The Sad Story of Love

Translated by Kamran Talattof

Translator’s Note:
Moniru Ravanipur, “The Sad Story of Love” in a collection of short stories entitled ‘Sangha-ye Shaytan'(The Devil’s Stones), 1st edition, Tehran: Nashr-e Markaz, 1991, pp. 29-34.
Moniru Ravanipur is a contemporary Iranian fiction

Sa’di is not the man to play the chess game of your love.

This is the sad story of love. A story which repeats as long as the crystal ball of time continues to exist, as long as this ball has not crashed into a star, a star from another time. “Time” will perhaps explode from within because of these sad stories which repeat and fill it to capacity. When time fills with love, overflows with feeling, and chokes with tears and shouted loneliness, its crystal walls will break. But every love story will make a home in the particles of this broken sphere and will, itself, make a new “time.” And perhaps a day will come when eternity and everything that has been created and everything that has not been created will be nothing but crystal particles which have in their heart a seed of love, a seed of the sad story of love. Then, time will be a woman and a man sleeping in a bubble of time…. stories with endings not quite the same.

Many know the woman now, for this very story, and to name her doesn’t change anything. She was a woman who wrote herself into her stories. And there is the man whose existence or absence is the same since no one knows him. How they got to know each other is not very important either. When a story wants to take shape, it will find its way: looking for a job, reading a tale, publishing a book, it makes no difference.

The woman was simple. There was no distance between her mind, her tongue, and her heart. Her speech was the same as her thoughts and her feelings. In the business of love, she did not believe in time really. She was in love all the time, unlike those who fall in love in a moment and then forget all about it….

That is why when she first saw the man she said, “you are very handsome, let’s be friends… I am very lonely.”

The man was sitting behind the desk with an untidy face and hair, and a thick stubble about his face. He stared at the woman, smiling lightly. Her manner of behavior was such that he formed no impression about her except that the woman was not more than a child from whom a novelist could be made.

The man had read the woman’s short stories and pretended to be interested in them, began to speak about the things that he was supposed to mention without uttering a word about love. The woman concluded that if she wrote good stories, the man would be hers.

The days passed and the man maintained the silent smile on his lips and left everything conditional and hanging in the air.

The woman was as she had always been. She would pace the room, search the books and the shelves, organize the papers on the desk, spread them out, and reorganize them again…. The woman was impatient in every step she took and in every word she uttered and one day after she had messed up things all over the place, she sat in front of the man and said, “Give me your hand, I want to tell your fortune.”

The man said, “Wait until you become a writer.”

The woman said, But I want to hold your hand, I want you to stroke my hair.”

The man smiled and asked, “why?’

The woman said, “I want to caress my hair with your hand.”

The man laughed and said, “you’re crazy,” and did not give his hand.

I am writing this story very quickly because I am afraid someone may come in and sit by that window and look at me and ask; How far has the work come? I am writing this story far from peoples’ eyes, because I don’t like anyone to read it while it is not yet finished. This is why I avoid naming places, cities, and buildings because it not only takes a lot of time, time that I really don’t have, but also because it doesn’t matter at all. It is enough to know that everything is happening in the crystal ball of the time.

Time for a woman like her who was after someone to love her, meant only time. She did not see any difference between a moment or a year. Whichever corner she was in, she would milk time to reach the moment when she could see him as a man and herself as a woman, and nothing else.

That is how she started her work, as she used her being to give the words life. As if the words were coming from her body and soul. She wrote story after story, day after day, and all of them romantic. The man was there. He would read the stories, shake his head, and be satisfied with his work.

Sometimes, when the woman finished a story, she would read it to the man and then say, “I am tired, lets go for a walk.”

The man would smile and shake his head and the woman knew that it was not yet the time for him to appear with her in public. She would accept the distance between them and would doubt her work. She would then go back to reading and writing.

Time passed and the woman’s books were published one after another. The man had begun to spent all his time reading her works. He began to think more and more about her, or more precisely about the heroine of her stories. The man would go to the woman’s office and she would jump from one subject to another. She had not been coherent in her speech for some time and her situation was becoming more serious every day to the extent that the man couldn’t discern which was speaking, the woman or the protagonist of her stories. The strophe-poem of her conversations had become, “Do you love me?”

The man laughed every time she said this and commented with only, “How far has your work progressed?”

And she would suddenly come to her senses, get herself together, and show her hand which had the pen and pencil marks all over it. Her hand had also toughened and the man said, “It is work.”

The woman would go back to work.

How long did it take, how much time passed, before these changes settled into her body and soul? The woman who was so conscious about the door and had wanted the man to come in and read her stories, began to be scared of the thought that the door would open and someone would come in and bend over the pages blackened with words.

Time was never important in the woman’s life. If the seed was cultivated, the seed of love, nothing could have harmed it. The man saw gradually that the woman did not show enthusiasm and if he called her, she turned her head to him very slowly. It seemed her look no longer had that romantic shine, that childish excitement. However, the eyes of the woman hero of her stories were shining, she gazed romantically, and her acts and behavior became enthusiastically child-like.

The man read the stories everyday, before and after publishing them, and became familiar with the woman more and more, the woman who felt her skin and blood in her stories.

The man played music for her so that she would write more and give the same romantic air to her stories. Hoping that the movement of her neck and head wouldn’t remain so slow, he also prepared fruit juice for her and cared more about her diet. But the woman did not pay attention to these acts of kindness. She only wrote. One day when the man said “you seem tired, let’s go for a walk,” the woman answered with a weak voice and a dull gaze, “I cannot, I am busy.”

And she didn’t go. She didn’t pay attention to critics of her work either. Journals were racing to talk about her, but she did not even know the number of her books’ printings. She didn’t react to the acclamations of the man who stood in front of her with newspapers in his hands. Her movements only became slower everyday.

One day when the man woke up, he laughed. He had never laughed like that before, especially alone with himself. He had a strange feeling as he remembered the woman’s humor and wit, her childish moves and her strophe-poem “Do you love me?”

The man was singing to himself and felt drawn toward the woman. He eventually went to a flower shop, bought a bouquet and set out. The woman was writing as usual. It seemed as though she was writing the last sentence of a short story for only her hand was moving and her body was like a stone statue. She was far from everything, including time. It seemed as though she was only a hand writing hurriedly. He put the flower in a vase before her, but the woman did not look up. She was staring at what she was writing. She didn’t even blink. It seemed as though she had reached the end of the last sentence. The man saw her place a period and her hand came to rest on the page. The man slowly took the papers out from under her hand. He read the title of the story: “The Sad Story of Love.” He laughed. He touched the woman’s shoulder, and looked at her face and froze. The woman was not a woman any more. She had turned into a statue of words, and when the man touched her on the shoulder thousands of words suddenly spread on the ground and among all those thousands of words the man saw these; “You are very handsome… let’s be friends….I am very lonely.”

From the collection: Sang’ha-yi Shaytan. (Tehran: Markaz, 1990), 29-34.

Another Translation of “The Sad Story of Love”

By Moniru Ravanipur**
Translated from the Persian  by Farzin Yazdanfar
This is the sad story of love; a story which will be repeated for as long as time’s crystalline ball exists, until this crystal ball collides with a planet or star from another time or age and breaks. Or perhaps time will eventually swell up with these recurring tragic stories and explode, filling up its vast expanse. And when time’s vessel runs over with affection, is filled with an overflow of repressed feelings and cries of loneliness, its crystalline wall will crack… but each love story will surely survive in the scattered shards of this crystal ball, thereby refreshing time for awhile. Perhaps a day will come when eternity and all created and uncreated things will become nothing but the crystalline particles of time, containing the seed of love – the sad story of love. What a time that will be for lovers sleeping in the bubble of time, an age of stories whose endings are not so very predictable.

The woman is known to many people, so telling a story or mentioning her name will not change anything. She was the woman who would write her life in her stories. And the man whose existence or lack of existence is the same because nobody knows him. How did they meet each other… that is not important either. When a story is being formed, it will find its way: finding a job, reading a story or publishing it. It doesn’t make any difference…

She was a simple woman. Her mind was compatible with her tongue and her heart. Her words exactly reflected her thoughts and her feelings. When it came to loving someone, she did not believe in time. She was always in love, not like those who are in love one moment and out of it the next … Thus, when she saw the man for the first time, she said, “You are handsome. Let’s be friends… I feel very lonely.”

The man, unkempt and unshaven, was sitting across the table. With a little smile on his face, he was staring at the woman. The way the woman was acting and behaving had convinced the man that she was nothing but a child and he could make a novelist of her.

The man had read the woman’s stories and was pretending that he was interested in her works. He was talking to her about the things that he was expected to say without mentioning a word about love. The woman had realized that she could make the man her own if she wrote good stories.

Days passed. The man had managed to keep that little smile on his face — the smile that could leave everything suspended in the air. The woman had remained the same as she always was. She would walk in the room, turn the books and the library upside down, put all the papers on the desk, take them away and put them
back on the desk again…

The woman was restless in every step that she took and every word that she uttered. One day after she had made a big mess, she sat face to face with the man and said, “Give me your hand and let me tell you your fortune.” The man said, “Leave it for the time when you’ve become a writer.” The woman said, “But I need your hand to touch me on the head.” “Why?” the man asked, smiling.

The woman answered, “I would like you to touch my head gently with your hand.”

The man laughed and said, “You’re crazy.” He did not give her his hand.

I am writing this story very quickly because I am afraid that somebody may come and sit on that chair next to the window, stare at me and ask, “How far along are
you?” I am writing this story without letting anybody see it. And I would not like anyone to see it before I reach the end of it. I do not even name the locations in the story because mentioning the names of places, cities and buildings not only takes time, which I do not have at all, but also resolves no issues. It is enough to know that all these events are taking place within the crystal ball of time.

And time, for a woman like her — a woman who was looking for someone to love her– was just time. She could see no difference between seconds and years.
Everywhere she was, she would try to squeeze the essence of time in order to reach a moment when she could see nobody but that ‘someone’ as a man and herself as a woman.

Thus, she began working. She seemed to seek the help of her own existence to give life to her words. It seemed that the words were becoming detached from every particle of her body and soul. She kept writing; one story after another, every story a romantic one. And there was the man who would read the stories and shake his head as a sign of satisfaction with his own task.

Sometimes the woman would read the story which she had just completed to the man. Then, she would say, “I’m tired. Let’s go for a walk.”

The man would nod, smiling and the woman would realize that the time when she could be seen with the man in public had not yet come. The woman could
understand that there was a distance between her and the man; she would doubt her work and would go back to reading and writing.

Time was passing and the books authored by the woman were being published one after another. The man was spending all of his time reading her books and every day he was paying more and more attention to her or, to tell the truth, to the female character of her stories. The man would go to her room and sit by her and she would talk about everything that she could think of. For a long time, she had made no sense when she was talking, and everyday her speech was becoming more and more unclear — so unclear that the man could not tell the difference between her and the female character of her stories. The woman kept repeating, “Do you love me?” And the man would always laugh and ask, “How much of the story have you written?”

And the woman would suddenly realize what the man expected of her; she would get hold of herself and show the callus caused by the pen on her finger. And the
man would say, “That’s hard work…” And the woman would keep on working.

How long did it take until changes gradually appeared in the woman’s body and soul? The woman, who was always focusing her attention on the door to see the man coming in to read her stories, was now afraid lest someone should come and bend over the pages filled with her stories.

Time was never important in the woman’s life. If a seed, a seed of love, was sown, nothing could uproot it, but the man could see little by little that the woman was not showing any interest. If he called her, she would turn her head towards him very slowly as though lost in what she was writing. The woman’s look no longer had the same loving radiance, the same childlike enthusiasm. On the contrary, the female character of her story had sparkling eyes and an amorous look and was acting with more and more childlike enthusiasm.

And the man would read the stories everyday before and after they were published. The more he read them, the better he could understand the woman — the woman who could feel her own skin and blood in her stories.

The man would play music for the woman to encourage her to write more and to make her go on creating a romantic atmosphere in her stories. And in order to
compensate for the lethargic movement of her head and neck, he would make fruit juices for her and attend to her food. But the woman was not paying any attention to the man’s affections; she was just writing. And one day when the man asked her, “Are you tired? Let’s go for a walk,” she replied in a weak voice with a fixed and unclear look on her face, “I can’t. I’m busy.” She didn’t go out with him.

She would not pay attention to the critique of her stories in literary journals either; the journals were competing with each other to write about her. She would not even know how many copies of her books were being published. She would not react to the man’s enthusiasm either — the man who would stand before her with a newspaper in his hand. The woman’s movements were becoming slower and slower everyday.

And one day when the man woke up, he laughed alone. He had never laughed like this before, especially when he was by himself. He had a strange feeling; he could remember the woman’s sense of humor, her childlike actions and behavior and the question which she used to ask repeatedly: “Are you in love with me?”

The man was singing by himself and being dragged towards the woman. He finally reached a flower shop, bought a bouquet of flowers and went to see the woman. The woman was busy writing as usual. She seemed to be writing the last sentence of a story. It was only her hand that was moving; her body, like a statue made of stone, was far away from everything, even time. Her whole body seemed to have turned to a single hand — a hand that was writing hastily. The man put the flowers that he had brought her in the vase and placed the vase before her. She did not look at it. She was gazing at what she was writing so intensely that she did not even bat an eyelid. She seemed to have reached the last sentence; the man saw her putting a period at the end of the last sentence. Her hand had remained motionless on the page. The man slowly pulled the papers from under her hand. He read the title of the story: ‘The Sad Story of Love’ and laughed. He tapped the woman on the shoulder, looked at her face and suddenly grew still. She was no longer ‘the woman’; she had turned to a fossil — a fossil of words. To be sure, the man touched her on the shoulder and , all of a sudden, she broke down into small pieces and thousands of words were scattered all over. And the man saw these, among thousands of words: “You’re very handsome… Let’s become friends… I’m very lonely!”


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