PublicationNotes #4/5

Notes #4/5

Lust and the Male Beloved

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, 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?

We are delighted to have 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author also generously gave us access to the novel’s draft translation into English, by Paul Sprachman, which is as yet unpublished.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 contributor and also to you, the reader. Please enjoy the double issue NOTES #4/5!

Bernd Fechner, “Lust and the Male Beloved: Editorial,” NOTES #4/5 (August/September 2023); published on, July 28, 2023.