Translated by: Hirad Dinevari, Azita Mokhtari, Shokoufeh Mozaffari,Ramin Sarraf
Edited with an Introduction by: M. R. Ghanoonparvar
Kanizu is the first collection of short stories by Moniru Ravanipur, one of the best-known and most highly regarded post-revolutionary Persian fiction writers. In the stories of Kanizu, the reader will find the distinguishing features of the work of Moniru Ravanipur that now carry her artistic signature as innovative and highly inventive and creative. The most important of these features is perhaps her novel experimental approach to the art of the narrative. Ravanipur belongs to that group of modern writers whose works lean to some extent toward the abstract, not merely for the sake of abstraction, but to convey complexity, the complexity of modern life.
Concern for the lot of women in general and the lives of Iranian women in particular, writing about the lives and beliefs of the people of her own birth place, the village of Jofreh and the people of southern Iran, and delving into the psyche of artists and writers, particularly women writers, are among the themes of Ravanipur’s stories. The stories in the present collection in fact appear to contain the seeds of her later work. The title story “Kanizu” begins with the death of a small-town prostitute told from the perspective of a young schoolgirl, Maryam, perhaps based on Ravanipur’s childhood recollections. Maryam’s concern for Kanizu undoubtedly represents Ravanipur’s effort to call the attention of her readers to the outcasts of society. The story certainly becomes especially meaningful in the light of recent reports on the appearance of a large number of prostitutes in Iran in recent years euphemistically referred to as “street women.”
The second story in the collection, “The Long Night,” is a tragic tale of a “child bride” that is also told from the perspective of the “bride’s” playmate. “The Blue Inhabitants of the Sea” is the novel that was published a year later. “The Yellow Peacocks” is a quest of a sorts told from the second person point of view in which we accompany the narrator to the past and rather unfamiliar setting and events. “The Sea in the Vineyards” and “Mana, Kind Mana” have a poetic tone and read like love poems. “Parshang” is a love story with political overtones, but this time the lovers are a Kurdish couple. Ravanipur’s educational background in psychology provides the theme of the next story, “Mashang,” which deals with the thought processes of a woman who believes she is dead. Finally, “The Gray Friday” is the story of a middle-aged writer who has recently separated from her philandering husband, an intellectual and a theater director. Her newly found freedom, as she initially thinks, however, is no more than a delusion as she struggles to cope with loneliness and the harassment by men of different social groups who try to prey on her.
In the light of the publication date of this collection of short stories (1988), that is, less than ten years after the Islamic Revolution in Iran established strict rules of conduct, especially regarding women and interaction between the sexes, and enforced observance of religious and moral codes, not only regarding public and private behavior but also what could and could not be addressed in written and other forms, many stories in Kanizu would have required tremendous courage on the part of its writer and publisher. This perhaps, in addition to her artistic creativity and innovation, is one reason for the immediate popularity of Moniru Ravanipur, a major figure in post-revolutionary Persian literature.
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