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Here are the latest cultural headlines in the media.
Greece grants images of rare Divan of Hafez to Iran

Tehran Times: Images of a rare manuscript of the Divan of Hafez have recently been presented to Iran by the Cultural Foundation of the National Bank of Greece.

DVDs containing the images were handed over to the Iran National Library and Archive (INLA) by the Greek Embassy in Tehran.

The divan has been scripted 400 years ago. Another version of the Divan of Hafez and a rare anthology by Iranian mystic and poet Jami are also preserved at the foundation.

Officials from the two countries are planning negotiations about transfer of the manuscripts to Iran in the near future.


Iranian author’s “Big Clay Jar” published in Taiwanese
Tehran Times: “The Big Clay Jar” by Iranian children’s writer Hushang Moradi Kermani was recently published in Taiwan by Yuan-Liou Publishing Co.

“The Big Clay Jar” (Khomreh) narrates the story of a big cracked jar in a rural school located in the desert. The jar bears several cracks and only the father of one of the schoolchildren can repair it, but he refuses to do so since he is too busy working on his farm.

The boy runs away from the school when he sees his father's insensitivity, but the teacher and his other friends bring him back to school and his father finally agrees to repair the jar.

Later, the teacher asks schoolchildren to bring eggs from home to pay the repairman instead of money, leading to several problems.

“The Big Clay Jar” is one of several of Moradi Kermani’s productions that have been translated into Italian, French, Spanish, English and other languages and also are being taught in the schools.

Filmmaker Ebrahim Foruzesh made the story into a movie in 1981, bringing home several international awards. The movie has received the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival and the International Jury Award at the Sao Paulo Film Festival in 1994.

Moradi Kermani is an eminent writer of books primarily for children and teenagers. However, his works also appeal to adults.

“The Stories of Majid”, “Sweet Jam” and “Like the Full Moon” are among Moradi Kermani’s other credits.


Serbian Writer Milorad Pavic Dead at Age 80

Iran News: Serbian author Milorad Pavic, known for his non-linear approach to story-telling, died at the age of 80 in Belgrade, Serbia, his Web site reports.

The New York Times said Sunday, citing the report on khazars.com/en, that Pavic died on Nov. 30 of complications of a heart attack, ending a career that included novels such as "Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel in 100,000 Words."

Pavic offered "male" and "female" versions of "Dictionary," his first novel, with the two texts differing only in a single paragraph.

The author said in a 1988 interview that readers should not attempt to own both editions of his most famous work.

"That's like incest," he said. "If you have chosen the male or female version, read it and then find somebody who has the other."

Among Pavic's other notable literary works were "The Inner Side of the Wind: Or, The Novel of Hero and Leander" and "Last Love in Constantinople: A Tarot Novel for Divination."


Comic-Book Stories Show Another Africa

Iran News: Marguerite Abouet's hugely popular series of books, centered on the life of a young woman in a cheerful Ivory Coast suburb, show an Africa far from stereotypes of war and disease.

The characters in "Aya of Yopougon" grapple with everyday issues like love, family, growing up, pregnancy, marriage -- set mostly in an Abidjan suburb that is colorfully illustrated by Abouet's partner, Frenchman Clement Oubrerie.

"We call it 'Yop City', like in an American film," says young Aya in one of the five comic-book novels.

"With 'Aya' the aim is that after four pages you no longer think you're in Africa but in a story which could be anywhere in the world," says 38-year-old Abouet, who lives in Paris but often returns to the Ivory Coast.

With more than 300,000 copies sold, translations into 12 languages including English, an array of prizes and a film on the way, the adventures of young Aya and her friends and family have been a hit.

Elegant and talkative, Abouet was born in Abidjan's Yopougon neighborhood, where she has set the books that feature brightly dressed characters, dusty roads and community living.

When she was 12, she was sent to live in France with an uncle who was worried she would end up "hanging out in the street barefoot and playing football," she says.

The colder climes of Paris were a wrench for a young girl from her part of sunny Africa.

"At 12 years old, you're already grown up, you know plenty of things. I just needed to close my eyes and I'd be back in Yopougon," she says.

In Europe she discovered, through television, an Africa different to the one of peaceful 1970s childhood.

"It's always the same subjects -- AIDS, immigration, war," she says.

"If there's a reason why 'Aya' is popular, it's probably because her story is universal, dealing with everyday life in modern Africa, that's all."

She does not idealize the continent, though. "In parts of Africa things are all right and in others, they're not," she says.
War came to Ivory Coast with a coup in 1999, an armed rebellion splitting the country in two in 2002, and a deadly civil war.

But Abouet has based her stories, which she began writing when she was 17, on a time before the fighting.

Born from these adolescent memories, Aya and her friends Bintou, Adjoua and Moussa tell stories of Ivorian families and culture.

While the heroine aims to become a doctor, Bintou and Adjoua want to be hairdressers, seamstresses or "husband hunters" and daddy's boy Moussa only want to have fun.

"The bit that's real is Yopougon, the joie de vivre that is everywhere," the writer says. "Me, I'm Akissi, Aya's little sister."

The first book was published in 2005 to acclaim. The following year it took the prize for best first book at the International Comics Festival in Angouleme in western France.

"My life has changed, I stopped my job as a legal assistant. I'm lucky enough to be chased after by publishers," Abouet says.

She admits that in her country most children could not afford to buy the novels she has set in their midst.

This led her to create a "Books for All" foundation tasked with opening libraries in Africa and encouraging reading: the first has opened in Adjame, a poor district of Abidjan, and she hopes to open one in her native Yopougon.

"A house, a bar and a church, that's how things are right now. So adding a library to the mix will make the kids realize there's more to life than the church or the bar," Abouet says An animated film based on Aya's adventures is due for release in 2011 and the writer is working on a book called "Welcome" that will star a Parisian girl. "I can also write stories with white characters," she smiles.


New Effort to Save Orwell’s Birthplace

Iran Daily: After being neglected and forgotten for decades, the birthplace of George Orwell, the author of “Animal Farm” and “1984”, is finally set for a makeover.

Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on June 25, 1903 in Motihari, a tiny town in the impoverished eastern Indian state of Bihar, near the border with Nepal, AFP reported.

His father, Richard W. Blair, worked at the time as an agent in the opium department of the Indian Civil Service during the height of British rule over the subcontinent.

For years, the family’s simple white colonial bungalow has been left to decay; damaged in an earthquake it was an occasional home to stray animals and, more recently, a state school teacher.

Now, after years of dithering and failed attempts by Orwell enthusiasts to restore the building, the provincial government says it is coming to the rescue in a bid to lure tourists to one of the most underdeveloped areas of India.

“The house has been in a bad condition for years. The government has decided to initiate work to protect it,” Bihar’s art and culture secretary, Vivek Singh, told AFP.

“We will not allow George Orwell’s ancestral house, where he was born, to be lost to history. The government priority is to protect it followed by renovation.”

False Dawn?

There have been false dawns for the dilapidated building before. There was a spike in interest in 2003 when celebrations were held in Motihari to mark the 100th anniversary of Orwell’s birth.

A non-governmental Indian heritage foundation announced that it would renovate the house and even mooted the idea of building a museum and putting up a statue. But no progress was made.
Orwell lived in Motihari for a year as a child before leaving for England in 1904 with his mother and sister.

He never returned to his birthplace and died in 1950 after a life that saw him live rough in London and Paris, fight in the Spanish civil war and serve as a war-time broadcaster for the BBC.

From 1922-1927, Orwell was a member of the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, now Myanmar, which was part of British India.


His time there was the inspiration for his novel “Burmese Days,” a tale of intrigue set against the backdrop of the waning empire, as well as essays “A Hanging” and “Shooting an Elephant.”
Story Code : 58666
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