By Chip Rossetti
TEHRAN: Amid the post-election turmoil and public protests that have roiled Iran over the last several weeks, one of the most poignant (and potent) symbols for the opposition has been Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman shot by a government sniper in the midst of the Tehran crowds on June 20. A short, shaky video of her death was captured on a handheld and quickly went viral on YouTube.
Although it has now become an iconic symbol of government repression, the video has a publishing connection as well: one of the bystanders who can be seen trying to stop Neda’s bleeding is in fact an Iranian publisher. Arash Hejazi has widely been reported to be a doctor, but what has largely been overlooked is that he is also the founder and editorial director of Tehran-based Caravan Books Publishing House, a publisher of literary fiction, poetry, and serious nonfiction. A former Frankfurt Fellow, Hejazi is also a novelist as well as translator of literary works from English and Portuguese into Farsi. He is also the former managing editor of Iran’s publishing industry journal, Sanat-e-Nashr, run by the Tehran Union of Publishers and Booksellers.
Among his authors is Brazilian bestseller Paulo Coelho, whose novels Hejazi not only translates but publishes as well. (It was Coelho who first recognized his Iranian publisher on the Neda video. After confirming that Hejazi was safely out of Iran, he posted news of it on his blog.) Caravan has an extensive international fiction list, including Farsi translations of such critically acclaimed and bestselling authors as Milan Kundera, Sue Monk Kidd, Haruki Murakami, and Mark Haddon, as well as a number of Iranian writers and scholars.
Given the continuing unrest in Iran, and his unintentionally public role in the demonstrations, Hejazi expressed doubts in a recent BBC interview (above) about whether he would be able to return to Tehran any time soon. He is now in the UK doing post-graduate work, but he continues to be involved in international publishing: he is scheduled to speak at the London Book Fair next spring on censorship and freedom of expression.
VISIT: Caravan’s English language Web site
VIDEO: of Hejazi coming to Neda’s aid
READ: Coelho’s blog posting discussing Hejazi’s role in the protests