Reviews

The deconstruction of a widespread prejudice in contemporary Persian studies, this paper confronts the dismissive reception of non-Iranian literatures of the Persianate world by Iranian critics. Through a sharp survey of four recent Iranian anthologies of Afghan literature, the author methodically uproots the nationalist bias and correlative contempt underlying the evaluation of Afghan poetry and fiction. Believed to be “derivative” and therefore “inferior”, Afghan literature appears to Iranians merely as a faded reflection of a society itself “static” and “belated”. At best, it is viewed as an awkward imitation of Iranian literary modernity ― a prevalent trend in the “Iranian narrative of literary modernity in Afghanistan” that W. Ahmadi can rightly dub “exclusionary”. Indeed, the centre-periphery paradigm does not merely reveal the contempt in which Afghan writers are held by the critics. It betrays the weakness of an institution tied by ideological preconceptions and unable to think of literary relations in terms other than that of imitation and domination. Thus, in this well-documented theoretical approach, the author calls for a “critique of exclusionary critical practice”. He appeals to the renewal of the methods of literary criticism in order better to appraise the variegated literary production of the Persianate world altogether. However, it seems that one cannot fully succeed in defeating such deep-rooted “exclusionary” habits and beliefs on mere theoretical grounds. The need is felt for the development of case-studies and for further analyses of individual works and authors. Non-Iranian Persian literatures matter; yet they cannot hope to gain full recognition so long as they lack a serious scholarship. As an appendix to these remarks, it may be noted that the 2008 Goncourt prize, the highest literary distinction in France, was discerned to the Afghan writer Atiq Rahimi for a novel, Syngué sabour (Pierre de patience, Paris: P.O.L., 2008), that was written in French.

Justine Landau, New Sorbonne University, Paris
CER: II-5.2.B-435