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Sofia Mahmoudi - a lyrical and passionate minimalist writer


By Syma Sayyah, Tehran


Sofia Mahmoudi is a lady who writes for fun, yet her writing is anything but fun. Her short stories definitely have a very strong feminine sense and speak of women’s suffering and pain; this specially comes across in her very short story titled Dinner (shaam) where in my opinion she surpasses herself and with a deep black humor she describes the food that is being prepared and how she feels and sees the meat in the abgousht (meat stew) as if it was her own flesh that is being boiled.



I do not have much time to read these days and since my Persian Literature teacher at school was such a bad one, I seldom read in Persian, to my own great loss.  It was strange recently when a friend gave me one of Sofia Mahmoudi’s books The Woman and her Child with a Sparrow and a Song, which to be honest I thought was a rather silly title.  However, not only did I manage to find time to read it but I also found it most interesting and very good.  I loved her use of unusual metaphors, and the fact that she did not have to write page after page repeating herself - she gets down to the point and she does it so well!  To me she is a first class minimalist writer of great passion, flair and gift.



It is my habit to buy many copies of the books that I like or think are important and give them away to my friends and family.  This is to support what I find good and interesting and also encourage people to read more.  I went to a few bookshops to get copies of this book but in vain.  So I called the publisher, which is supposed to be a small but supporter of women writers and issues about women.  Despite the fact that I left several messages, sadly I did not hear anything from them at all.  So I tried other means and found Ms Mahmoudi herself and went to see her. 



Before I met her a friend gave me another one of her books. This one was called Jumbled Words Puzzle (Jadval-e Kalamat beham Rikhteh). This book is the result of two years that she worked with runaway girls at Tehran’s Kanoone Esllah va Tarbiyat (center for reform and education for girls).  Many of the girls she met there were very young, desperate and pained to the bone, and the book is a narration of some of their stories.  This book was also very moving; fortunately this book had a different publisher, Nashre Ghatreh, and it is available in the bookshops.



When I met her at her house, I found a modern and sophisticated lady.  Sofia told me she had started as a translator and children’s writer.   She brought me some Khakesheer, a refreshing drink for hot summer days.   We talked about many things, women issues, life, writing and others.




I like her stories very much but I had one complaint about them, and that was that most of the characters in her The Woman and her Child with a Sparrow and a Song were so passive. They seem to accept what was happening to them. She told me that this is what real life is like.



She spent a few years in USA when she first got married and when returned to Iran did not continue her Sociology studies and switched to Russian and many of the books she has translated, mainly short stories, are from Russia.  She lives with her husband and her daughter who is studying music and who is considered to be one of Iran’s future hopes in this field.  Her other family are not here to support her but she enjoys the company of many good friends.  Her house was simple yet comfortable, and it seems that the sense of minimalism is large in her life too.



I can only hope that she writes more and I assure you that I shall be getting her next book and reading it even if it is in Persian!  I am sure when you get a chance to read any of her books, you will agree with me.  Maybe one of you would be inclined to translate some of them for others to enjoy.


One of her stories, the Miracle of Patience, has been translated by the Payvand contributor Ms Roya Monajem and here is the link for you to enjoy: ttp://


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