Iran’s culture has a long history of being confronted with, dealing with, adopting, and resisting the influences of superpowers, including India, the Roman Empire, China, and the West. Sometimes enemies have invaded, such as the Babylonians, Arabs, Mongols, Ottomans, Russians, and English. Today, however, the methods of war and themes of conflicts have changed.
Only recently, on July 12, 2023, during a visit to Uganda — a country that has just introduced some of the harshest anti-gay laws in the world — the Iranian president stated at a press conference: “The West today is trying to promote the idea of homosexuality, and by promoting homosexuality they are trying to end the generation of human beings.” Desire is clearly demarcated as a battleground, an arena of clashes between civilisations.
Throughout 2023, mohit.art NOTES is following three editorial themes: balance, space, and desire. The primary line of inquiry is: How and what do artists and cultural practitioners contribute in times of global and regional clashes, dramatic social-cultural developments, geopolitical instabilities, and personal distress?
NOTES #4/5, a double issue and the first looking at desire, deals with lust and male homosexuality. The edition was intended to launch earlier in the year, to coincide with Pride Month for increased visibility around the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other queer (LGBT+) people. But, of course, asking Iranian writers and artists to deal with such matters can be “incredibly risky and could lead to hazardous consequences,” as contributors Lester Wishart and M KH write. So it took us some time to discuss and finally agree on what, how, and when to release the issue. In their text “Havas: Desire as Lust” the authors explore the idea of lust — havas, in Farsi — as a counter-concept to Sharia law. Looking at the works of three Iranian artists as articulations of desire, they describe in the second part “Havas: Desire as Lust — Image Essay” how these artistic practices serve as “pathways to expressing the inexpressible” in contemporary Iranian visual art.
We are delighted to have also collaborated for this issue with the Tehran-based author Amir Hassan Cheheltan. In his novel, محفل عاشقان ادب (The Gathering of Literature Lovers), a young man is raised in a cerebral Tehran house before the 1979 revolution. Every Thursday, eight guests gather to discuss classical Persian literature — Rumi, Hafez, Saʿdi, Ferdowsi, and others. Over the years, he grows increasingly bored and upset. The circle avoids discussing the themes that the first-person narrator finds more and more interesting: obscenity and sexual desire. So far, Cheheltan’s novel has come out in a German translation only, titled Der Zirkel der Literaturliebhaber. We thank C.H. Beck Verlag (Munich) for their kind permission to publish excerpts in NOTES. The author also generously gave us access to the novel’s draft translation into English, by Paul Sprachman, which is as yet unpublished. The Farsi original محفل عاشقان ادب (Mahfel-e aasheghaan-e adab) is to be released by Sujet Verlag (Bremen,) in 2024. The German and English excerpts presented in NOTES mainly come from the chapter “The Male Beloved.”
Thanks to our contributors and also to you, the reader. Please enjoy the double issue mohit.art NOTES #4/5!
For security reasons, some names have been changed and abbreviated.
Bernd Fechner, “Lust and the Male Beloved: Editorial,” mohit.art NOTES #4/5 (August/September 2023); published on www.mohit.art, July 28, 2023.