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02/20/10

Students at Rutgers University to read Persian war novel

Report source: Mehr News Agency, Tehran

The Persian novel on the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war "Chess with the Doomsday Machine" has been introduced as a reference source at Rutgers University located in the American city of New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Authored by Habib Ahmadzadeh, the book has been translated into English by U.S. translator Paul Sprachman, who is vice director of the Undergraduate Studies Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University.

Chess with the Doomsday Machine

Habib Ahmadzadeh (Author)
Paul Sprachman (Translator)

Paperback:
268 pages
Publisher: Mazda Publishers (November 30, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN: 1568592159

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Habib Ahmadzadeh

 

The book is recommended as one of the reference texts in the Department of Classical Literatures of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia to be reviewed in the Introduction to Literatures of the Middle East course along with several other books.

The class aims to introduce, discuss and analyze important literary works of the Middle East and to help participants discover what gets lost in English translations of Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, and Persian prose.

The course also helps to provide sufficient background in Middle Eastern literary cultures and histories to help to explain and refine participants' understandings of other program readings.

"My Name is Red" by Orhan Pamuk, "The Lover" by Yehoshua, "Women of Sand and Myrrh" by Hanan al-Shaykh, "The Masnavi" and "The Arabian Nights" are other books introduced in this course.

"Chess with the Doomsday Machine" is set in Ahmadzadeh's native Abadan, a city located on an island near the Persian Gulf. Because of its strategic importance to the Iranian petroleum industry, Abadan was the target of heavy bombardments during the early stages of the conflict.

Using an advanced radar system developed in Europe, Iraqi forces were able to home in on Iranian artillery emplacements almost as soon as they fired.

It was the task of the narrator, a young Basiji (volunteer paramilitary) spotter, to locate the radar so that it could be destroyed. The novel paints a striking tableau of a city under siege.

The book has been translated by the editor-in-chief of the Albanian Daily News Genc Mlloja into the Albanian language. It is also available in Arabic.


Book Description
(Source: Mazda Publishers)

Chess with the Doomsday Machine (Shatranj ba Mashin-e Qiamat) is a novel by Habib Ahmadzadeh (b. 1964) about the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). It is set in Ahmadzadeh's native Abadan, a city located on an island near the Persian Gulf. Because of its importance to the Iranian petroleum industry, Abadan was the target of heavy bombardments during the early stages of the conflict. Using an advanced radar system developed in Europe, Iraqi forces were able to hone in on Iranian artillery emplacements almost as soon as they fired. It is the task of the narrator, a young Basiji (volunteer paramilitary) spotter, to locate the radar so it can be destroyed. The novel paints a striking tableau of a city under siege, not only inhabited - as one would expect - by a variety of soldiers, but also by two Armenian priests, a retired oil refinery engineer, and a prostitute and her young daughter. Chess with the Doomsday Machine avoids the kind formulaic patriotism and hagiography found in much of "Holy Defense" (defa'-e moqaddas: an official Iranian term for the conflict) fiction in two ways. First, it indulges a type of black humor used in such war satires as Joseph Heller's Catch 22 and, second - and more profoundly - it examines how wartime conditions throw the ephemeral nature of human existence into high relief. As the novel progresses, the narrator's journey evolves from a simple search-and-destroy mission into a quest for meaning among the surreal sights of the besieged city: an improvised "shark aquarium"; a ravaged farmer's market; rows of bombed-out homes; an ice cream freezer that doubles as a morgue; and an incomplete seven-story building that miraculously survives the Iraqi shelling to become the stage for the novel's chief theme.

About the Author

Habib Ahmadzadeh is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, whose military career began when he served as a teenage Basiji and ended after he attained the rank of Captain in the regular army. He has studied theatre arts and is an accomplished scenarist. Ahmadzadeh is also the author of a prize-winning collection of short stories called The War Involved City Stories (Dastan-ha-ye Shahr-e Jangi), one of which became the basis for the film "Night Bus" (Autobus-e Shabaneh; directed in 2007 by the well-known film and television artist Kiumars Poorahmad). Ahmadzadeh also provided the research for Conversation with the Shadow (Goft-o Goo ba Sayeh (directed in 2006 by Khosrow Sinai), a study of one of Iran's greatest writers Sadeq Hedayat (d. 1951). Part biography, part literary criticism, the film is an original contribution to the voluminous literature on Hedayat's most important work of fiction The Blind Owl (Buf-e Kur).


Related Article: A City Under Siege Tales of the Iran-Iraq War

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