The Complete Review's Literary Saloon continues to be the blogosphere's principal source of information about the global book business. If you want to know what Chinese, German, Turkish, whatever book has just won something, been reviewed somewhere, finally been translated into English or scandalously been ignored etc then the Literary Saloon will most likely have the story. Michael Orthofer, the site's founder and sole contributor, has wonderfully catholic tastes and casts his net worldwide; his global vision is certainly something fully to applaud and acclaim. He does, however, sometimes say the most stupid things.
Witness today's post about the Winners of Sacred Defense book festival. As Orthofer tells us, the 'Sacred Defense' is what Iran calls the Iran-Iraq conflict of the 1980s. In an offhand remark, tangled as ever inside a parenthesis locked inside yet another bracketed sub-clause, Orthofer complains that it is astonishing and sad that the war "is still a major (and I mean major) one in contemporary Iranian literature." Astonishing and sad!? What is astonishing and sad -- beyond the fact that such a well-respected blog still cannot use ellipses properly -- is that such an ignorant statement should occur so casually.
During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War -- backed and extended by the US for numerous geopolitical reasons -- "perhaps as many as a million people died, many more were wounded, and millions were made refugees" (Iran Chamber Society). That it continues to be a focus for Iranian literature, a mere twenty years after it ended, is hardly astonishing and sad. Indeed, with a belligerent USA still stalking the region, it is entirely understandable. And nor is it particular different to "our" own obsessions. The UK book market continues to be flooded with books, fiction and non-fiction, besotted with both world wars; a growing stack of 9/11 novels infects the US. Astonishing and sad, then, that Iran's literary preoccupations are not seen as being remarkably similar to our own.