Iranian author writing novel on British scholar Gertrude Bell

March 2, 2010

Tehran Times Culture Desk

@T= TEHRAN -- Iranian author Mohammad Qasemzadeh is writing a novel featuring British scholar Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), the lady who played a major role in establishing and helping administer the modern state of Iraq.
Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell was an English writer, traveler, political officer and an administrator in Arabia. She was also an archaeologist who explored, mapped, and became highly important to British imperial policymaking due to her extensive travels in Persia, Greater Syria, Syria, Mesopotamia and Arabia.
“This lady is referred to by Iraqis as “Al Khatun”. Her fate was somehow interrelated with the old Persia too, and she had a great role in the history of modern Iraq,” Qasemzadeh told the Persian service of Mehr News Agency.
The Guardian says, “Bell was born on July 14, 1868 in Washington Hall, County Durham, England. Her family was iron masters on a grand scale, with progressive attitudes. In 1886, Bell went to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she was the first woman to earn a first-class degree in modern history. Uninterested in marriage, she taught herself Persian and traveled to Iran in 1892, where her uncle was the British ambassador.
“She wrote her first travel book “Persian Pictures” and translated the Persian poet Hafez into English verse.
She began to learn Arabic in 1897, wrote about Syria, and taught herself archaeology and immersed herself in tribal politics.”
Qasemzadeh later added, “British poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962), was a friend of Bell and Virginia Woolf. In her book “Passenger to Tehran”, Sackville refers to the fact that Bell traveled to Iran because she was assigned to design the Golestan Palace for the king’s coronation day. “There are also several other notes helping me find more about the major character of the novel,” he writes.
He further remarked that narrating the character, life and the history connected to Bell’s life help add more appeal for the readers in the novel.
The Iraq of Gertrude Bell lasted 37 years. The Ba’ath party finally seized power in 1968, built a prosperous despotism in the 1970s but destroyed itself and the country in fruitless military misadventures in Iran in the 1980s and Kuwait in 1990.
She devoted more of her time to her old love, archaeology, and established the Baghdad Archaeological Museum, which remarkably, has survived. On July 12, 1926, Bell was discovered dead of an apparent overdose of sleeping pills. There is much debate on her death, and many theories have been proposed, but it is unknown whether the overdose was an intentional suicide or accidental since she had asked her maid to awaken her.
She had never married nor had children. She was buried at the British cemetery in Baghdad’s Bab al-Sharji district..