Gast des ilb 2009.
Amir Hassan Cheheltan was born in Tehran in 1956. While studying electrical engineering at the local university, he was already making a name for himself with his second collection of short stories. A few months later, after the Islamic Revolution, he travelled to Britain to complete his studies there. During the war between Iran and Iraq, for which he was conscripted after his return, he wrote his first novel, entitled »Rouse-ye Q??sem« (1983/2002; t: The Mourning of Qassem). The book was only allowed to be published in 2002, nineteen years after it was completed. After being awarded a grant by the International Parliament of Writers he managed to flee Iran in 1999 to avoid the wave of violence against intellectuals taking place in the country. To date Cheheltan has published seven novels and five volumes of short stories, in addition to a screenplay, which have all undergone a number of restrictions and re-publications due to censorship. In his works, the issues of everyday life and survival in Iran are central themes, against the background of the country's unsettled history and the interaction of religion, state and modernisation. The novel »Tehran, schahr-e bi-aseman« (2001; t: Tehran, City without a Sky) tells the story of the rise of a violent man who works for a brothel-owner to a business man who supports the Islamic Revolution and makes money on the black market. The protagonist in »Sepidedam-e irani« (2005; t: Iranian Dawn) is an Iranian Communist who emigrates to the Soviet Union. Against the author's wishes, as he was protesting against the censorship of his works, this novel was nominated for the National Book Award. Cheheltan's most recent novel, »Achlagh-e mardom-e chiaban-e enghelab« (2009; t: Customs of the People of Revolution Street), is his first major publication in German. The protagonist is an ambivalent plastic surgeon, specialising in hymen repair. The cleft between tradition and modernity evident throughout Iran also affects his clinic, where operations are carried out to eliminate traces of premarital sexual intercourse in order to satisfy the traditional sense of honour still present in society.
Cheheltan also examines Iranian society's concealed developments and tense relationship to the West in articles which have been published since 2004 in the »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung«. In his humorous and bitterly ironic representations of the conflict and knowledgeable analyses he is not afraid either to criticise his own country or the West. Cheheltan was editor-in-chief of the online literature magazine »Sokhan« until 2004 and judge of the Sadegh Hedayat Literature Award for Short Stories until 2005. He supervises the literature workshop of the Karnameh Culture Centre in Tehran, where he lives with his family. He is currently staying in Berlin as a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.
© international literaturefestival berlin
Amir Hassan Cheheltan, born in 1956 in Tehran, began writing
stories at the age of twelve, inspired by his reading
material—which included light-fiction classics from the
West—and moviegoing with his mother. After graduating from
a school of mathematics, it was impossible for him to pursue a
literary career: “Writing isn't considered a profession in
Iran.” Instead, he studied electrical engineering. In 1976
Cheheltan published his first volume of stories, “Sigheh”
(Temporary Marriage). His second volume, “The Still
Window,” published in 1979, shortly before the outbreak of
the Islamic Revolution, helped to secure Cheheltan's breakthrough
as a writer. From 1979 to 1981 he lived abroad, and he completed
his studies in England. His return to Tehran took place under the
effects of the Iran-Iraq War, and he was soon drafted and sent to
the front. During this period he wrote his first novel, “The
Case Against Qassem,” which, without further explanation,
was banned by the censors. In a strictly limited edition,
however, the novel could first be published in 2002. This would
hardly be the last of Cheheltan's works to be denied permission
to go to press. Just the same, he has succeeded in publishing a
total of six novels and five volumes of stories to date.