Guest 2012.

Amir Hassan Cheheltan [ Iran ]

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. During the war between Iran and Iraq, for which he was conscripted after his return, he wrote his first novel, »Rouse-ye Qāsem« (1983/2002; tr: The Mourning of Qassem). The book was only allowed to be published in 2002, nineteen years after its completion. 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.
To date Cheheltan has published numerous novels and 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 between religion, state and modernisation. The novel »Tehran, schahr-e bi-āsemān« (2001; tr: Tehran, City without a Sky) will be published in German in 2012 – for the first time in unabridged form. It tells the story of the rise of a violent man who works his way up from being the heavy man of a brothel-owner to a businessman who supports the Islamic Revolution and makes money on the black market. The protagonist in »Sepidedam-e irāni« (2005; tr: Iranian Dawn) is an Iranian Communist who emigrates to the Soviet Union. Against the author’s wishes (who protested against the censorship of his works), this novel was nominated for the Iranian National Book Award. Cheheltan’s most renowned novel, »Achlāgh-e mardom-e chiābān-e enghelāb« (2009; tr: Customs of the People of Revolution Street), was his first major publication in German. The protagonist is a dubious plastic surgeon, specialising in hymen repair. The cleft between tradition and modernity evident throughout Iran also affects his clinic, where operations eliminate traces of premarital sexual intercourse in order to satisfy the traditional sense of honour still present in society. The city of Teheran plays an important role in Cheheltan’s works, which is evident in his latest novel (2011; tr: Killing Americans in Tehran). Cheheltan also examines Iranian society’s concealed developments and tense relationship to the West in articles which have been published since 2004 in the »FAZ«. In his humorous and bitterly ironic representations of the conflict and knowledgeable analyses he is not afraid to criticise either 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 lived in Berlin and Los Angeles before moving back to Tehran, where he supervises the literature workshop of the Karnameh Culture Centre.