ABSTRACT

The history and culture of modern Iran is deeply enmeshed in the development of the Cold War. Iranian representations of the international conflict demonstrate how the Persian literary institution, to say nothing of the fate of specific writers, was shaped by the rivalry between superpowers, which initially fuelled the nation’s desire for social and political reform but subsequently produced a sense of national powerlessness. The intellectuals and literati who continued to search for a means of achieving a degree of political self-rule were caught up in a contradictory impulse, believing Iran to be, simultaneously, at the mercy of foreign powers and capable of overcoming its subservience by drawing on ‘authentic’ sources of spiritual power. The movement from genuine national autonomy after the Second World War to long periods of subjection to the whim of superpowers profoundly influenced the literary and cultural scenes, exemplifying M. R. Ghanoonparvar’s point that ‘[s]ocial and political factors [are] of vital importance to virtually all modern Persian writers and have had substantial effects both on their work and the reception of their art’. 1 To lay bare the contours of this influence, I will trace the turn of events that rendered the nation a pawn in the Cold War before turning to the analysis of predominantly left-leaning writers and their works.