Friday, August 8, 2008 Goes Live!

After much toil and the passing of many a month, we are pleased to announce the arrival of the Hart House Review website:

Over the next little while, our masterful web-designer will upload all our back issues, and the blog will sadly, but necessarily, fade into oblivion.

In the future, please see the new website for all things Hart House Review.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Man Booker Interview


With Critics Who’ve Swum the Hellespont

Bent on demystifying the winning formula for the Man Booker awards, the HHR team infiltrates the sanctum santorum — the judging panel. Below are some of the exchanges wired from Enigma machines by our domestic and overseas operatives.


A Nobel prize-winning author, anti-apartheid activist, and HIV-AIDS campaigner, Nadine Gordimer has published 14 novels and 18 short story collections to date. Ms. Gordimer is no stranger to censorship so it comes as little surprise that she has served as PEN International’s VP. This South African native was appointed to the 2007 Man Booker International (MBI) judging panel.

Novelist, journalist, and literary critic, Colm Tóibín is one of Ireland’s cultural icons. His writings have won numerous awards and praise. The Blackwater Lightship and The Master were short-listed for the 1999 and 2004 Man Booker prizes respectively. Presently serving as the Isaac and Madeline Stein Visiting Writer at Stanford, he was appointed as a judge on the MBI’s 2007 panel.

Sir Howard Davies, the Chair of the 2007 Man Booker Prize, has served as Deputy Governor for the Bank of England and Special Adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. An intellectual heavyweight whose accomplishments straddle many paths, he is presently a Trustee of the Tate, a member of the Royal Academy of Music’s Governing board, and the Director for the London School of Economics. Apart from all this, he has also regularly written critical commentary on works of fiction for The Literary Review and The Times.

HHR: The Man Booker and the Man Booker International are prizes that transcend borders, literal and metaphorical. In what ways does literature transcend borders?

Nadine Gordimer: Well, because it’s a product of the imagination….[There is the fact which] belongs to journalism, and there is the narrative, which is a kind of structure of a work of fiction. But it’s the imagination that goes below and above the facts. It goes as far as a writer can, depending upon his or her abilities, into the mystery of being, of what makes us what we are: our emotions, our frustrations, and our opinions. These are formed from pressures from the outside: You are told by your family, by your school, by your group who you are, or what you are. You can have a religion that has a very strong influence on you….Then you may join a political group and you have gained another identity. But the fact is you don’t have a single identity. You are all these things, which makes you into a whole person. And I think that is where literature comes in, in creating characters, and attempting to do so, in depth and in volume.

Sir Howard Davies: The Man Booker Prize is open to novelists writing in English outside the United States. The UK remains the largest source of entries, but in 2007, 37 of the 110 novels entered were from elsewhere. 11 other countries were represented: Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Malaysia and the Lebanon. So it is clear that in literal terms the prize does cross borders and one interesting feature this year was the appearance of novels from countries, which have rarely been represented in the past.

It was also interesting this year that a number of novelists wrote about the immigrant experience, especially in London. The last few years have seen a rapid growth in new immigrants in London, especially from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. They are already a rich source of imaginative inspiration for our novelists. This year Marina Lewycka wrote a second novel about Ukrainian fruit pickers and Rose Tremain wrote a moving story of a Polish immigrant. 4 or 5 others mined the same seam.

It was also notable in 2007 that the historical novel has made a significant comeback. 37 of the 110 novels were set in the past (and four in a dystopian future). Historical and contemporary fiction seem comfortably to co-exist, and sometimes to overlap. Michael Redhill’s Consolation is an interesting example of a novel, half of which is written in the form of a persuasive historical reconstruction, with the other half a very contemporary morality tale. Also, unusually, there were two crime novels among the submissions list this year, though not ones which appealed strongly to the judges.

Overall, the entries were remarkable in their diversity, of time, theme, geographical location and style. Doris Lessing, when accepting her Nobel Prize last year, said that the British are best at small, circumscribed, domestic novels. That may be so, but novelists in English are certainly also working hard in other more expansive genres.

Colm Tóibín: I think when you’re writing the last thing you’re thinking about is your passport, your gender. You’re actually trying to work a rhythm into a sentence. I think when you’re reading you’re involved in the same process but on the other end of it, where you’re getting the emotion in a sentence. And it may be terribly important eventually, in other words, this is not to deny the Russian-ness of Tolstoy, you know, or the French-ness of Flaubert, because you’re not just alone in a room as a writer or a reader, you’re also part of a society. Things matter, politics matters, laws matter. And they affect private life in all sorts of different ways; they have in Ireland and South Africa. You know, two of us have been involved in that, where we’ve lived in countries where the way laws are made affect how people actually make love, or how people eat, or how people relate to each other. So that public-private thing is a very important connection as well as distinction between a nation, a society, a state and its people and it is one of the subjects of a novel and always has been. You can say that a novel is pure language or pure cadence or pure rhythm or pure character. But it never really is, is it? I mean you are always dealing with areas of restriction, areas of how public life affects private life. So the answer is, yes and no, that borders do not affect the reader in the act of reading. But they do, in another way, matter enormously to how we live in the world. And that’s really what we deal with as writers: how we live in the world.

HHR: Do you find there is a certain continuity and consistency of theme, style, or voice in a writer’s body of work?

NG: I think, in essence, a writer only writes one book. It’s all one book; it seems to be different books, but in the writer’s sensibility and the writer’s ability to go deeply into life and into what it means to be alive and what it means to be that complicated creature, the human being [it is all one book]. So the writer moves from having this stage of development and understanding to another and to another….I’ve got about thirty-one, thirty-two books, novels and stories, and I think I can see the connection. They’re completely different: They’re narrated by different people; they’re narrated by men, by women, by young people. When I was fifteen years old I wrote a story and the main character was an old man. I don’t know how writers do that; it’s part of the thing we do. But it is all our little bit of knowledge about what it means to be alive.

CT: Yeah, that is a DNA. It may be a sort of restlessness, where a certain imagination, like someone like Salman Rushdie, where you don’t know where the novel could be set, in New York, London, Bombay, but there will always be a playfulness in the language, a way of taking the eighteenth century novel and working with it, say. Or the Dickensian character and he will work with that throughout his career. Or someone like Ian McEwan, [who] is much more careful and precise, [and has a] slightly ironic tone, [a] much more held tone, mainly English. Or Alice Munro, from the beginning finding certain things that interested her and going right through. Or Michael Ondaatje, where we simply have no idea where his next novel will be set, what length it will be, what style it will be written in, or what it will be about. But you can always find in Ondaatje certain things that really interest him: the paragraph as a painting, the way in which he wants character to be fluid. He wants narrative to be fluid, but he is deeply concerned with the effect of political violence and other forms of violence on a society as well, but in a way that’s not direct. That goes right through The Skin of the Lion and The English Patient and Anil’s Ghost in his work. With someone like Atwood’s work there’s a sort of brittle tone, there’s a smartness, there’s a readiness to take on: I will actually make my novel equal a machine. And that goes right through, although she will set the novels in different times and places. So yeah, there’s a DNA and you start with it and you end with it. And it’s not what it is, but what you do with it that matters.

HHR: Anne Michaels, a Canadian poet, has written, “Reading a poem in translation is like kissing a woman through a veil.” However, without translation we wouldn’t have Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. How much of the translator and how much of the writer do we see in translated work? Some would argue translators are co-authors.

NG: First of all, I’ll make a big distinction between poetry and prose: you can’t really translate poetry and I know in my case, I don’t speak German, I understand German. From the time I was seventeen years old I adored Rainer Maria Rilke and as time went by…I had the Leishman translation and then I got the others, and I saw the difference! Which is the real poem? So, I think with poetry you can never really understand it if you don’t know the language. I think prose is less delicate, shall we say, and as I [said] before, if you read several of a writer’s works as translated you quickly begin to hear what you know you can hear is the real voice. You think: No, this second book, this writer would never have written that sentence, there is something wrong with it. In the previous book you got the complete shock of understanding or seeing something fresh and now in this other translation that is missing. I think that is how one judges a translation.

CT: I think there’s a real problem about translating poetry...if a poem rhymes in one language, to get the rhyme in the other language…. For example, the English iambic pentameter line does not make its way so easily into Spanish for example. So how would you translate an iambic pentameter poem into Spanish? You would really have trouble doing that. If it had another rhythm, it would be another poem. Prose is different in the sense that you can just simply.…The cadences are not as strict, the systems of rhythm. Therefore you can actually achieve more. Anne Michaels is probably right about poetry.

HHR: Every now and then you hear the phrase “The novel is dead”. Where do you see the novel in fifty years?

NG: I don’t think the novel will ever be dead because storytelling is never dead. Of course, the written word on paper and bound is under threat from the image. It starts very young. I’m sure that when you were a child somebody still read you a bedtime story. Children nowadays don’t get the bedtime story; they are put in front of a television set at bedtime. This has a very serious effect on real literature because to be truly literate you must be a reader, not just reading signs and having perhaps a good vocabulary when you talk. It’s only when you hold that book in your hand and you can turn the page and you can go back to it that you’re not dependant upon an electrical connection or a battery.

HD: I was struck last year by the vitality of the novel in English. We considered 110 entries, almost all of which were worth reading, if a number were structurally flawed. That does not suggest an art form in decay. And I am uncomfortably aware that there may well have been another 30 or 40 which we elected not to consider, but some of which were undoubtedly of high quality. So, on the face of it, there is no reason to believe those Cassandras who forecast disaster. Reports of the novel’s death are, as in the case of Mark Twain, much exaggerated.

But perhaps one might see some signs of concern in the relative lack of experimentation with form. There are no “fold in novels”. The English equivalent of the “nouveau roman” has faded away, and of course was never very flourishing here. One of last year’s entries appeared partly in print and partly only as an online supplement. It is hard to know whether that will prove to be a durable medium of publication. It was not one of the stronger entries and has attracted little attention among the wider public. One of the short-listed novels did, however, come with an associated website. Animal’s People by Indra Sinha was set in an imagined Indian city (one based on Bhopal) and Sinha has created a tourist website to accompany the novel. If you wish to consider visiting Khaupfur, you can do so on, where you will see reports of the novel itself and information about the lives of some of its characters. That kind of “tie-in” has perhaps been more common in children’s fiction in the past. Maybe it is on its way in the adult market too. That could be one way in which the novel will be refreshed in the digital age.

As for the novel in 50 years time, I am content to leave that to the next generation. If I am still reading novels at the age of 106 I will be thrilled, but I imagine I will then be rereading those I have loved. My optimistic prognosis is that we will continue to be interested in stories and in imaginative recreations of life which hold up a mirror to our confused present. On that broad definition, the novel will be with us for the foreseeable future.

CT: I was joking earlier about saying, “The word, what else is there?” But obviously there’s the image and the way in which the 20th century has been taken over by the image. I mean the moving image, I mean the TV screen, I mean the movie. But that business remains of someone sitting alone with a book, or even with a newspaper, with the printed word and that having a hold on people.... In societ[ies] where people desperately want to control things they need to control that as much as the moving image because it represents an extraordinary sort of freedom, the freedom for you to be alone with a book and the relationship those printed words have with your imagination, the freedom of your mind at that time. So, it’s a battle, but I don’t think it’s been a particularly bloody battle between the image and the word. In other words, it’s a natural thing. I mean, a new technology came. Anyone who would have predicted a hundred years ago this [the movie] is going to wipe out the book.... People thought that TV was going to wipe out the cinema, or the DVD was going to wipe out the.… It seems certain things we have really matter to us and will always be there. And what came before the word? I suppose the image came before the word. We saw before we spoke, didn’t we? But in making sense of what we saw we used the word. Without the word, what is seeing? It’s a pure seeing without language. Does language not actually form the beginning of understanding rather than the halfway house of understanding? So yeah, I don’t have any problem when it comes to thinking of the future of the word.

Interviewed by Ramya Jegatheesan with help from Skandha Sunderasen, Macy Siu, Patricia Robinson, and Aya Kiriliuk.

Monday, May 19, 2008

2009 Call for Submissions!

2009 Call for Submissions!

The Hart House Review, the University of Toronto's premier literary journal, is now accepting original submissions of prose, poetry,artwork,and photography. In the past, the Review has published such writers as Rohinton Mistry, Camilla Gibb, and Lynn Crosbie, and we are always on the lookout for fresh, eclectic talent.This year's deadline will be Sunday, December 28th, 2008 at midnight. Submission forms are available at Hart House, or online at our website:

Submissions must be emailed to by Sunday, December 28th. We also require a hard copy to be handed in at the Hart House Hall Porter's Desk by midnight on January 9th, 2009. (Please note: simultaneous submissions are not accepted). However, it is acceptable (and encouraged) to send the same piece(s) to the literary/poetry contests as well as the Review. For more information, please contact Macy at

2008 Hart House Review Publishing Lineup


Man Booker Interview with Sir Howard Davies, Nadine Gordimer, and Colm Tóibín

John Beebe, Photographer
"Body Language"
Buddhist Nun, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
Teamaker, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Perahera, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Bubble, Katrine, Ontario
Fishing, Ahangama, Sri Lanka
Actor, Sunera Foundation, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Kharma, Colombo, Sri Lanka
3rd Lane, Attidiya, Sri Lanka

Daniel MacIvor, Playwright
"The Process Process"
40 Random Thoughts on Playwrighting


Cold Snap - Zachary Irving
Meditations on Bones - Kate Jenks
Nabokov's Butterflies - Don MacLaughlin
Rye Sensations - Matt Rutchik
There's Something About Mexico - Cher Li
Vacation - Eric Foley
Beetles - Punam Singh
Nostalgia - Danica Sergison
First Love - Lynn Atkinson
Mexico - Alexandra Grigorescu
Marriage (II. Late Days) - Helen Guri
Summer '89 - Alexandra Grigorescu
Blue Dress - Jacqueline Larson,
Valhalla - Alexandra Grigorescu
Triptych of Mouth - Don MacLaughlin
Tulips in Humidity - Lara Solnicki
Oakwood - Eric Foley
Driver - Ryan MacIsaac
The White Tower - Clara Blackwood
The Rectory Donegal - Lois Lorimer
Antrim Coast - Lois Lorimer
Allegro Non Troppo - Ryan MacIsaac
Undertow - Jim Johnstone
Still River Bend - John Estabillo
End Times at Maggie's - Gordon Shotwell


Keith and the Cockroaches - Eryn Hiscock
Tick - Laura Boudreau
Pentecost - Giles Hodge
Wrong Numbers - Arlen Mighton
Excerpt from How the Rich Man Lives - In Yeop Choi
Excerpt from That's All Right too - Fan Li
Today - Sangeetha Gunasingham
Love Story - Laura Cok
There are 11 Days Left Until My 23rd Birthday - Laurel Green
Tribulations of John Jacob Plaus - Jacob Kezei

Photography & Artwork

Behind the Curtain - Cher Li
Fallen - Ian Cox-Leigh
Figure I - Cher Li
Figure II - Cher Li
Figure III - Cher Li
Glance - Agatha Podgorski
Scenic, South Dakota - David Yu
Sylvan Lake, South Dakota - David Yu
Timid - Amy Oliver
Toronto Transit - Jackson Loi
Street Meat - Giles Hodge
Sunglasses - Giles Hodge
Les Invalides, Paris, France, 2007 - Jackson Loi
No Title - Astrid Idlewild
Toronto, Canada, 2007 - Jackson Loi
Figure IV - Cher Li
Eastern Clime - Will Pazner

Visiting Hours - Valavan Manoharajah
Nesting Ground - Cher Li
Masks - Shana Rose
The Concert - Cher Li


Excerpt from The Retirement Party - Rob DiPardo

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Written Life

(The Writing Life? Damn it...... and where does all this writing and editing & re-editing take me?! )

Starbucks is always looking for unpublished writers to chalk up those blackboards …..skinny- double- venti- moca- chai-latte now 3.99$.....

And really, can you hope for much more than that?

Um …yeah!!!!!!!!!!!


The Hart House Review



The Veteran

Cynthia Good ranks among Canada’s literary Goliaths through her countless contributions in cultivating contemporary Canadian writing talent. Ms. Good serves on a number of university and college faculties mentoring the next generation of Canadian writers, editors and publishers. She is also the director of Humber College’s renowned Creative Book Publishing Program. Her many roles at Penguin Canada included Editorial Director, Editor-in-Chief, Publisher and President. She developed the publishing house's Canadian Program. This has grown to feature such luminaries as Peter C. Newman, Michael Ignatieff, Denise Chong, Timothy Findley, Mordecai Richler, Robertson Davies, Alice Munro and John Ralston Saul. Apart from all this, Ms. Good is also a member of our U of T flock, having completed her BA and MA at St. George.

The Visionary

Ken Alexander, as Editor and founder of The Walrus magazine, needs little introduction. According to the CBC, “The Walrus has earned 49 nominations for Canada's National Magazine Awards, far outstripping any other Canadian magazine.” Mr. Alexander’s endeavors with The Walrus, has made him one of the pioneers in Canadian journalism. “He was a high school English and history teacher for eight years and was the senior producer of the CBC Newsworld current affairs show Counter Spin. Author of Toward Freedom: The African-Canadian Experience, Alexander is currently working on his second book.”

The VP (Very Powerful?…almost)

Anne Collins : This Governor General’s award winning writer continues to serve as Publisher/Vice-President of Random House (Canada) since 1998. “Writers she publishes in Canada include Douglas Coupland, Sandra Birdsell, Graham Swift, Peter Carey, Julian Barnes, Robert Hough, Charles Frazier, Giles Blunt, Shaena Lambert, Paul Quarrington, William Boyd, Edeet Ravel, Alissa York, Karen Connelly, Mark Abley, Carol Off, Paul Anderson, Nelofer Pazira, Terry Gould, Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, Kevin Patterson, Jane Jacobs, LGen. Romeo Dallaire, Irshad Manji, Chris Turner, Peter C. Newman, Bonnie Stern, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.” Prior to joining Random House Ms. Collins was Toronto Life’s Executive Editor and Saturday Night’s Senior Editor. During her years at Toronto Life Ms. Collins also won the prestigious gold National Magazine Award.

Time: 6.45pm

Date: March 17, 2008

Location: Hart House Library, University of Toronto (St. George Campus).

Address: Hart House, University of Toronto, 7 Hart House Circle
Toronto, ON M5S 3H3, Canada

Contact Information: 416.978.2452 (Hart House Porter’s Desk)

Note: There will be a significant amount of time allotted for those probing questions, thoughts, and any other words from our side of the pulpit those

barista forms & green aprons can wait!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

2008 Call for Submissions!

The Hart House Review, one of Canada's prestigious student literary journals, is now accepting original submissions of prose, poetry, artwork, and photography. In the past, the Review has published such writers as Rohinton Mistry, Camilla Gibb, Lynn Crosbie, and Reza Baraheni, and we are always on the lookout for fresh, eclectic talent. This year's deadline is January 3rd, 2008 at midnight. Submission forms are available online at our website:

Submissions must be emailed along with the submission form to Please note: simultaneous submissions are not accepted. However, it is acceptable to send the same piece(s) to the literary/poetry/photography contests as well as the Review. For more information, please contact Ramya at

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reza Baraheni Interview in Hart House Review 2007

Note from the Editors:

A few years ago the self-exiled Kenyan writer, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, came to the University of Toronto to give a talk. His most memorable anecdote had to do with the writing of a Gĩkũyũ novel in prison on prison-issued toilet paper. It was so stiff, he joked, that it actually made for a good writing surface.

Exile is a heavy-handed theme for the Hart House Review. And it's not really a theme either, as none of the student submitted pieces really deal with the theme directly, nor does the Review have a history of putting out themed issues. But since it is our 15th anniversary, we, the editors, wanted to illuminate these pages with a contribution of a different kind.

Through Anjula Gogia at PEN Canada we found Reza Baraheni within our own university community. Eloquent and unrelenting, he is a voice of exile. We hope that his voice inspires you as much as it inspired us.

Veronika Izabela Bryskiewicz and Ramya Jegatheesan

An Interview with Reza Baraheni

HHR: As a writer in exile, and one whose writings explore the subject, what meaning does the written word hold for you?

RB: I have always been in exile, only the degrees of exile have varied depending on the situation I have found myself. I was born to an Azari-speaking family in the Iranian Azarbaijan and my mother tongue was a dialect of Turkish. But I was forced to study everything in Persian, the only language considered to be official by the government of Iran. About thirty-seven percent of the whole population of Iran is made of Azari speakers, but they are not allowed to read and write in their own mother tongue. When I was eleven years old and wrote the elementary school’s monthly journal in Turkish, I was forced to lick the ink off the paper. […] So, the destiny of languages, formed and formulated my own linguistic destiny, resulting in the creation of the exilic notion; and historical and political repression created a linguistic whirlpool in which I learned to float, swim, and learned to make a comeback after every closeness to a final drowning.

Both my imprisonment and torture in the monarchist and Islamic regimes were caused by my advocacy of freedom of expression for the speakers of all nationalities in Iran, equality for women with men in all spheres of life, and the promotion of the life of the downtrodden sectors of the society. But I was not ready to do this by enlisting in political parties. I have always believed that the writer is a unique personality, and under no circumstances should he carry with him the heavy burden of a political program which would limit the free expression of that unique personality.

However, I am a founder of the Writers Association of Iran. I worked for many years as a member of the Freedom to Write Committee of the American section of the International PEN (other members being Edward Albee, Donald Barthelme, Richard Howard, Allen Ginsberg, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth and others), because the aim of these and similar people and organizations was to promote the “unhampered transmission of thought.” […] PEN Canada was instrumental in bringing me to this country, and Massey College and its great master Dr. John Fraser gave me all the support an exilic writer required to get settled down in Canada. But exile never leaves you, it is a composite ghost, rising from different roots and different languages, and expressing spaces which are created as a result of what I had called in the sixties of the last century “double alienation,” being alienated from one root, never completely reaching another root, but staying between two or several identities, as a composite ghost in a hanging space, invading what later Homi Bhabha called in his great book The Location of Culture, the “third space,” the space of “liminality” or “interstitiality.”

HHR: What is the experience of being a writer in Iran?

RB: Iran is certainly a great country, one of the most ancient countries of the world. It has been the crossroad between the ancient East and the ancient West. […] It is the seat of the first democratic revolution in the East, about a hundred years ago, and its ancient prophet Zoroaster and its great poets, Rumi and Hafez, have been major sources of inspiration for many poets, philosophers and religions all over the world, particularly, in the West.

The Iranian writer of the modern period draws on these cultural roots. The Constitutional Revolution, a century ago, modeled more or less on the Western concept of the nation state, was a fresh breath, but in a matter of twenty years, the forces of Persian nationalism, supported by chauvinists who were taking their lead from what was happening in Germany and Italy, which would lead to the rise of Nazism, led to the rise of the dictatorship of Reza Pahlavi, who crowned himself king and closed multilingual schools which had started with revolution. This sent all the languages of the country, except Persian, into the dustbin of history. […] The writers of the country, being either democratic-minded on the reformist agenda, or belonging to the left, have tried very hard during the Islamic regime to get rid of the new censorship belonging to the Islamic platform, but it has been a very difficult uphill battle.

However, we are living in one of the greatest periods of Persian literature, because of the more profound historical transformation that has taken place. The 1979 revolution was, on the surface, Islamic, but deep down there were other more historical phenomena involved, the most important of which was the change of the Iranians’ view of history. […] The revolution introduced a more dynamic view of time, things changing in time, more or less like the effects of the shining sun on the shadows of the walls of people’s cities and homes. Temporality being an inherent part of any fictional strategy suddenly became the most dominant element of contemporary literature, relegating poetry to a less prominent position than it had traditionally enjoyed in Persian literature. Other events assisted the movement: the imprisonment of most of the writers of the country, the war experience of the younger generation, and the change in the position of women in society.

Poetry could not cope successfully with all these events, and fiction, for the first time in Persian literature, stepped forward to accept responsibility by adjusting its muscles to carry a greater burden than any other form. The novel of the revolution, the novel of prisons, the novel of the war, and the novel dealing with the plight of the oppressed nationalities, were born. […] And all of this took place, in spite of the censorship, in spite of the harassment of the writers, and in spite of their imprisonment. This does not mean that poetry did not change after the revolution. It did. But the change was to move away from the narrative aspect to the more linguistic aspect of poetry. Since the burden of story-telling was relegated totally to the novel, poetry regained its own ground, by moving away from the meta-discourse of realism and modernism in the direction of an Iranian version of post-modernism, where language and linguistic transgression plays a very important role.

HHR: Do you feel that political repression influences the creation and consumption of art? And how have your experiences informed your creative process?

RB: I would like to add to whatever I have said before in this relation that political repression is a very strange phenomenon. At first you feel it consciously and then, as you go on, you see that it is trying to supplant your consciousness, and even your subconscious, and create the mechanisms and styles of your writing and even the forms you use. What patriarchal structure does to the conventional family, repression does to the creative mind. Patriarchy turns the mother into the solution of the absence of freedom. We are always drawn towards the mother, because in the patriarchal family it is generally the father who is the dictator. Within the framework of the patriarchal structure of the society, the mother and freedom appear contiguously, metonymically. One may not actually be against the father, and there are fathers, even in the patriarchal society, who are democratic, but we are speaking of the rule, not the exception. In my concept of the emancipation of women and men, it is the female that stands for freedom and after the female in general, it is the youth.

HHR: In what way do you see the exilic writer interacting with the writing already being done here in Canada? Do you feel world literature, as in translated works, receives enough attention in the English-speaking world?

RB: The exilic writer is not published in his own native country because of censorship. But something which is not called by its proper name in Canada does exactly the same thing to the writers of the exilic brand. They are given lip-service; we see them reading their work here and there to very limited, however enthusiastic, audiences, but with one or two exceptions, major writers in exile are not published here, [...].There have been many discussions on these matters, and in some of them I have participated, but the plight of the exiled writers in this country is more or less what Matthew Arnold once said about his own time: “between two worlds, one dead, the other powerless to be born.” Since the British and the Americans publish translated works from other languages, Canadians, with their genuine interest in world literature, have easy access to those books in the bookstores and libraries in Canada, so those foreign writers in Canada can easily be bypassed.

HHR: In the West there is sometimes such ambivalence about literature. In places like Iran, literature seems to have the power to evoke both fear and reverence. So, the question is: does fiction matter? Is it an effective medium for expression?

RB: I noticed when I was working with PEN in the U.S. that all of us in the Freedom to Write Committee, or in general, were working mostly for freedom somewhere other than the U.S. […] When 9/11 took place, I was President of PEN Canada, and our response to it was immediate, and we said that we stood with our American colleagues in the U.S. PEN. But when the so-called Anti-terrorist legislation passed, thinking that it would limit freedom of expression in the Western world and in Canada, we showed reaction and stood by the content and the intent of our charter, the main motto of which was: “the unhampered transmission of thought.”

When it comes to places like Iran, you are quite right, literature, particularly fiction, evokes both fear and reverence. One of the main difficulties in Iran at present is that the clergy have their own notion, or, rather, their own theory of literature, which is completely the opposite of what free writers would like to have of literature. It was that theory of literature that created the Rushdie storm. In Iran we still deal with that problem. It exists and you cannot escape it, so whoever can push in a more liberal view of literature into his writing, he is respected by the public, but at the same time threatened by the authorities. Fiction is a great asset, because generally it moves through a process of metaphorical substitution or metonymic contiguity, and the gist of this matter is that straightforwardness and directness belong to either theory, social sciences or politics, and not to creative literature. So imagination starts to work in a double function: you create a new field of imagined reality and you place your opinions on that location of culture, rather than the location which is easily decipherable by the censorship. And sometimes, the censorship understands the mechanism of this strategy before the public becomes aware of it, and the work is suppressed. But literature can never stop, even if everything else, such as democracy, is destroyed in a country. […]