Sunday, August 25, 2013

Three of Ali Khamenei's favorite novels

Ali Khamenei is Iran’s Supreme Leader.

The Iranian journalist and writer Akbar Ganji has an essay in the current Foreign Affairs (Sept/Oct 2013),  "Who Is Ali Khamenei?".

"As a young man, Khamenei loved novels," Ganji writes. "He read such Iranian writers as Muhammad Ali Jamalzadah, Sadeq Chubak, and Sadeq Hedayat but came to feel that they paled before classic Western writers from France, Russia, and the United Kingdom."

Three of Khamenei's favorite Western novels according to Ganji:
Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables

"In my opinion, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is the best novel that has been written in history. I have not read all the novels written throughout history, no doubt, but I have read many that relate to the events of various centuries.... [But] Les Misérables is a miracle in the world of novel writing.... I have said over and over again, go read Les Misérables once. This Les Misérables is a book of sociology, a book of history, a book of criticism, a divine book, a book of love and feeling."
--Khamenei, to some officials of Iran’s state-run television network in 2004

John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

"Read the famous book The Grapes of Wrath, written by John Steinbeck, ... and see what it says about the situation of the left and how the capitalists of the so-called center of democracy treated them."
--Khamenei, to an audience of writers and artists in 1996

Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom’s Cabin

"Isn’t this the government that massacred the original native inhabitants of the land of America? That wiped out the American Indians? Wasn’t it this system and its agents who seized millions of Africans from their houses and carried them off into slavery and kidnapped their young sons and daughters to become slaves and inflicted on them for long years the most severe tragedies? Today, one of the most tragic works of art is Uncle Tom’s Cabin.... This book still lives after almost 200 years."
--Khamenei, in March 2002 to high-level state managers
Read Akbar Ganji's essay, "Who Is Ali Khamenei?" at Foreign Affairs and view Fareed Zakaria's commentary on the subject at CNN's Global Public Square website. Zakaria notes:
The books Khamenei likes are all critiques of Western society, for the way it has treated the poor or African Americans or native Americans. He does not, incidentally, seem to recognize the strength of a culture that criticizes itself – all these critiques of the West are by Westerners, who often gain great fame for these efforts.
--Marshal Zeringue