The Persian New Year, called Nowruz (“New Day”), is the first day of spring—Thursday March 20, 2017, in the United States. It is calculated to the second, according to the moment that the sun crosses the equator. This non-Islamic holiday, which is shared by many countries, including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan, is based on the seasons and agricultural tradition, going back 3,000 years to Zoroastrian rituals.
Whenever I’m asked to recommend a modern Iranian novel, I have to keep three things in mind. First, unlike Persian classical literature—the works of such masters as Rumi, Khayyam, and Hafez—the modern novels are not widely known or usually excerpted in anthologies of world literature.
Farassati also argues that these films tend to be dark in their subject matter and thus provide a bad image of Iran for the West. They reinforce negative beliefs about Iran, which in certain ways can be true. But of course he also knows that many major award-winning films from all over the world have been critical of their own societies and governments. This is what artists do.
Iran has produced one of the world’s greatest national cinemas, stretching back to before the Islamic revolution. The films have won numerous international awards, including the Oscar and the Golden Globe, as well as the Cannes Film Festival’s Golden Palm and Jury Prize, the Venice Film Festival’s Golden and Silver Lion, and the Berlinale’s Golden and Silver Bear. Yet, despite the accolades, Iranian movies are more discussed than seen in the United States.
I always enjoy Stephen Greenblatt’s scholarly works, so I looked forward to reading his reflections on his visit to Iran, recently published in the New York Review of Books. But like many Iranians, I was let down by Greenblatt’s April 2 travelogue, “Shakespeare in Tehran.”