Villa Aurora Grant Recipients | 2011

Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec

Amir Hassan Cheheltan | Feuchtwanger Fellow

Amir Hassan Cheheltan
Amir Hassan Cheheltan
born in Teheran
since 1976
writes short stories, novels and essays
lived in Certaldo, Italy
returned to Teheran

Amir Hassan Cheheltan was born in Tehran in 1956. While studying electrical engineering at the local university, he was already making a name for himself with his second collection of short stories. A few months later, after the Islamic Revolution, he travelled to Britain to complete his studies there. During the war between Iran and Iraq, for which he was conscripted after his return, he wrote his first novel entitled »Rouse-ye Qāsem« (1983/2002; t: The Mourning of Qassem). The book was only allowed to be published in 2002, nineteen years after it was completed.

After the war Cheheltan worked as a consultant engineer at the Centre for Science and Research in Teheran. After being awarded a grant by the International Parliament of Writers he managed to leave Iran in 1999 to avoid the wave of violence against intellectuals taking place in the country. He lived in the Tuscan town of Certaldo with his wife and son until he eventually returned to his native country in 2001.

He became a member of the board of the Iranian Writers’ Organisation and works as a freelance writer, which is an exceptional position in his country.

To date Cheheltan has published seven novels and five volumes of short stories, in addition to a screenplay, which have all undergone a number of restrictions and re-publications due to censorship. In his works, the issues of everyday life and survival in Iran are central themes, against the background of the country’s unsettled history and the interaction of religion, state and modernisation.

The novel »Tehran, schahr-e bi-aseman« (2001; t: Tehran, City without a Sky) tells the story of the rise of a violent man who works for a brothel-owner to a business man who supports the Islamic Revolution and makes money on the black market. The protagonist in »Sepidedam-e irani« (2005; t: Iranian Dawn) is an Iranian Communist who emigrates to the Soviet Union. After the Islamic Revolution he returns to his native country but after being disappointed by the current situation emigrates a second time: now to Germany. Against the author’s wishes, as he was protesting against the censorship of his works, this novel was nominated for the National Book Award. Cheheltan’s most recent novel, »Achlagh-e mardom-e chiaban-e enghelab« (2009; t: Teheran, Revolution Street), is his first major publication in German. The protagonist is an ambivalent plastic surgeon, specialising in hymen repair. The cleft between tradition and modernity evident throughout Iran also affects his clinic, where operations are carried out to eliminate traces of premarital sexual intercourse in order to satisfy the traditional sense of honour still present in society.

Cheheltan also examines Iranian society’s concealed developments and tense relationship to the West in articles which have been published since 2004 in the »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung«. In his humorous and bitter-ironic representations of the conflict and knowledgeable analyses he is not afraid either to criticise his own country or the West.

Cheheltan was editor-in-chief of the online literature magazine »Sokhan« until 2004 and judge of the Sadegh Hedayat Literature Award for Short Stories until 2005. He supervises the literature workshop of the Karnameh Culture Centre in Tehran, where he lives with his family. He has survived two attempts on his life.