Fascism and Fear

While France is getting ready to vote in the second run and is rethinking the mounting or further ascent of the far right and the National Front- which guides us back to the theme of Fascism, the cultural events in Paris try to remind everyone of the most painful consequences of Fascism exemplified by Holocaust.

Two nights ago in the Parisian Musée of Judaism there was a big homage paid to the Italian Jewish writer Primo Levi—the conference was held by Daniela Amsallem then followed by the theatrical representation/dramatization of Levi’s interview with Ferdinand Camon. The cinemas are hosting films such as “Django” (by the director Etienne Comar)and “Denial” (by Mick Jackson) which have for their theme the very subject of Holocaust, more precisely that crazy and systematic extermination of the minorities of Jewish, Slavic and Rom(“Gypsy”) nationalities by the Nazi regime during the World War II. At the same time, the public media who follow “the politically correct democratic” postulates try really hard not to pronounce two words which would hurt the ears and opinions of the voters: these are Fascism and Fear.

However, while I’m writing this text, with my fountain-pen stuck behind my new-leftist ear, I can’t forget that the centralist candidate Emmanuel Macron had won a lame advantageous victory in votes before the extreme-right candidate Marin Le Pen only a week ago. I have a greater problem yet not to observe the fact that Le Pen has almost equalized her votes with Macron in the voting boxes of today. In the meantime, I’m trying- as much as the majority of that humane, enlightened and egalitarian France not to enter the state of the daily panic in which I try to remember when was the first time that I paid attention to the phenomenon called the Fascist society—how do we enter it, what is it all about, who creates it- and of course, what are its deadly consequences.

Two books are wide open in front of me on my desk- Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem” and Primo Levi’s “ Survival in Auschwitz” (If This is a Man). The problem of fascism started occupying my mind for the fist time when I was reading Arendt’s report from the court process of Otto Adolf Eichmann which took place in Jerusalem in 1961. Hannah Arendt, a German philosopher had been trying obsessively to give herself an answer to the question which haunted humanity “Why the victims have never rebelled? That is, how it was possible that these victims allowed to be systematically squashed by the boots of Fascism and suffer the genocide involving the millions of people?” How it was possible that the victims were being exterminated for years without a single sign of protest? “How was their will to live extinguished much before the moment of their concrete physical execution, and why these victims had sort of annulled their identity and their voice much before the fatal encounter with those SS officers?” At one point Arendt will say that the best way to keep people in slavery is to keep them in the apathetic submission and that the ruling Fascism had a way to make robots, walking mannequins out of people who accepted that status quo and were walking silently in the procession right to their scaffold. We have all experienced hopelessness to be able to change anything in the governing system, we have experienced all the absence of desire to vote for ANY presidential candidate as we did not see that the voting could improve the current situation—all of us who did not vote this time in France have felt this sentiment as we decided to walk quietly into a certain ideological concentration lager.

Hannah Arendt, in fact, did not pay so much attention to the personality of Eichmann in her book- this Nazi officer, much like Klaus Barbie, was arrested almost accidentally in Buenos Aires in 1960. From there they took him directly to the court of Nürnberg where he repeated in a “banal” manner, using the vocabulary of a normal German citizen that “he had only doing his homework, under the commands of their supreme Führer, Hitler”. Arendt was not really interested in the structure of Eichmann’s personality– she was, above all interested in the phenomenon of evil in a man, as well as the absence of his consciousness in terms of social and philosophical categories. Thus she will say that “on the bench in Jerusalem there was not a single accused—a man who would be the subject of this historical court-trial, nor was there the Nazi regime itself sitting on that bench– but the phenomena of hatred and antisemitism which were pronouncing themselves in this world (see Europe more precisely) for centuries.

Eichmann had refused, to begin with, to claim guilty at that trial- his lawyer Robert Servicius has said only once that the accused felt guilty “before God but not in front of the legal system as such”. The only time he admitted his error in court was when he mentioned the telephone conversation which he had with Franz Rademacher, a man from the German Ministry of the Foreign Affairs. Rademacher was in charge of “the Jewish question in Yugoslavia and Eichmann authorized him – during the telephone conversation- to apply “the systematic fusillade” in Serbia so that he could clean that part of Eastern Europe of Jews and Gypsies. General Böhme (who was an extended hand in Serbia) hasn’t really realized this advice or order of Eichmann’s efficiently enough, but only six moths later- when he (Böhme) when he himself took a greater initiative in Serbia to collect all women and children as well and apply the “Final Solution” by placing those in a mobile gas chambers in certain trucks. During one of Eichmann’s trials in West Germany in 1952, the accused had mentioned that the greatest “cleansing” in Serbia was performed because “the German army was scheduled to keep order in Serbia and shoot at the Jewish rebels” although, Arendt says that was the worst lie of them all because the Jews never staged an armed rebellion in Serbia, unlike the Jews from Holland who rebelled in 1941.

Had I started thinking about it, at that time, having read these ines which spoke about the nature of Fascist regime and about that nauseous, disastrous “banality of evil”? No. I started reflecting about it the day when I was invited to Matignon, to a special conference held by the former minister of French foreign affairs, Hubert Vedrine, which he was giving to a group of the French, Serbian, Macedonian and Albanian journalists. My colleagues- journalists were asking Vedrine how he felt the first time he landed in Serbia, after the fall of Milosevic’s government and after his given accord to drop the bombs with the depleted uranium on the country. The former minister responded without making a blink: “I always loved Serbia, but at that time- I was just doing my homework- I was executing the orders given to me by my superiors.”

One of our colleagues retorted in a frustrated tone of voice “But, Sir, I think that Eichmann had a similar reply to the given question.” There was a split second of total silence in the room- and then the conversation quickly moved to some other subject.

And now we have a new presidential campaign here and a candidate who comes from the National Front League, Marin Le Pen.

Unlike Hanna Arendt, Primo Levi, Italian Jewish writer, himself a survivor, has always claimed that a fascist like Adolf Eichmann is a warped, pathological and destructive personality, by no means “banal”. And that his desire to command and give orders to the inferiors as well as his need to receive orders from his superiors, a sort of sign of a lucid but deeply troubled, bipolar personality. Mick Jackson’s film “Denial” allegedly follows the real trial of an American historian, a Shoah specialist, Deborah Lipstadt which was described prior to the film in Lipstadt’s book “”History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier”(2000). Lipstadt is somewhat like Arendt, puts herself on trial – in order to prove that banality is never banal enough to be neglected in court, as Lipstadt, a historian and a human rights activist hopelessly tries to deny the existence of those evil and not so banal social groups paid to believe that the gas chambers had never existed in Auschwitz – or anywhere else, during the World War II. 

The tone of accusation concerning Fascist government practices is even louder in Etienne Comar’s film “Django”which tells a sublime story of an artist, more precisely- it describes the war years of a famous Rom jazz musician, father of Java and free jazz–Django Reinhardt. Once he was invited to play his music to an elite corps of German SS officers, Reinhardt even decided to do it: he was promised a free leave and an escape for his tribe. However, he was advised by his German impresario to perform “without greater soulful adventure in music”- — consisting of his renowned long guitar solos. Poor Django accepts the challenge and participates in a sort of Gestapo’s Trymalchion party; there he plays his guitar with his band and the SS officers toast to “New Europe, United Europe”, that is German Europe. The most innocent spectator in the cinema cannot fail to observe the insistence of the director’s camera on this scene and soon enough we are bound to ask the inevitable “who is toasting here to whom? Is this a reference to the European union and its broken stability in 2017?” One of the most moving scenes in the film comes a bit later when the musician, majestically played by a new star of the French cinema, Reda Kateb, breaks his legendary guitar in two to hide himself in it- at the moment when he is on the run, approaching the frozen Swiss frontier all alone. And despite the bad reviews coming from the right-oriented French media, we see this film as a great anti-war hymn ending with Django’s “Requiem for the Gypsies”- his composition which was performed only once in front of the French audience.

The big protests against the ambiguous presidential campaign are taking place this week at the Republique square in Paris– I’m wondering if the members of the “Appeal for the Resurgence of the Left” are leaving their fountain-pens and their hatchets behind at home; I’m puzzeled to know if they are doing their homework and if they are going to say these two words loudly: Fascism and Fear; I’m curious to know if they had read the memories of their great poet, Robert Desnos who- once the Gestapo officers came to pick him up and take to the camp- simply handed his fountain-pen to his partner, Yuki, and said something to the effect “they can take away my body- but I remain in my spirit here, with you”, I’m just wondering..

Nina Zivancevic

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Littérature et Culture contemporaines en Iran

Comme en témoigne le travail de Sadegh Hedayat, Nahal Tajadod, Daryush Shayegan et Simon Farid Oliai

Il semble que l’histoire véritable de la culture moderne et contemporaine (les arts et lettres) en Iran commence quelque part dans la deuxième décade du XXe siècle, plus précisément en 1925, quand Reza Khan a pris les commandes du trône royal de l’ancien Ahmad Shah de la dynastie Qadjar. Les Quadjars ont auparavant gouverné les pays de l’Iran pour plus de 400 ans, et la nouvelle dynastie Pahlavi n’est restée au pouvoir que pour 50 ans, jusqu’au 1er avril 1979, quand la République islamique a pris le pouvoir par le mouvement révolutionnaire. Durant ces temps tumultueux, non seulement le dernier Shah de la dynastie, Mohamed Reza, était forcé de fuir le pays, mais encore un grand nombre des écrivains, artistes et scientifiques intéressants ont été contraint de faire face à l’exil. Le régime profondément religieux de l’ Ayatollah Khomeiny n’était pas prêt à encourager le développement des arts et de la culture modernistes qui ont commencé de prospérer sous les Pahlavis, pourtant peut-être trop vite pour la mentalité traditionnelle des Persans – ce que nous indique le sociologue de la culture Daryush Shayegan[i]. L’insistance des Pahlavis sur la modernisation rapide de la culture iranienne, l’insistance de Reza Pahlavi sur l’indépendance de l’U.R.S.S. et la Grande-Bretagne ont mené à la formation des états indépendants comme Kurdistan et Azerbaïdjan, cependant contrôlés par les Russes ; le Code civil a été établi, ainsi que les changements rapides dans l’éducation, dans la justice et le ministère de la Santé ; les femmes ont été officiellement interdites de porter des voiles et tchadors, etc.), le fait qui n’a pas été reçu de la part du peuple traditionnel dans l’esprit de développement et sentiment réels. Dans son roman « Elle joue »[ii], l’écrivaine contemporaine Nahal Tajadod a essayé d’expliquer pourquoi et comment une telle société, rapidement modernisée, avait été prête à faire un pas en arrière et revenir à l’ancienne pratique traditionnelle religieuse musulmane. Shayegan, de son côté, explique comment cette « occidentalisation » rapide du pays a mené à « l’ankylose identitaire » ; ce qui a produit une sorte de schizophrénie culturelle chez les Persans « qui en même temps achetait les sous-produits de l’Occident en tentant de rester loyal, dans l’intimité de sa maison, à leur ancien héritage culturel ».[iii]

De fait, tous les auteurs ci mentionnés n’attendaient pas, au côté de Salman Rushdie, que le jour imminent de la fatwa se produise contre eux – ils se sont enfuis du pays longtemps avant que la course de la Révolution ait commencé. Cependant, les figures culturelles comme Nahal Tajadod et Daryush Shayegan n’étaient pas les premiers à  s’enfuir du pays face à la Révolution islamique ; longtemps avant ce temps il y avait des gens créatifs, écrivains tels que Sadegh Hedayat, qui habitait Paris dans les années 1930, et un philosophe et écrivain, un descendant de la dynastie Qadjar, Simon Farid Oliai, qui habitait Paris dans les années 1990. Ces intellectuels, chacun dans son époque, doutaient également de la sincérité politique des Pahlavis (nous entendons souvent dire que Shah Mohamad Reza opérait à la CIA), par conséquent ils ont préféré l’exil que la très rapide modernisation des industries de l’Iran que les Pahlavis ont poursuivie, combinée à  l’inflation économique.

Sadegh Hedayat était exilé en Paris dans les années 1930 où il fut accueilli par André Breton et Henry Miller comme l’auteur exceptionnel du bref chef d’œuvre « Le hibou aveugle ». Dans la préface de l’éditeur de son recueil de contes intitulé « L’homme qui tua son désir »[iv] on peut remarquer le regret éditorial que le travail de ce grand écrivain iranien, dans son obscure beauté et profondeur comparable à Kafka et Edgar Poe, demeure  inconnu du public. Cette figure méconnue des lettres Persanes, qui a souvent désigné les tabous de la société iranienne de son époque, était, en même temps, un ethnographe suprême des coutumes anciennes persanes et un satiriste digne des méditations d’Omar Khayyam. Il avait souffert en exil jusqu’au point de se suicider en 1951. Ce profond lecteur de Dostoïevski a toujours affirmé en ses contes que notre vie n’est qu’une rencontre de l’humain avec un immense malentendu et qu’on vit sans cesse en forme humaine dans nos prisons intérieures qui peuvent aussi nous servir comme espace de la liberté personnelle infinie. Dans ses textes il se tourne allégoriquement et virtuellement vers le passé persan – vers l’héritage zoroastrien de la lumière et le feu (« l’Admirateur du Feu ») ou vers l’ère des Barmécides qui ont stratégiquement régné sur Baghdâd sous le premier califat Arabe  (« Le dernier Sourire »), pendant qu’Hedayat nous rappelle constamment que le passé est ici juste pour expliquer la Vacuité du présent et peut être le seul moyen de nous présenter la (im)possibilité du Futur. Dans son conte sur les Zoroastriens, « L’Admirateur du Feu », Hedayat se souvient avec une certaine nostalgie du berceau ancien des civilisations, Persépolis, maintenant un site archéologique en ruines, visité par de fameux archéologues afin de déchiffrer l’Histoire. Un spécialiste de l’Iran, Flandrin, arrive devant un autel dans le site-cimetière de Naqsh-e Rostam, où l’image d’Ahura Mazda, le Dieu central zoroastrien du feu, est représentée à l’entrée même de la grotte où l’ancienne famille royale iranienne a été enterrée. Selon l’archéologue, les pèlerins zoroastriens récemment arrivés, revenus à ce site après leur travail,  avaient  rassemblé des faces gravées dans les pierres entourant la grotte – là à l’air libre -, et se prosternaient face à l’ancien sanctuaire, rendant hommage au feu. Et puis, les mots de l’archéologue français disent tout – toute l’histoire de l’Iran depuis ces débuts à travers les conquêtes des Arabes et Moghuls : « J’étais tellement frappé de voir qu’après de nombreuses années les efforts incroyables des musulmans ne pouvaient pas empêcher les dévots de cette ancienne religion ; ils visitaient toujours ce site en cachette afin de se prosterner et de rendre hommage au Dieu du feu. » L’homme qui tue son désir est en fait un bouddhiste. Et dans toute son œuvre, Hedayat nous ramène au chemin du « calme », qui contrôle non seulement son désir, mais encore la société en tant que telle, et règne sagement sur ce monde au bénéfice de tous les êtres humains. Ce type de société était visible en Iran pendant l’empire Sassanide, mais avec les conquêtes arabes et l’établissement du premier califat, les traces du bouddhisme et sa ramification, zoroastrienne, ont disparu en Iran. Quand même, certains aspects en demeuraient toujours durant le VIIIe siècle, notamment avec la famille Barmécide et son représentant illustre, Rouzbehan Barmaki, qui régnait sur le Khorasan déguisé en souverain musulman, mais qui en fait était le gardien de plus grand temple bouddhiste iranien, Nowbahar. À cette époque, le calife Haroun al Rachid, qui avait  grandi avec un Barmécide et a donné à cette famille noble bouddhiste presque carte blanche pour régner sur son royaume musulman, a lentement commencé à se rendre compte qu’il avait été finement manipulé par les vizirs Barmécides. Alors il a décidé d’éliminer les Barmécides et aussi toutes les autres sectes en incluant les manichéens, les zoroastriens et les mazdakites. Par conséquent le conte de Hedayat, « Le dernier Sourire », parle directement du massacre qui suivit la décision du calife. Rouzbehan, le maire de Khorassan et le gardien de la porte bouddhiste vit dans un palais qui est un temple vivant bouddhiste et où il médite toutes les nuits en contemplant l’essence ou plutôt l’absence de tout désir. Il a été averti de la décision du calife de les massacrer tous, mais il attend paisiblement que l’armée du calife entre dans sa ville, méditant et gardant son « dernier sourire » sur son visage ; il serre une lettre dans la main – un ordre écrit par son pair, Mohammad Barmécide, qui a ordonné la même chose qu’Haroun : ils ont à exécuter un massacre, mais en faveur des Barmécides contre les oppresseurs musulmans. Lui, Rouzbehan, était censé attaquer la population musulmane et libérer les régions comme Khorassan, Bactria, afin que règne la famille musulmane Bamian. Cependant, il n’a pas pu les attaquer, vu que le bouddhisme lui défendait de tuer un être vivant, homme ou animal. Alors il attendit dans son palais, un dernier sourire (de Bouddha) sur son visage, il mourut en méditant, la lettre dans ses mains lui commandant de tuer ses frères musulmans ; ce qu’il n’a pas pu faire, et finalement il a atteint l’état de bouddha dans une situation impossible.

Les sites sacrés anciens font partie de l’héritage iranien que chaque Persan chérit – le même souci et la quête pour Bactria et Bâmiyân ont été exprimés par le philosophe Simon Oliai, dans le moment où les fondamentalistes musulmans ont démoli les Bouddhas de Bâmiyân. Ces monuments étaient presque aussi chers au cœur de cet écrivain distingué que le destin de ses enfants – il a donné des nombreuses conférences à l’ONU, à Paris, à Téhéran et aux États-Unis. Ce qui était un signe exceptionnel du respect et la reconnaissance de son héritage culturel qui a été détruit depuis l’époque d’Haroun al Rachid et les Barmécides, jusqu’à aujourd’hui. Selon un sociologue et anthropologue culturel, Daryush Shayegan, les fondamentalistes ont essayé d’occuper le terrain qui a été abandonné par la population traditionnelle et les anciens métaphysiciens. Or cela a mené à une certaine idéologisation de leur tradition, tandis que la République islamique a lancé la religion vers le domaine de la modernité, où cela tombait dans un piège de la raison, comme Hegel le dirait. Ignorant les règles des temps modernes , le chiisme révolutionnaire a permis à ses partisans d’accepter les idées révolutionnaires qui flottaient dans les airs comme une idéologie diffusée ou, mieux encore, comme un marxisme vulgaire qui avait échangé son manteau contre celui du stalinisme pour ne plus en changer.

Pendant qu’un grand nombre d’écrivains iraniens modernes et postmodernes, peut-être, n’a pas atteint le style et le talent élégants de Sadeq Hedayat pour illustrer les caractères et leur atmosphère, tous ont hérité de lui sa passion pour la métaphore filée et la pensée allégorique.  Tous partagent une vaste vision d’une grande civilisation, jadis perdue pourtant léguant à ses enfants un patrimoine matériel et immatériel dont ils pouvaient être fiers. Tous les artistes, auteurs et penseurs iraniens, sentent à l’unisson qu’ils sont les porteurs du feu sacré et que leur travail créatif est une mission prolongée que leur patrie les a tenus  à entreprendre. Cette conscience de leur passé si présente, délaissée et peut-être entraînée dans une mauvaise direction, rend compte, selon les mots de Gashvad, d’un propos d’Hedayat : « Tout cela est notre faute, parce que c’est nous qui avions appris aux Arabes l’art de la gouvernance, nous avons élaboré les concepts de leurs doctrines, nous les avons offert, l’esprit et l’âme généreux, nous leur avons offert nos pensées et nos enfants, notre industrie et littérature, en espérant que tout cela anoblirait leur esprit sauvage et rebelle ! Hélas ! Ses mentalité et race si diffèrent des nôtres ! Mais tant mieux ! Ils devraient demeurer comme ils sont, leurs pensées nées de leur pisse et excrément – oui, c’est ce qu’elles sont. »

Un porteur des mots similaires est une collègue d’Hedayat beaucoup plus jeune, une femme – Nahal Tajadod. Née en 1960 à Téhéran, Tajadod arrive à Paris en 1977, et fait des études en relations politiques entre l’Iran et la Chine. Hedayat a donné à son peuple la traduction de Kafka, mais Tajadod a donné au peuple français une des plus complètes monographies du poète Roumi[v] , avec la traduction de Mowlana – « Le Livre de Chams de Tabriz : cent poèmes »[vi]. Dans son roman complexe, à multiples facettes, « Elle joue », Tajadod peint l’image de la vie et l’époque des hôtes d’Iran contemporain, ou plutôt les conditions de vie des artistes, peuple d’une certaine sensibilité, racontée par une actrice et musicienne Sheyda, qui avait grandi à l’époque où l’Ayatollah Khomeiny s’était emparé du pouvoir dans les années 1980. L’image du régime répressif religieux est toujours valable jusqu’à nos jours dans le pays où la musique et le théâtre ont été interdits d’être diffusés ou exécutés en public jusqu’à récemment :  ainsi le défi majeur de l’héroïne envers la société et le code légal est l’acte même de montrer son art ; d’où le titre « rebelle » du roman « Elle joue ». La narration, en fait, nous peint un portrait d’une autre héroïne iranienne – on pourrait dire le portrait de l’auteure même, ou une femme quelconque, particulièrement une femme Persane qui a passé toute sa vie en exil et n’a pas trouvé une place comme sa véritable maison. Ces deux femmes se rencontrent finalement à Paris, et échangent leurs expériences sur les conditions primaires de la vie en exil : ce qui donne à ce roman la hauteur d’un texte profondément philosophique ou d’un traité sur l’exil. « Nous deux sommes maintenant en France, une arrivée trois ans auparavant et l’autre dix fois trois années auparavant. Pendant tout ce temps j’ai habité plusieurs maisons, mais je me sentais chez mois nulle part. Impossible pour elle de trouver une. Elle est une nomade sans foyer… ». Alors, dit-elle ironiquement et sarcastiquement : « Si tout va mal, je vais  déménager en Inde : mieux vaut être un vagabond en Inde qu’un sans-abri à Paris, n’est-ce pas ? » Une descendante d’une civilisation ancienne, Sheyda, tout comme l’auteure Tajadod, exilée, doivent apprendre un nombre de petits trucs inutiles, insignifiants qui, pourtant, composent l’identité et la civilisation d’un pays : « Elle n’est qu’au début d’un long exil, elle n’est pas préparée à vivre en France. Elle doit apprendre la langue qu’elle avait déjà étudié – mais il y en a toujours une couche qu’on apprend « sur place », la signification des truffes (pour les Français) ; ce qu’elle devrait apprendre sur la manière dont ils apprennent à aimer saint-émilion, roquefort, le discours de de Gaulle à l’occasion de la Libération de Paris, Arletty, Gabin et leurs répliques… Tour de France, Mai 68, la Nouvelle Vague… les noms des réalisateurs, des écrivains – à ne pas oublier Proust, surtout, Proust – les sportifs…, les restaurants, les hôtels, les saisons politiques… les jours fériés… Oh quel sacré morceau de travail pour toi, qui ne sait pas même qui est Dominique Strauss-Kahn ! Mais aussi, quel heureux hasard pour toi. » (p.47)

Là, comme ailleurs dans le roman, Tajadod compare deux mondes, celui de l’Iran de l’ époque où elle a grandi et qu’elle a quitté, où la première écrivaine, Tahereh, s’était dévoilée devant un groupe d’ hommes, et cela s’était  passé il y a si longtemps, en 1845 – et le monde, imposé par le régime fondamentaliste religieux de Khomeiny, avait, selon Simon Oliai : « ramené (le pays) 400 ans en arrière, tout en année 2000 .»

Au début de son long exil, la plus jeune héroïne, Sheyda, est consciente du fait que, si elle se dévoilait en public et à New York, comme son idole, la poètesse Tahereh l’avait fait, que les mêmes anathèmes et fatwa la suivrait. Elle a entendu des paroles des mullahs maudissant les femmes libérées « Honte à celles qui osent enlever le hidjab en public – elles mériteront la prison dans ce monde, et l’Enfer dans l’autre ». Descendante d’une vieille famille bahaïs, qui ne pouvait pas adopter l’Islam, Sheyda a survécu aux interrogatoires de la SAVAK (la police secrète iranienne), à « l’embargo » et l’aviation militaire « Mirage » de la guerre avec l’Iraq, qui avait duré plus de dix ans.

« Elle sait aujourd’hui que ces mirages, nommés « Mirage F1 » ont été fabriqué en France et vendus à Saddam Hussein afin qu’il bombarde l’Iran ». Sheyda également va apprendre et comprendre comment l’ Ayatollah a gagné les cœurs des Iraniens et a établi la République Islamique au lieu de la « République du progrès », qui venait de l’Occident, mais quelque peu, à leur avis, était prédestinée à coloniser le peuple.

Les problèmes du progrès culturel et de la diversité culturelle étaient les horizons constants de l’attention pour un humaniste et penseur à multiples facettes, Daryush Shayegan, auteur de plusieurs livres reconnus sur les changements interculturels, tel que « La lumière vient de l’Occident », « La Conscience métisse » et « Qu’est-ce qu’une révolution religieuse? ». Pour son analyse multiculturelle, Shayegan commence par la signification de termes tels que culture et assimilation culturelle. Ce qu’on appelle « la Globalisation » a remonté l’heure, aussi, ou nous a ramené à la notion de la validité singulière ou l’ethnocentricité d’une culture. Lorsqu’il y a « une maison » et le sentiment de l’ethnicité pour une tribu culturelle (dar al-Islam ou la Terre d’Islam), il y a aussi, selon Shayegan, une terre étrangère où l’Islam a échoué à trouver la tolérance, ainsi nommée dar al-harb ou la Terre de la Guerre. Ce qui est  un grand Autre saint pour quelqu’un de Dar al-Islam, pour un Européen ou un Chinois, le grand Autre est censé être un être de Dar al-Islam. Shayegan prétend plus encore que, si quelqu’un ne vit qu’uniquement pour sa tradition culturelle, son identité culturelle, il devient une sorte de la personnalité sclérotique, si vivement présent et imminent dans sa propre expérience que cela l’empêche d’observer toute distinction importante et précieuse. Ce qui est d’une importance cruciale dans notre projection des visions objectives du monde. Shayegan affirme qu’il y avait une période saine dans les années 1970, où les différentes cultures toujours pouvaient communiquer l’une avec l’autre, où « Senghor avait lancé le concept de la négritude et où l’UNESCO avait organisé des conférences liées aux sujets culturels importants, ou lorsque les intellectuels iraniens, encouragés par des effets indésirables de la contre-culture américaine, avaient critiqué les effets négatifs de l’influence culturelle occidentale pendant qu’ils avaient préconisé le retour à leur identité culturelle originale. »

Shayegan est prudent lorsqu’il examine les éléments de la  prétendue diversité culturelle. A plusieurs reprises, dans tous ces livres, il a souligné le fait que chaque culture devrait éviter le piège majeur, prétendument celui qui offre sa propre exclusivité et la haine pour d’autres cultures dans la civilisation autrement ouverte, et où les règles de la démocratie seraient respectées. Dans une telle civilisation, les relations entre les peuples et cultures qui l’habitent ne sont pas celles du  monologue. Ce qu’on atteste dans toutes les civilisations anciennes et traditionnelles, mais plutôt celle du dialogue, qui a créé quelque chose que Gadamer appelle « la fusion des horizons ». Et alors Shayegan change sa critique par rapport au « terrain culturel » nouvellement créé ; ce qu’il nomme le phénomène de la Renaissance des religions. Il y explique les effets primaires et secondaires suivant l’établissement de l’Islam comme la religion officielle de l’État Islamique en Iran. Ces effets ont pris plusieurs formes, mais les résultats de ce(s) revirement(s) culturel(s) les plus connus ont des impacts la spécifique :

  1. Mythologisation du Temps, ce qui n’est que le déplacement de l’Eschatologie à la catégorie de l’historicité (le Coran n’est pas intéressé en soi par l’historicité, mais par la verticalité de l’expérience révélatrice)
  2. Effacement de la mémoire collective des musulmans ; ce qui a renvoyé la couche culturelle de l’entière civilisation d’Islam vers le sens littéral des temps célébrant salad, le modèle imaginaire de la ville idéalisée du Prophète, appauvrissant, en fait, la culture et l’histoire de l’Islam de telle manière qu’elles marchent vers la barbarie et la stérilité
  3. Réduction de l’homme spirituel et idéal en Islam, ramené à la caricature d’un révolutionnaire radical qui, quelque peu semblable aux anarchistes Russes des romans de Dostoïevski, tue les gens à tire-larigot
  4. Sanctification de la violence – Shayegan cite ici Al-Ashmawy qui, dans son livre « L’Islamisme contre l’Islam », dit que dans les 7000 vers du Coran, moins de 700 référent à une matière légale ou didactique et, sur ces vers, à peine 80 pourraient indiquer une « prescription légale » de « ce qu’il fallait faire » ou de ce qu’un croyant devrait faire dans une situation légale.

Mais Shayegan remarque ici une chose avec pertinence :

Si le Fondamentalisme est un aspect sombre de la nouvelle renaissance des religions en général, le nouveau polythéisme qui se présente à l’Occident sous le nom commun des pratiques de « l’Âge nouveau », désigne la même chose que le néo paganisme. Ce qui est un aspect badin de la nouvelle métamorphose des formes religieuses vers  des idées anciennes et des archétypes religieux allant d’un contexte à l’autre. Et qu’est-ce qu’est la raison pour la création de ces multiples carrefours de nouvelles sectes et communautés religieuses ? Shayegan pense, et il est bien possible qu’on le pense aussi, de concert avec l’héritage de la recherche de Vladimir Zivancevic, professeur de religions comparées, que les grandes religions du passé ne peuvent pas satisfaire les différents besoins des êtres contemporains d’Anthropocène. Par conséquent que l’approche multiculturelle des « zones mixtes de l’hybridation », toutes les cultures sur notre planète poussent leurs habitants vers une rencontre spécifique horizontale, l’un avec l’autre, où la vision principale et globale des choses prend la vision kaléidoscopique de ce qui fracture simultanément la myriade de particules de la lumière pendant que notre chemin principal à travers la vie demeure sombre, non éclairé et appauvri.

Un des porteurs des bougies sur le chemin mal éclairé de la connaissance et l’examen de conscience dans la vie, c’est la figure du philosophe Simon Farid Oliai née à Téhéran, mais qui a grandi et a fait ses études en Occident (l’Université de Loewen).

Suivant les pas de Hegel dans sa quête pour « le Maître Absolu » de l’histoire universelle, Oliai a écrit une très profonde étude des intellectuels, artistes, scientifiques et autres acteurs sociaux créatifs dans les différents contextes culturels et l’a intitulé « Contester l’Absolu »[vii]. En analysant, ou plutôt en s’opposant à la pensée de ces prédécesseurs et contemporains tels que Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, et s’approchant plus étroitement de la pensée de Gianni Vattimo et John Sallis, Simon F. Oliai conteste ce qu’il appelle « l’essence » du fondamentalisme ou la crainte fondamentaliste et/ou l’approche des choses. En contemplant la signification profonde de notre vie, ou simplement le fait d’exister sur la Terre – ce qu’ on rencontre dans les écrits cruciaux de classiques de la pensée européenne moderne tels Nietzsche et Heidegger, Simon Oliai ne néglige pas le rôle décisif de « la philosophie d’Orient » ; ce qui a sans doute enrichi ses réflexions sur les racines métaphysiques de tout dogmatisme contemporain. Dans son livre , sous-titré « Nietzsche, Heidegger et la lutte d’Europe contre le Fondamentalisme », Oliai explore le continent des écrivains et penseurs –parmi lesquels Sohrawardi, Avicenne, Hafez et Roumi – qui, avec Heidegger, ont abordé le problème du « Dieu ». « La question ‘qui est Dieu’, est trop dure pour les êtres humains », selon Heidegger[viii] (et Oliai apporte sa contribution),  examinant la question de savoir « Qu’est que-ce c’est Dieu ?» dans la perspective d’un philosophe « européen » sérieux. Oliai prend la déclaration de Shayegan « la Lumière (l’édification) vient d’Occident », et la pousse un peu plus loin en posant la question essentielle, surtout ontologique (serait-ce  un vestige de la pensée manichéenne ?) et c’est – s’il y avait de la Lumière en tout, et si cela nous approchait soit d’Occident soit d’Orient – qu’est-ce que nous, les humains, ferions afin qu’on la garde avec (en) nous ?

Il est intéressant de remarquer que tous les écrivains iraniens susmentionnés ne peuvent poursuivre leurs recherches intellectuelles dans leur patrie – ils vont et viennent entre les pays de leur résidence et l’Iran, et gardent leurs flambeaux, leur lumière héritée dedans.

Nina Zivancevic

(Traduit de l’anglais par Slobodan Ivanovic)

[i] À consulter – Daryush Shayegan – « La conscience métisse », Albin Michel, Paris, 2012.

[ii]Nahal Tajadod, « Elle joue », Albin Michel, Paris, 2012

[iii] Shayegan, Ibid., p. 105

[iv] Sadegh Hedayat, « L’homme qui tua son désir », Editions Phébus, Paris, 1998

[v] Tajadod, N. « Roumi le brûle », Paris, J-C Lattès, 2004

[vi] Tajadod, Nahal, Mowlana, Le Livre de Chams de Tabriz, annoté par Jean Claude Carrière, Gallimard, 1993.

[vii] « Challenging the Absolute », Oliai. S., University Press of America, MD, 2015.

[viii] Ibidem


Contemporary Literature and Culture in Iran

Published on site

(As seen through the work of Sadeq Hedayat, Nahal Tajadod , Daryush Shayegan and Simon F. Oliai)

Today, after the bombing of the Shiite Mosque in Saudi Arabia by Al Qaida–the questions of meaning and belonging and faith become ever more pertinent in the Islamic world. Its most cultured and versatile representatives, the Persians, have endured the changes of their civilizations, religions and cultures for more than 3000 years, as attested to in the literary work of their giant, Sadeq Hedayat, contemporary of Joyce and André Breton. Not less interesting is the literary and anthropological, sociological work of a writer, Daryush Shayegan, who after 30 years of absence returns to Tehran and asks  again and again the legitimate question,  “What is a religious revolution?” which he also explores in his books, “Light comes from the West, “ “Mixed consciousness” and “Hinduism and Sufism.” The philosophical aspect of this quest is pursued by Simon F. Oliai, Iranian philosopher and specialist in Heidegger studies, living in the U.S., whose book “Challenging the Absolute” sheds light on new readings of Heidegger, Nietzsche and the coordination of the world’s struggle against Fundamentalism in Europe and elsewhere . A secular, literary version of this problematics presented by Oliai is found in the literary fiction and biography of a young Iranian woman-writer who has been living in Paris most of her lifetime; she is also interested in the issues of what it means to be a woman, a Moslem woman of Persian background living in the West. Her interests are shared by her compatriots, the visual artists and filmmakers Shirin Neshat and Marjane Satrapi.  My work here attempts to clarify some relevant aspects of the Persian contemporary cultural heritage.

Contemporary Literature and   Culture in Iran

 (As seen through the work of Sadeq Hedayat, Nahal Tajadod , Daryush Shayegan and Simon Farid  Oliai)

It seems that the real story of the modern and contemporary culture (arts and letters) in Iran starts somewhere in the second decade of the 20th century, more precisely in 1925 when Reza Khan took over the royal throne from the ancient Ahmad Shah of the Kadjar dynasty. The Kadjars previously ruled the lands of Iran for more than 400 years, and the newly established Pahlavi dynasty remained in power for only 50 years, until April 1, 1979 when, by the revolutionary movement, the Islamic Republic took over. In these turbulent times not only the Pahlavi dynasty’s last Shah, Mohamad Reza, was forced to flee the country, but also many interesting writers, artists and scientists felt compelled to face exile. The Ayatollah Khomeini’s profoundly religious regime was not going to encourage the development of the modernist arts and culture which started flourishing under the Pahlavis, but perhaps too soon for the traditional mentality of the Persians—as the sociologist of culture Daryush  Shayegan  tells us[i]. The Pahlavis insisted on the rapid modernization of Iranian culture (Reza Pahlavi’s insistence on independence from the USSR and Great Britain led to the formation of the independent states of Kurdistan and Azerbaidjan controlled by the Russians; the civil code was established, as well as the rapid changes in education, justice and the ministry of health; women were officially forbidden to wear veils and chadors, etc.);however this modernization did not sit well with the sentiments of the more traditional people.

In her novel  “She Plays,”[ii] contemporary woman writer Nahal Tajadod explains why and how such a rapidly modernized society was likely to take a step back and return to the old traditional Muslim religious practice.

Shayegan for his part explains how this rapid “westernization” of the country led to the “ankylose of the national identity,” which produced a sort of cultural schizophrenia for  the Persians “who were at the same time buying the sub-products of the West while trying to remain loyal, in the privacy of their home, to their ancient cultural heritage.”[iii]

By the way, all these authors mentioned here were not waiting along with Salman Rushdi  for  the imminent day of fatwa to fall upon them–they fled the country long before the course of the Revolution took its stride.

However, cultural figures like Nahal Tajadod  and  Daryush Shayegan were not the first ones to flee the country facing the Islamic Revolution; long before their time, -there were creative people (writers such as Sadeq Hedayat who lived in Paris in the 1930s;  and a philosopher and writer, a descendant from the Kadjar dynasty, Simon Farid Oliai who lived in Paris in 1990s). These intellectuals, each in his time,  also doubted the political sincerity of the Pahlavis (we often hear that Shah Mohamad Reza operated with the CIA’s helping hands); thus they preferred exile to the really quick modernization of the industries of Iran which the Pahlavis pursued, combining it with economic inflation.

Sadeq Hedayat was exiled in Paris in 1930s where he was welcomed by André Breton and Henry Miller as the exceptional author who wrote a short masterpiece “The Blind Owl”.  In the editor’s preface to his posthumous collection of short stories entitled “The man who killed his desire”[iv] we hear the editor’s regret that the work of this great Iranian writer, compared in its dark beauty and depth to Kafka and Edgar Poe, is still unknown to the general public. This dark figure of the Persian letters, who would point out the taboos of the Iranian society of his times, was also a supreme ethnographer of the ancient Persian customs and a satirist worthy of the meditations of Omar Khayyam, and who suffered in exile to the point of committing suicide in 1951. This profound reader of Dostoyevsky has always claimed in his stories that our life is just an encounter of a human with a big misunderstanding and, that,  as humans, we constantly live in our inner jails which can also serve us as a space of infinite personal freedom. In his texts he constantly turns allegorically and virtually to the Persian past–to the Zoroastrian heritage of light and fire (“The Admirer of Fire”) or to the era of the Barmecides who strategically ruled Baghdad under the first Arab caliphate (“The Last Smile”). Hedayat constantly reminds us that the past is there just to explain the Vacuity of the present moment and perhaps the only means of bringing us the (im)possibility of the Future. In his story about the Zoroastrians, “The Admirer of Fire”, Hedayat remembers with a certain nostalgia the ancient cradle of the civilizations, Persepolis, now an archeological site in ruins which famous archeologists visit to decipher history. The Iranian specialist, Flandin arrives at an altar in a graveyard site of Naqsh-e Rostam, where the image of Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian principal God of fire, is represented at the very entrance of the cave where the ancient Iranian royalty were buried. The newly arrived Zoroastrian pilgrims who returned to this site after work, according to the archeologist, completely resembled  the faces engraved on the stones surrounding the cave. In the free air there, they were prostrating in front of the ancient sanctuary paying homage to fire. And then, in the words of the French archeologist Hedayat says it all –the whole history of Iran from its beginnings through the Arab and Moghul conquests:

“I was so shocked to see, that after so many years the incredible efforts made by the Muslims could not erase the adepts of this ancient religion; they were still coming to this site secretly to prostrate and pay homage to the God of fire.” The man who kills his desire is, in fact, a Buddhist. And in his entire writing Hedayat brings us back to the path of the “calm one” who masters not only his desire but the society as such and reigns over this world wisely for the benefit of all human beings. This type of the society was visible in Iran during the Sassanid empire, but with the Arab conquest and the establishment of the first caliphate, the traces of Buddhism and its offshoot, Zoroastrism, have vanished in Iran. However, some of it still remained in the 8th century, notably with the Barmecide family and its illustrious representative, Rouzbehan Barmaki, who ruled Khorassan in the disguise of a Muslem ruler, but who, in fact, was the keeper of the biggest Iranian Buddhist temple, Nowbahar. At that time, the caliph Haroun al Rachid, who grew up with a Barmecide and gave this noble Buddhist family almost open hands to rule his Muslim kingdom, had slowly started understanding that he was being finely manipulated by the Barmecide veizirs. Thus he decides to liquidate the Barmecides and also all other sects including the Manicheans, the Zoroastrians and the Mazdaists. Thus Hedayad’s story, “The Last Smile,” speaks exactly about the massacre which followed the caliphe’s decision. Rouzbehan, the mayor of Khorassan and a keeper of the Buddhist gate, lives in a palace which is a living Buddhist temple and where he meditates every night contemplating the essence, or rather, absence, of every desire. He is warned about the caliph’s decision to massacre them all, but he is peacefully waiting for the caliph’s army to enter his city, meditating and keeping his “last smile” on his face; he holds a letter in his hand–a written order by his peer, Mohammad Barmecide who had written an order similar to Haroun’s: they were to execute a massacre, but in favor of the Barmecides against the Muslim oppressors. He, Rouzbehan, was supposed to attack the Muslim population and liberate regions such as Khorassan, Bactria and Bamiyan from the Muslim rule–but he could not attack them, as Buddhism forbid him to kill any living being, man or animal. So he waits in his palace, with the last (Buddha’s) smile on his face;  he dies in meditation, and with a letter in his hands- commanding him to kill his Muslim brothers which he couldn’t do, so finally he reaches his Buddhahood in an impossible situation.

The sacred ancient sites are part of the Iranian heritage which every Persian holds dear to his heart. The same worry and quest for Bactria and Bamiyan was expressed by philosopher Simon Oliai, at the moment when the Muslim Fundamentalists were demolishing the Bamiyan Buddhas. These monuments appeared almost as dear to the heart of this distinguished author as the destiny of his own children–he created numerous conferences at UNESCO in Paris, in Teheran and in the U.S., an exceptional sign of respect and the appreciation of his cultural heritage which was being demolished since the times of Haroun al Rachid and the Barmecides up to the present day.  According to sociologist-cum-cultural anthropologist Daryush Shayegan, the fundamentalists were trying to gain terrain subsequently abandoned by the secular population and  the ancient metaphysicists; instead it led to a certain  ideologisation of their tradition as the Islamic Republic launched the religion into the domain of modernity where it  “fell” into the trap imposed by human reason, as Hegel would have it. Ignorant of the rules of the modern times Revolutionary shiism allowed its followers to accept the revolutionary ideas floating in the air like a diffused ideology or, better, as a vulgar Marxism which changed its cloak into Stalinism and stayed with it.

While many modern and postmodern Iranian writers might not have attained Sadeq Hedayat’s elegant style and talent for portraying characters and their milieu, all of them inherited and shared his love for extended metaphor and allegoric thinking. All of them share a vast vision of a great civilization, once lost and gone but which left to its children some material and immaterial monuments they could be proud of. All the Iranian artists, authors, and thinkers–feel in unison that they are the bearers of the sacred fire and that their creative work is a prolonged mission that their homeland obliged them to undertake. The awareness of their abundant past, forlorn and perhaps swayed in the wrong direction, is reflected in the words of Geshvad, one of Hedayat’s characters: “All of this comes as our fault because it was we who taught Arabs the art of governing, we corrected the grammar of their own language, we elaborated the concepts of their doctrines, we offered them, open-handed, our spirit and our mind, we offered to them our thoughts and our children, our industry and our music, our science and our literature, hoping that all this will ennoble their savage and rebellious mind! Hellas! Their mentality and race are so different from ours! But so much the better! They should remain the way they are, their thoughts born out of their piss and excrements–yes, that is what these are.”

The similar bearer of the words on mission, is Hedayat’s much younger colleague , a woman Nahal Tajadod. Born in 1960 in Teheran, Tajadod arrives in Paris in 1977 and studies the political relations of Iran and China. Hedayat has given his people the translation of Kafka, but Tajadod has given the French one of the most complete monographies of the poet Rumi,[v] as well as the translation of  Mowlam– Hundred Songs of Chams from Tabriz.[vi] In her complex, multifaceted novel “She Plays,” Tajadod gives the picture of the life and times of the denizens of contemporary Iran or rather the living conditions of artists, people of certain sensibility,  recounted by an actress and musician, Sheyda who grew up in the times of Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power in 1990. The picture of the repressive religious regime is still valid to the present day in the country where music and theater were forbidden to be publically performed until recently–thus the heroine’s major challenge to the society and the legal codex presents the very act of performing her arts, the “rebellious” title of the novel “She Plays.” The narrative, in fact, gives us the portrait of yet another Iranian heroine–one could say the very portrait of the author herself, or any woman, especially a Persian woman who has spent her life in exile and hasn’t felt any place as her real home. These two women meet finally in Paris, and exchange their experiences about the primary conditions of life in exile which eventually propels this novel to the height of a profoundly philosophical text or treatise on exile.

“We are both in France now, one of us arrived three years ago and another one ten times three years ago. During all this time I had lived in several houses, but in none of those I felt at home… Neither Sheyda has a house. Impossible for her to find one. She is a homeless nomad-” And she adds with irony and sarcasm: “If everything goes wrong, I will relocate to India: better be a vagabond in India than a homeless in Paris, isn’t it?” A descendant of an ancient civilization, Sheyda, as well as the author Tajadod herself in exile, have to learn a number of useless, insignificant, little things which, however, make up a country’s identity and civilization: “She is just at the beginning of a long exile, she was not prepared to live in France. She has to learn the language which she had already studied–but there is always another layer of it which you learn -on the spot”,

“the meaning of truffles (for the French) which she should learn how to appreciate the way they learn how to like saint-émilion, roquefort, De Gaulle’s speech at the liberation of Paris, Arletty, Gabin and their replicas…Tour de France, May 68, the New Wave…names of film directors, writers–don’t forget Proust, above all, Proust, –sportsmen.., restaurants, hotels, political seasons…holidays–Oh, what a holy chunk of work for you, who don’t even know who Dominique Strauss-Kahn is! But also, what a lucky chance for you.” (p.47)

Tajadod makes a comparison between two worlds: the Iran of her day where she grew up and which she then left behind, where the first Iranian woman writer, Tahereh, took off her veil before a group of men-, so long ago, -in 1845; and the world imposed by the fundamentalist religious regime of Khomeini which, according to Simon Oliai: “turned the clock 400 years back into the past, all in year 2000.”

In the beginning of her long exile, the younger heroine, Sheyda, was aware of the fact that if she took off her veil in public and in New York, the way her idol, poet Tahereh did, that the same anathema and fatwa would follow her. She had heard the words of the mullahs cursing liberated women: “Shame on those who dare take off hedjab in public. They will merit prison in this world, and Hell in the other one.” Descendant of an old bahaïs family, who could not adopt Islam, Sheyda had lived through the interrogations by SAVAK (Iranian secret police) and through the “embargo” and the “Mirage” air force of Iran’s war with Iraq–which lasted more than ten years.

“She knows today that these mirages, called  “Mirage F1”, were fabricated in France and sold to Saddam Hussein in order to bomb Iran.” Sheyda will also learn and understand how the Ayatollah won the hearts of the Iranians and established the Islamic Republic instead of the “Republic of Progress” of the West; who, in their view, was predestined to colonize his people.

The issues of cultural progress and cultural diversity have been the constant horizons of attention for the humanist and multifaceted thinker, Daryush Shayegan, author of several illustrious books on intercultural changes, such as “Light Comes from the West”, “Mixed Consciousness” and “What is a Religious Revolution?” For his multicultural analysis, Shayegan starts with the significance of the worldly terms culture and cultural assimilation. So-called “globalization” has also turned the clock back or has returned us to the notion of singular validity or ethnocentricity of a single culture. When there is a “home” and the sentiment of ethnicity for one cultural tribe (dar al-Islam or land of Islam), there is also, according to Shayegan, the foreign land where Islam failed to find tolerance, thus called dar al-harb or Land of War. What was for a man from Dar al-Islam a holy Big Other, was for a European or a Chinaman Big Other ,a being from Dar al-Islam. Shayegan further claims that if a man lives solely and only for his own cultural tradition, his cultural identity becomes a sort of sclerotic personality, so intensely present and imminent in his own living experience that it prevents him from observing any important and valuable distinctions which are crucially important in our projection of the objective visions of the world. Shayegan claims that there was a healthy period in 1970s when different cultures were still able to dialogue with one another, when “Senghor launched the concept of negritude and when Unesco organized conferences related to important cultural subjects, or when the Iranian intellectuals, encouraged by the side-effects of the American counter-culture, had criticized the negative effects of the Western cultural influence while advocating the return of their original cultural identity.”

Shayegan is careful when he discusses the elements of so called cultural diversity. On a number of occasions in all his books he underlines  the fact that each culture should avoid a major trap, to promote its own exclusivity and, at the same time, hatred of other cultures within its civilization, which is otherwise open and where democratic rules are respected. In such a civilization, the relationships–between people and the cultures who inhabit it–are not distinguished  by a monologue, but are rather dialogic in nature, creating something which Gadamer calls the “horizon of the mix,” (as we attest to in all ancient and traditional civilizations) Here Shayegan shifts his critique to the newly established “cultural terrain” which he calls the phenomenon of the Renaissance of Religions. He explains both the primary and the secondary effects following the establishment of Islam as the official religion of the Islamic State in Iran. These effects have taken several forms, but the most visible results of such cultural shift(s) are reflected in the following  phenomena :

  1. Mythologization of Time which is nothing else but a misplacement of eschatology to the category of historicity (whereas Koran in itself is not interested in historicity but in the verticality of the revelatory experience).
  2. Self-effacement of the collective memory of the Muslims who shifted the cultural paradigm of the civilization of Islam to the literal sense of the times celebrating salaf, the imaginary model of the idealized city of the Prophet–which in effect impoverishes the culture and history of Islam as it marches towards barbarism and sterility.
  3. Reduction of the spiritual and ideal man in Islam, reduced here to the caricature of the radical revolutionary, somewhat resembling the Russian anarchists from Dostoyevsky’s novels, who kills people left and right.

4.Sanctification  of violence—here Shayegan quotes Al-Ashmawy who in his book “Islamism against Islam” says himself that in 7000 verses in Koran, less than 700 refer to any legal or didactic matters and out of those… barely 80 would indicate any ‘legal prescriptions’ as of ‘what to do’ or what a believer should do in any given legal situation.

But here Shayegan remarks pertinently:

If Fundamentalism is a somber aspect of the new renaissance of the Religions in general, the new polytheism which appears in the West and bears one common name of “New -Age” practices is equal to Neopaganism, a playful aspect of the new metamorphosis of religious forms where ancient ideas and religious archetypes flow from one context into another. And what is the reason for the creation of such multiple crossroads of new sects and religious communities? Shayegan thinks, and we are likely to join him, together with the research-legacy of  Vladimir Zivancevic, a professor of comparative religions, that great religions of the past are not able to satisfy different needs of contemporary Anthropocene beings. As the result of the multicultural approach to the “mixed cultural zones of the hybridation,”-all cultures on our planet push their inhabitants into a specific horizontal encounter with one another where the main and global vision of things takes on a kaleidoscopic vision which fractures simultaneously myriad of particles of light while our major road through life remains still dark, unlit and impoverished.

One of the candle-bearers on the darkly lit road to knowledge and self-examination in life is the figure of the philosopher Simon Farid Oliai, who was born in Tehran but grew up and was educated in the West (University of Leuven).

Following Hegel’s steps in his search for the “Absolute Master” of universal history, Oliai wrote a very profound study of the intellectuals, artists, scientists and other creative social actors in different cultural contexts and entitled it “Challenging the Absolute”[1]. Analyzing, or rather leaning against the thought of his predecessors and contemporaries such as Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and more closely -relating to the thinking of Gianni Vattimo and John Sallis, Oliai challenges what he calls “the essence” of fundamentalism or the fundamentalist fear and/or approach to things. In thinking about the profound meaning of our living, or simply being on Earth–which we find in the crucial writings of such classics of Modern European thought as Nietzsche and Heidegger, Oliai draws constantly on the insights of these thinkers to whom he is clearly indebted.

However, he does not neglect the decisive role of so-called “Eastern philosophy” which has undeniably enriched his reflections on the metaphysical roots of all contemporary dogmatism.  In his book, whose subtitle is “Nietzsche, Heidegger and Europe’s Struggle against Fundamentalism,”- Oliai explores the continent of writers and thinkers–Sobrawardi, Avicenna, Hafez and Rumi among them–who, along with Heidegger, had addressed the problem of “God”. “The Question ‘who is God’ is too hard for human beings,“ Heidegger[2] once said, and Oliai makes a significant contribution to re-examining the question of knowing  “What is God?” from the perspective of a serious “European” philosopher. He takes Shayegan’s statement, “the Light (enlightenment) comes from the West,”–and pushes it a bit further by asking the essential question, mainly ontological (would it be the relic of Manichean thought?) and that is –if there is Light altogether, and if it were to approach us either from the West or East—what would we, humans, do in order to keep it with(in) us?

It is interesting to notice that all of the Iranian writers mentioned here have not been able to pursue their intellectual research in their own homeland–they  travel back and forth from the countries where they presently reside to Iran, and keep their torch, their inherited light within.

Nina Zivancevic

French version on

[1] « Challenging the Absolute », Oliai,F. S., University Press of America,  MD, 2015.

[2] Ibid.

[i] See Daryush Shayegan « La conscience métisse », Albin Michel, Paris, 2012.

[ii]Nahal Tajadod, « Elle joue », Albin Michel, Paris, 2012

[iii]  Shayegan, Ibid. , p.105

[iv] Sadegh Hedayat, « L’homme qui tua son désir », Editions Phebus, Paris, 1998

[v] Tajadod,N. « Roumi le brule », Paris, J-C Lattès, 2004

[vi] Tajadod, Nahal, Mowlana, Le Livre de Chams de Tabriz, annotated by Jean Claude Carrière, Gallimard,1993.


VIDEO Književno veče debata: Avangarda kao inspiracija

Kako povezati ideju o ideji avangarde?

reci kao sto su ‘istorijska avangarda, knjizevnost, srbija, novija knjizevnost, najnovija avangarda, Crnjanski’ ? U jednom jedinom letnjem popodnevu, u beogradskoj biblioteci? Pogledaj sledece video radove Mihaila Ristica:

Biblioteka grada Beograda Voždovac, jul 2016.

Govore Nina Živančević i Milan Orlić



BITEF: 26. 9. Konferencija Autobiografija kao performans

  1. 1546127_515697498545181_2132521847_n50. Bitef festival i Laboratorija izvođačkih umetnosti, Fakultet dramskih umetnosti Beograd

 Međunarodna konferencija Autobiografija kao performans: Između biosa i njegove perfomativne reprezentacije,

Ponedeljak, 26. septembar, Jugoslovenska kinoteka, Uzun Mirkova 1


Biti svoj, biti prisutan

Konferencija Autobiografija kao performans ispituje teme auto/biografije i identiteta, produkciju i recepciju autobiografije kao performansa i njenu vezu sa savremenom slikom sveta. Konferencija će kroz praksu i teoriju ispitati složenost i značaj autobiografskog performansa za kvir, postkolonijalni i postmoderni diskurs. Praktičnim izvođenjima, video dokumentima i predavanjima istražićemo iskustvo i predstavljanje ličnog JA:  autobiografski performans kao snažno oružje otpora i za izvođača i za gledaoca. Antonen Arto kaže: „Pozorište je stanje, mesto, tačka u kojoj se može razumeti anatomija čoveka; Poznavanje anatomije čoveka može izlečiti i odrediti život.“ … „Nebo još može da nam se sruši na glavu i pozorište je zato i stvoreno.“

U predstavi No pozorišta postoje tri osnovna elementa: Koža, Meso i Kost. Gotovo nikad nije moguće naći sve troje odjednom u istom glumcu. Ali izvođač autobiografskog performansa pronalazi i Kožu i Meso i Kost i velikodušno nam ih nudi. Sposobnost pružanja otpora čini, kako izvođače solo performansa, tako i gledaoce, prisutnim. Tokom konferencije, istražujući Kantora, istražujemo i sledeći prostor: „ Na sceni sam. Ja neću biti glumac. Ipak, delovi moga života postaće ready-made objekti. Svake večeri, ritual i žrtvovanje izvodiće se ovde.“

Kroz svoje predavače, kroz svoje izvođače, i kroz svoju publiku, ova konferencija tokom 50. Bitefa, u Beogradu, u Srbiji, odaće poštovanje hiljadama performera koji su tokom pedeset godina Bitefa činili otpor i činili prisutnost.

Knut Hamsun kaže: „Mi drugi ljudi izguramo onako nekako ono što jesmo, jer smo tako prosečni. Ali on je iz područja iza nekih granica koje je nama nepoznato.“

…  „Sasvim tačno, ne držim se šablona. Zadovoljan sam jednim obrokom na dan, a posle toga se gostim sunčevim sjajem. Zašto bismo uopšte morali da postanemo nešto? To postaju svi drugi, ali nisu zbog toga srećni. Oni su se namučili dok su uspeli, njihovi su životi istrošeni, stalno moraju da idu na visokim štiklama, a ja živim u nekoj baraci i duboko ih žalim.“ *

Ova međunarodna konferencija oseća se počastvovanom što će kroz performanse Konstantina Bunuševca, Neše Paripovića, Nenada Rackovića, Saše Markovića Mikroba, Adama Pantića, Dijane Milošević, ispitati i uputiti i istraživače, i pozorišne stvaraoce, i pozorišnu publiku da preispitaju sopstvenu sposobnost pružanja otpora ili kako bi Kinezi rekli – kung fua, ili kako bismo mi rekli – biti svoj i biti prisutan.


Red. Prof. Ivana Vujić


*reči Abela Brodersena – junaka romana Krug se zatvara, Knuta Hamsuna, prevod: Slavko Batušić


10:00 – 10:15 Otvaranje konferencije, uvodna reč:

  • Konstantin Bunuševac, vizuelni umetnik, Srbija
  • Prof. Ivana Vujić, reditelj, FDU Beograd, Srbija

10:15 I sesija Prostor ličnog JA između iskustva i predstavljanja

Predsedavajući: Mr Aida Bukvić, Akademija dramskih umetnosti Zagreb i Jelena Bogavac, rediteljka, Bitef teatar

  • Dr Nina Kiralji (Nina Király), teatrolog, Mađarska – Tadeuš Kantor – reditelj kao hibridni vizuelni umetnik na sceni
  • Dr Tim Vajt (Tim White), Univerzitet u Vorviku (University of Warwick), Velika Britanija, – Život izmeren kafenim kašičicama (I Have Measured Out My Life With Coffee Spoons)
  • Neša Paripović, vizuelni umetnik – film: P. (1977), trajanje: 25’
  • Dr Branislav Dimitrijević, Visoka škola za likovnu i primenjenu umetnost, Beograd, Srbija – Od prvog do neodređenog lica

11:25 II sesija Istorija i vreme ispovesti

Predsedavajući: Dr Branislav Dimitrijević i Milena Bogavac, dramaturškinja, Srbija

  • Dr Nina Živančević, pesnikinja, profesor Pariz 8 i Sorbona, Pariz/Beograd – Severnoamerički avangardni performans: Autobiografija u poetskom performansu od Spolding Grejevog „Plivanja u Kambodžu“ i „Tabu priča“ Karen Finli, „Loše reputacije“ Peni Arkejd do „Medeje“ Etila Ajkelbergera
  • Stefanet Vandevile (Stéphanette Vendeville), profesor Pariz 8 (Université Paris8) – Living Teatar i moja uloga u kreiranju umetničkih odseka na Eksperimentalnom univerzitetu u Vensenu
  • Dr umetnosti Adam Pantić, profesor FLU Beograd, doktorski umetnički projekat: instalacija Mira i Mile, trajanje 30’, u prostoru hola.

13:00 III sesija Individualne subverzivne izvođačke prakse- samo svoj

Predsedavajući: Mirjana Ognjanović, prevodilac i književnik, Srbija, i Prof. Ivana Vujić

  • Darka Radosavljević Vasiljević, istoričarka umetnosti, Remont, Srbija – Saša Marković Mikrob
  • Miroslav Karić, Saša Janjić, istoričari umetnosti, Remont, Srbija – Nenad Racković
  • Milica Tomić i Saša Marković – film: Od socijalizma do kapitalizma i nazad, trajanje: 30’
  • Diskusija

14:15 IV sesija Između postdramskog teatra i performansa – spisateljice na sceni

Predsedavajući: Dr Nina Živančević i Nina Kiralji

  • Tamara Bjelić, dramaturškinja, Beograd/Berlin Između postdramskog teatra i performansa – spisateljice na sceni
  • Minja Bogavac – Ja sam fikcija
  • Simona Semenič, dramaturškinja, Slovenija – Ja, zašto?
  • Jelena Bogavac – Igrati biografiju
  • Maja Pelević, dramaturškinja, Srbija – Izazovi i posledice

15:30 V sesija Lično JA i građenje prisutnosti

Predsedavajući: Adam Pantić i Dijana Milošević, rediteljka, DAH Teatar, Srbija

  • Katalin Ladik, pesnikinja, glumica, performerka, Srbija/Mađarska – Feminizam i autoperformans
  • Milan Mađarev, teatrolog, Srbija – Autobiografski elementi u teatru pokreta Jožefa Nađa
  • Mirjana Ognjanović – Paolo Sorentino = Poni Sagoda = Toni Servilo
  • Aida Bukvić – Lično JA i izgradnja karaktera
  • Slavenka Milovanović, dramaturškinja, Srbija – Život Bitef festivala kao naša performativna biografija
  • Konstantin Bunuševac, multimedijalni umetnik, Srbija – autobiografski performans Kosta, trajanje: 30’, Mala sala

17:15 Diskusija

18:30 VI sesija Ja/istina/iskustvo/identitet

Predsedavajući: Miroslav Karić i Saša Janjić

  • Dijana Milošević, performans – 25 čaša vina, trajanje: 30’, mala sala

19:00 – 19:15 Teze za sintezu i zatvaranje konferencije, prof. Ivana Vujić









Short description of Cmok To You To , correspondence by Nina Živančević and Marc James Léger


CMOK was defined by its publisher Punctum press as a representative of krush fiction, ociscular- kiss fiction etc but in my view, as a correspondence and not pure genre in fiction — i think that Cmok is a genre-bender . It is not even a full representative of classical or “neo classical”(email)correspondence.. In terms that it denies
the exclusive purpose of a so called “correspondence”; classical
correspondence is there to “inform and communicate the facts between 2 people” , be it private, professinal or legal, commercial etc– which our Cmok denies, sort of.
It was “purposeless” in the pretentious nuance of that term denoting a specific aim or purpose, as it never had a specific writing theme or and time-limitation of the theme often indicated by purpose. But it sort of examined important philosophical or theoretical points which we came across or were thrust upon us- voila!
The scope , so called contents of that book is specific – as it really rarely covered profane events- and if it did it did in poetry, poetic manner, in terms that it did  not want to examine things such as “what did u have for lunch- hmm, donut yesterday” or “what’s the weather like in Paris today?”
If you will, the continuum of the said correspondence is more intimate- wd never use the word ‘trivial’, but The fact is that I wdn’t like to see the continuum in print.. like musing over my listening of the New Order album ‘substance’ etc etc– not for print. Also .DN_1 The first “folio” had certain innocence and intact beauty- i think that’s why it was appreciated, liked by the first Readers of it- themselves experts in autobiographical, first person intimate fiction who read it with the approval and surprise–Chris Kraus ,  Bart Plantenga. Kraus and Acker though could be the real founders of the so called krush fiction and correspondence as they started it a while ago also with or without certain pretentions
But perhaps what makes Cmok so unique is that , unlike the work of Acker or Kraus- it borders on the realm of the virtual science fiction
– and again here- i should underline that it’s not a novel,real fiction,  like in Kraus ( i love Dick) but Correspondence (impure, mixed fiction genre). And unlike in Acker/Wark correspondence in Cmok 2 Writers had never met which gives also their work a philosophical dimension and avoids the quotidien banality of the description of otherwise banal situations.
And as devoid of this dwelling in the real, daily living situation it finds its references in the common , lived-out experience of the theory, aesthetics and the ethos of the political sociology, the points these 2 writers shared and had in common.


Reading, promotion of the new book, Cmok to You To

Promtional reading from the book Cmok To You To, correspondence with Marc James Léger, to be published by Punctum Press, Brooklyn in summer 2016.

Festival IVY Writers Paris, Upstairs at Duroc and VERSAL / VERSO in Paris.



Venez feter la poésie et le début de l’éte avec nous! Lectures par VEGA (Vannina Maestri, Véronique Pittolo et Virgine Poitrasson), de Lily Hoang pour VERSAL Magazine (revue littéraire basée à Amsterdam), de Lily Robert-Foley et son receuil bilingue “M”, de Barbara Beck et de Jennifer K Dick pour une performance des textes extrait d’Upstairs at Duroc et de Versal Magazine (par les auteurs in absentia), de Nina Zivancevic et de Rufo Quintavalle pour leurs nouveaux publications, de David Barnes au nom de Spoken Word Paris, et bien d’autres!!!

This late Sunday afternoon event will include readings and performances in French and English.

29 mai 2016 à partir de 17h30

Mundolingua (musée de la langue à Paris), 10 rue Servandoni – 75006 Paris.

Entrée libre


CMOK to You to, cover for the new book

Correspondence between Nina Živančević and Marc James Léger, to come out soon by Punctum Press, New York

CMOK cover

With this forthcoming title, punctum is pleased to announce a new genre of so-called “academic” writing: OSCULAR STUDIES (from the Lat. oscula = kiss):

CMOK to YOu To presents the 2015 email correspondence of the Serbian-born poet, art critic and playwright Nina Zivancevic and Canadian cultural theorist Marc James Léger. In December of 2014 Léger invited Živančević to contribute a text to the second volume of the book he was editing, “The Idea of the Avant Garde – And What It Means Today.” Taken with each other’s idiosyncrasies, their correspondence gradually shifted from amiable professional exchanges and the eventual failure to organize a scholarly event to that of collaborating on some kind of writing project. Several titles were attempted for the eventual book – “Marshmallow Muse: The Exact and Irreverent Letters of MJL and NZ,” “The Orange Jelly Bean, or, I Already Am Eating from the Trash Can All the Time: The Name of This Trash Can Is Ideology,” “The Secreted Correspondence of Mme Chatelet and Voltaire,” and “I’m Taken: The E-Pistolary Poetry of Kit le Minx and Cad” – but none of these proved to be more telling than CMOK, the Serbian word for kiss, which sums up the authors’ quest for “harmony” in an altogether imperfect world and literary medium.