IBNA: Hussein Fatahi has penned 9 novels and frequent stories in different fields including literature, history, religion, comics and science. He has so far translated and edited more than 500 works.
His birthplace and studies
He was born in March in one of Yazd's villages. In 1975 his received his diploma in Mathematics. He then traveled to Tehran to attend the entrance exam of arts but the incidents of the Islamic Revolution foiled his decision. He then studied in the field of accounting.
Accounting and authorship?! So I think you were good in essays. How did you decide to become a writer?
When I was a child, children's books never existed. So I couldn’t read books. I fact I didn’t have any hobbies when I was a child; there was no electricity, no television, but my father was a threnodist. He usually used to read historical books loudly and I used to listen. Since that time I got interested in stories and fictions. I usually ran from essay writing classes since the subjects were too general and the classes were usually boring. I had an old aunty with who I lived for two years. She believed that she communicated with jinns and she thought that they come in her room at nights. So she used to lay a thick chain around her bedding which she believed would keep them far from her. Moreover she had a weird imagination about human's body. The doctors had told her to eat yogurt and milk for osteoporosis. She used to think that the yogurt should enter her mouth thus she used to sit down and tell me to pour the yogurt in her mouth then she used to shake her hand for it to go in there!! So one day in one of my essay classes I decided to write about my aunt's works rather than the main subject. The children began to laugh from the every beginning. Another main point is that I usually used to spend my time in the university's library which was effective in me becoming an author.
Do you read special books?
I mostly read revolutionary books.
You have written in various fields, please talk about variety?
During the first 10 years of my authorship I have written 8 novels and few short stories. But then I thought that, as a writer, I should find a new source. For instance in the field of old literature I read Shahnameh, Masnavi and Kelileh o Demneh which were indeed precious treasures we ignore. Accordingly I thought that since the books were significant for me and I enjoy reading them, Iranian adolescences should enjoy them as well. Thus I simplified the books for them.
How come did you write about the Infallibles for children and young adults?
Till some 15 years ago I hadn’t written a story in the field. But I learned that most of the teenagers have problems with some lesions including history and religion. So I thought that presenting the concepts as stories will be more attractive. On the other hand the book market demanded religious books and the families were eager for their children to know about the Infallibles' lives. So I decided to read about the history of Islam. Firstly I decided to write about the 14 Infallibles but since they were warmly welcomed the publisher told me to write the prophet's biographies as well.
Weren’t writing such stories difficult? Did you have a special method?
It was indeed a difficult work since they are sacred in the people's points of view. On the other hand different narrations existed about them. For instance sometimes different birth and martyrdom dates existed. So I decided to choose some parts which had fictional aspects. For example in order to write about Prophet Mohammad (SA) kindness, I added a part of his life which depicted his affection. In fact I merged historical narrations with fictional stories for them to be enjoyable for children. Moreover the people like Imam Hassan(AS) and Imam Hussein(AS) evenly but they have more information about Imam Hussein(AS) since they have heard more about him. I decided to divide my work evenly.
Have you finished writing about the prophets?
No. The field is expanded and there is no end to it. Totally the stories have repeated subjects and every year as the author's abilities develop, new pictures can be created from the previous topics. So I think the project never ends.
By writing about Avicenna you entered history as well. Please explain more.
I read Avicenna's life and learned that all the aspects of his life can be educational, while nowadays we don’t know anything about them and when we are asked to talk about them we can't even express 100 words. My book about Avicenna holds new points of views about the scholar's life. He lived during Ferdowsi and the Ghaznavids thus the fictional book narrates the era's history as well. Moreover I have written another book in the field of history about the life of Cyrus II.
Have you written about scientific matters as well?
Yes, although I am not a scientific person but in 1982 and 83 I wrote some scientific stories for children. I wrote some scientific stories and narrated different scientific subjects for the adolescences for instance the lives of ants or the volcanoes.
You have comic strips as well. Please tell us more.
Stories which have more illustrations than contexts attract children more. I presented some of Sa'di's narrations as well as some long works like "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" as comic strips.
Have you ever written travelogues as well?
Yes, attending different literary festivals in different cities, I used to write travelogues as well. In fact the travelogues were an excuse for writing about the geographical location as well as the region's customs and the people's habits. For instance in one travelogue I had written about the customs of Turkmen.
The Revolution is a common subject in most of your works. Please tell us more.
Professional storywriters and critics believe that incidents pave the way for authoring stories or novels. For example if an author gets a chance and lives during a special incident like a war or revolution, he will indeed be a great source of subjects. In fact ordinary people in ordinary times do not draw attention and wars and revolutions pave the way.
The same thing is true for the Islamic Revolution as well. For instance the incidents which happed during those two years were equal to some 50 years or so. The youngsters who live nowadays may like to know about those years and thus they can be recounted fictionally and historically. However their historical narration may not be than interesting. Usually historical incidents which are told fictionally last more.
Which parts of the Revolution's incidents are more interesting for you? How do you pick up the subjects?
I believe that the incident shouldn't be looked politically. They shouldn’t be distorted or magnified. According to these points of view I wrote three novels about 3 periods of the Islamic Revolution. However some of the subjects were chosen from the newspaper headlines.
How did you experience writing about Iraq's imposed war against Iran?
A war usually happens in two ways; sometimes both the countries' armies are in conflict and sometimes it is similar to Iraq's imposed war against Iran in which due to historical weakness of our military forces, 90% of Iranian people left their families and attended the war. Some got martyred, some were captured and some were wounded; the moments which indeed should be conveyed to the next generations. I have used fantasy in some of my stories for expressing the war incidents for young adults. I believe that as an author I am responsible for presenting the war's facts for children and young adults.
You said that every historical incident holds a world of subjects. The Islamic Revolution and Iran-Iraq's war happened with a two years gap, two incidents with different subjects, however your revolutionary works were more than your books which were related to the war…
The revolution was full of the people's participation which indeed occurred during their daily life, thus recounting it is much easier for children. On the other hand, the war happened for the Revolution; which mean that they started the war to vanish the Islamic Revolution. In fact Iraq didn’t attack Khoramshahr for its occupation, but intended to destroy the revolution. So first the revolution should be depicted for the children. So if I decide to write more works, I will defiantly write about the people's revolutionary aims. In fact a part of an author's responsibility is to talk about the incidents and another part is to display their fulfilled needs.
But still the numbers of war books exceed the Islamic Revolution's works. What about that?
The revolution gained its victory in 1979 and then the incidents of Kurdistan, Gonbad and Sistan and Balouchestan were formed which influenced the revolution. Iraq's imposed war against Iran started following a year and a half of conflict in Kurdistan. Accordingly all of the human sources and financial facilities served the war. Hence the authors thought they should write about the war. On the other hand, besides displaying the war pictures, the soldiers who had returned from the war zones told their memories. Thus the author gained the information directly which influenced the quality of their stories.
You said that the field of Revolution is inactive, please explain more.
The motivations have become weak.
Yes, the same thing that brought the people to the streets in 1979. Moreover even the printed books aren’t distributed properly. The institute should start a new motion for proper distribution. For instance some 5m elementary children study in Iran, but a book is printed for every 1000 people.
What is the resolution?
We should do something for the distribution system. Other countries hold a permanent book fair. While we mount a 10-day fair and people from all over of Iran visit to purchase books since they believe that they can buy their favorites in an exhibition. This is while we should build chain stores in all provinces for them to hold permanent book fairs.
What should we do to motivate the authors again?
As an author I do not accept money or awards. If I believe that the book I write will have its readers and it will be properly distributed, I will certainly continue to write and I think that all the writers are so.
Do you think that the field of Revolution holds any other subjects, and if so is any time left?
Yes indeed. In fact the numbers of subjects are as many as the people who attended the Revolution for instance the political prisoners and even a mother who attended the rallies can be topics. Moreover War and Peace is a literary masterpiece and a famous war book which was written by Leo Tolstoy. The book delineates in graphic detail events surrounding the French invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families. So it is never late for authoring about incidents like the Islamic Revolution.
How do you evaluate the works which are released in the field of war and revolution?
We should see the realities and consider literature in its popular meaning. We should evaluate our own literary and scientific ability. I believe that the war and revolution’s stories are in par with other stories. In fact they differ in their subjects and their qualities are similar. Another significant point is to raise fiction writing capacities in different fields. If a country’s literary capacity is high, its authors will indeed create great works; in different fields including social, Islamic Revolution and the imposed war.
You have translated children and adolescent’s books as well. Why translation?
I don’t believe myself as a translator; during 1991-3 I travelled to Bologna Fair in which I saw all children and young adult’s books. I had picked up samples which were interesting for me and I enjoyed reading them. So in order to transfer the joy to children, I translated them. I think that human’s experiences are significant for all the people. Different people achieve experiences which can be useful for all. If a writer is a certain point gains a new experience in authorship he should hand it over to other writers as a technique. Considering these opinions, I do translation. For instance I translated Mama, do you love me? some 20 years ago which was published by Sorush. The book had a new perspective which we had ignored so far, thus translation can fill in many gaps.
You had edited and rewritten 500 books. Please tell us more.
When I used to work in children’s Keyhan magazine, many works were sent to the office which had great subjects but were poor in quality and they should have been rewritten. On the other hand I cooperated with some publishers as an artistic-literary editor. Some of the books needed to be edited which were done by me. In the world’s publishing industry, an editor cooperates with the author which is indeed the author’s advisor who can also move some chapters together but such a thing doesn’t exist in Iran and the editor only reviews the work.
Have you ever edited a book which you wished to write yourself?
Yes. It happens usually. But a good editor doesn’t impose his own personal taste. An editor should serve the author which means that he should preserve the author’s style and omitted the errors. I have constantly tried to maintain the author’s style.
Do you have a certain reason for writing for children and adolescents?
I still think I am a teenager with a teenage world. If we make the teenagers read books we will naturally teach them to find their way.
Considering the variety of your works in fields including literature, history, revolution and war do you think you belong to a specific group?
I am a story writer who has considered incidents including the revolution and war and even legends. I think that our literature has a vital problem as it separates revolution’s stories with war and social ones. This is while they are totally stories.
Please tell us about the story writing classes you hold at Howzeh Honari.
After the Islamic Revolution, certain sessions were held different literary and cultural centers like Howzeh Honari. During the sessions the people read their works and then the participants evaluated them. Howzeh Honari also held several story writing sessions which became weekly since some 10 years ago. At the beginning story writing basics were taught then we decided to present other data including the history of stories as well. Then the participants read their works so their weak and strong points were spotted.
Is there any subject that you are interested in writing?
Yes. Incidents which happened in my childhood are too interesting. I like to write about my memories.
What kind of books do you read more?
I read more books than I should. Works with different subjects; compilations or translations; before their print or after it.
How do you spend your leisure time?
I love gardens and gardening. I usually plant flowers when I visit my mother in the village. I have constantly preserved my connection with my childhood world.
What about exercising?
Since the past three years I am going Mountaineering however I have started to swim for a while.
Last question, are you writing a new book?
Yes, I am writing a novel about the revolution.