier or prime minister during Iran’s industrial revolution in Iran and he was murdered,” explains Kader Abdolah.

“My aim was to write about the vizier, but the shah or king turned out to be a better subject. I suspect the king was more important. In the king, I even discovered myself.”

Abdolah’s new novel De Koning is situated in Iran (formerly Persia), the land of his birth. It was also the setting for his internationally acclaimed book The House of the Mosque in 2005. His focus has now turned to the period of major change in the second half of the 19th century, with the advent of the telegraph, the railways, electricity and state reforms.
The shah or king reluctantly surrendered to technological innovation. But he wanted nothing to do with a parliament and a constitution, despite the urgent appeals from his grand vizier– who ruled the country on his behalf.
Such was his resistance that he ordered the murder of the grand vizier, great-great-grandfather. But eventually, the shah himself perished at the hands of an opponent. This is the tale Abdolah tells in De Koning.

New dictators
Kader Abdolah sees parallels between the past and the present.
“In the shah of yesteryear I discovered the men and their power: Gaddafi, Mubarak, Khomeini.”
Dynasties crumbled as a result of the technological changes at that time, but they were essentially replaced by new dictators. The writer believes that this is where the present parts company with the past.
“Now there is Facebook. These dictatorships are no longer able to hold back freedom of speech. Facebook will remove Gaddafi, Muburak and the ayatollahs, and bring a new kind of democracy.”

Language of censorship
Kader Abdolah himself fled the Iran of the ayatollahs, because his life was in danger as a writer, a journalist and a member of the underground opposition. In 1988 he came to the Netherlands with his family. His own language, Persian, had become the language of censorship and so he resolved to write only in Dutch.
While the reformists in Iran are still being mercilessly combated and suppressed, Kader Abdolah has hope for the future of his homeland:
“Iran is one of the most important democracies in the Middle East. The revolutions in Egypt and Libya are superficial: Mubarak is gone, but the structure of dictatorship remains in Egypt. But in Iran there is a movement that goes right down to the foundations. It may take 30 or 40 years, but democracy will take root in people’s genes. In 20 years’ time, we will have a strong, fully formed democracy in my homeland,” he predicts.

Victory

Abdolah’s work has been translated into many languages. But in Iran, his books are banned. He sees the books he writes as weapons in a battle.
“When I write, I think of the people in Iran who fight against dictatorship. When I write I am on the frontline, in the vanguard against dictatorship. My books can be seen as literature, but they are also the true fight against the ayatollahs.”
The writer has a burning desire to return to his homeland one day. Will Kader Abdolah ever write in his mother tongue again?
“After 22 years I am no longer able to write in Persian. I can’t put my soul into it. I can only produce literature in Dutch. It’s painful, but that’s the turn my life has taken.”

Shared by Hans A.H.C De Wit

March 22



Quebec city in winter by Gaetan Chevalier