By Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi Sabet

Attention ALMA jury! Please recognize “You’re No Stranger Here”

September 13, 2019

In early September, Iranian children’s book writer Hushang Moradi Kermani was selected by Iran’s Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (IIDCYA) to represent the country at the 2020 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA), the World’s largest children’s literature honor. 

On its website, the ALMA has labeled its twelve-member jury including researchers, authors, illustrators, librarians and critics as “Jury with extensive knowledge”, as they are indeed.

The IIDCYA has definitely sent the jury a profile of Moradi Kermani who was also nominated for the award in 2018 and 2019. The profile seems to include “You’re No Stranger Here”, the writer’s autobiography, which has also been published in English by the London-based publisher Candle & Fog.

This book described aright as a bona fide autobiography in reviews published by a number of critics has its own unique story and characteristics that deserve more attention.

In his extremely short introduction to the book, Moradi Kermani, whose works are also appealing to adults, has said, “I did no research nor had any note to write in this book; it just came from my memory.” He then has dedicated it to those who are and were in company with him on the “journey”, as well as “those who are influenced.”

Next, he immediately grabs the readers’ hands taking them to his home in Sirch, a remote village in Kerman Province, where he spent his unusual childhood; unusual simply because he lost his mother in his infancy and had to go on with his grandfather and grandmother, and a father who suffered from mental illness.

Societies differ from one another in their definition of private life. Iranians traditionally shrink from revealing even a simple fact about their private lives. But Moradi Kermani doesn’t conceal even the bitter fact that his father was a psycho. In addition, he frankly reveals his rural descent while his fellow men often pretend to be a member of an ancient noble family from the heart of Tehran!

No work by any other Iranian writer comes nearly as close to describing the ambiance of Iranian society as that which is described in Moradi Kermani’s books, particularly in “You’re No Stranger Here”. This is the reason why his works are also appealing to adults.

And this is the reason why Iranian filmmakers found his stories interesting enough to be turned into films. His “The Stories of Majid”, about an ambitious teenage boy, Majid who lives with his grandma Bibi in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, was made into a popular TV series of the same title by Kiumars Purahmad during the 1990s.

In 2000, Marzieh Borumand directed a screen adaptation of Moradi Kermani’s “A Sweet Jam” about 12-year-old Jalal’s struggles to open a jar of jam.

In 2004, Dariush Mehrjui also made a film based on his novel “Mom’s Guest: An Evening in Isfahan” about a working-class family’s efforts to receive a young couple in their modest accommodation.  

However, none of Moradi Kermani’s works are as dramatic as his masterpiece “You’re No Stranger Here”, but the large budget required for making the story into a film or TV series has been an obstacle preventing filmmakers from approaching this story.

“You’re No Stranger Here” is actually the key to learn how Moradi Kermani made himself into one of the few great writers of modern Iran. 

During a special ceremony organized in April at the 32nd Tehran International Book Fair to release his latest book “Teaspoon”, his publisher Moin took Moradi Kermani’s fans by surprise with an announcement that he was retiring from the writing business. Bad news!

“I want to learn from those professional athletes who retire in their prime,” 75-year-old Moradi Kermani said a few days after the announcement.

“No matter how much of a professional swimmer you are, you can’t stay in the water forever and you have to finally get out one day,” he noted and added, “Yeah, everybody reaches their retirement; otherwise, I would never make out a will. God is the only one who never retires.”

However, he said, “Perhaps, the tide will turn and once again, a new idea will flash into my mind.”

Perhaps a prestigious international honor will be the something that can turn the tide.

Photo: Front covers of the French and English versions of Iranian writer Hushang Moradi Kermani’s book “You’re No Stranger Here”.

MMS/YAW

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