Books by Woody Allen reviewed at University of Tehran

June 15, 2009

TEHRAN -- The University of Tehran held the fifth literary session on Saturday reviewing works by filmmaker, actor and writer Woody Allen.

A group of literary figures and students attended the session in which literary figure Hossein Yaqubi, translator of Allen’s works, made the opening speech and said, “In satire, Woody Allen is indebted to Voltaire’s “Candide” ‘Francois Marie Arouet’ (the pen name of Voltaire) and Oscar Wilde for his play “An Ideal Husband.”
“Most of the works by Allen such as the book “Death Knocks” were published as articles in the magazine “The New Yorker.” Allen’s rich philosophy and literature is inspired by existentialism and the philosophy of (Martin) Heidegger and (Jean-Paul) Sartre. His ideas are also highly influenced by Russian writers especially Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky and Nikolay Gogol.
“I would like to pinpoint three characteristics of Allen’s works. One is God and the Universe, the second is death, and the third is love.
“I begin with God. In the story book ‘Death Knocks’ there is a story about Allen’s beliefs on the universe. This story vanished from the third reprint of the book. The main character of the story is a detective, who solves mysteries like other American detectives but possesses a special kind of satire. In his investigations, the detective finds out that those who are involved in the issue of discovering God have a sad ending. Jesus Christ was crucified, and Socrates was forced to drink a cup of poison hemlock.
“Allen might try to say that god will be killed, but which god? The god which mankind created, not the God who created mankind. This is actually the famous sentence by Nietzsche who said ‘God is dead’. Nietzsche actually meant that we killed the idols, but worshiping the idols still remains,” he explained.
Yaqubi further talked about the issue of death in Allen’s books and said, “It would be best first to mention the concept of existentialism, which had a great influence on Allen and his works.
“The appearance of existentialism coincided with the ideas published by philosopher Soren Kierkegaard saying ‘It doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you’re sincere.’ Some believe Allen’s interest in existence or inexistence of God is rooted in his fear of existentialism,” he remarked.
He continued, “Other issues reviewed in Allen’s works are emotional ones. Woody Allen employs a special kind of art and this helps attract more readers, which combines humor along with deep thought. In Allen’s cinematic works, the role of women is highlighted much more than in his other works.
“And at the end I would like to talk about the difficulty of translating satirical works. Allen is a pioneer of a kind of satire, which is playing with words. His stories are full of complexity and phrases which can not be directly translated into Persian. I translated ‘Death Knocks’. If you see the English version, it is full of phrases whose intent I attempted to translate rather than their literal meaning,” he concluded.