Oral history and paying more attention to details

Akram Dashtban
Translated by M. B. Khashnevisan


The following text has been formed according to this question and with this orientation: What are the works that are a role model for other ones in oral history? Why are these books a role model and what features do they have?

In response to this question, Seyed Qassem Yahosseini, a history writer and researcher said, “Fortunately, if we want to talk about this more precisely, I should say that oral memories have advanced significantly in different fields, in a way that today, we can present examples from oral memories in various genres. A while ago, for giving a lecture, I classified the oral memories which have been released in Iran and sorted out some 20 oral memories.

He continued, “Perhaps, the most important genres of oral memories and oral history in Iran include the books revolving around the Iraqi imposed war against Iran, the Islamic revolution, dignitaries and notables, writers and artists, politicians and scholars, owners of businesses and jobs and women and athletes. However, we can add to the list a large number of others. At present, the most famous oral history genres are in the fields of the Iraqi imposed war against Iran and the Islamic revolution and most resources produced in the field of oral memories are undoubtedly devoted to the imposed war.

Referring that no certain study has so far been published in the field of the war, Yahosseini added, “Undoubtedly, we can name thousands of titles of oral memory books most of which have been produced and published in state centers. For instance, some of the titles which have been published by Sooreh Mehr Publications in the field of the imposed war are considered as readable and attractive models of oral memories in Iran.

He continued, “Fortunately, it is a few years that the female writers have also entered into this field and in addition to narrating their own memories of the war, they are active in the field of the oral history of men and women. These days, oral memories of the war have become so important that most state publishing institutions have donated a branch to it. This is a sign of the growing dynamics of oral memories in Iran.

Yahosseini added, “I Believe that the genre of oral history and oral memories will soon infiltrated from the area of war and revolution to other cultural, political and social branches and varied standardized works will be published on all aspects and lifestyles and social, cultural and political developments of Iran.

He asked himself, "If you ask me what kind of narration is the most dynamic narration in Iran?" I reply undoubtedly that it is oral memories and oral history. However, at first, this point should be clarified that the definition of oral memories is different with oral history. Unfortunately, the university professors and scholars in their writings and interviews do not differentiate between oral memories and oral history and consider the two as the same unintentionally and neglectfully. However, oral memories are considered to be part of oral history. Oral history is therefore not oral history, but oral history should certainly use oral memories.

Explaining about what works in oral history can be a model for other ones, Yahosseini added, “In the area of theory, the book of Dr. Nouraee (Oral History and its Status in Iran’s Contemporary Historiography 1358-1385 Solar Hijri) brings up the writing models of a book with the subject of oral history which is a valuable work in this regard. But such works are few and unfortunately we have not done much work in the field of theory and oral history research. But we have various works in the field of compilation of oral history works. For instance, the book collection of Mohsen Kazemi in the field of memories and oral history is among such works. He has his own style. Or Mrs. Raheleh Sabouri whose works have feminine prose and I like one of her prominent books titled "The Alley of Painters". 

He expressed that Mohsen Kazmei's accuracy about his work, his much hard-working in compiling memories, necessary references and annexes at the end of his books and the writer's convincing acquaintance with the philosophy of oral history are all the reasons for his works being as role models. He said that Kazemi is among few people who is familiar with the philosophy of oral history and recognizes the methods of research in oral history and knows what to do. He has brilliant works. The authors in the area of oral history have different styles and tastes and Mohsen Kazemi has his own style in the area of the history of the revolution and war and history of diplomacy.

About the books of Raheleh Sabouri, the writer said, "The works of this writer has feminine prose. She has special accuracy, and pays more attention to the details. In oral history, the more we pay attention to the details, the more the work will become more attractive and readable. Paying attention to the details refers to another subject and the author can express the social customs of the time through searching for the details. It should be considered that the production of a text should not only for the war. Through reviewing the details of the narrators, the history of social classes, cities and neighborhoods can be expressed, as in my works, I also pay attention to the fabric and the type of the architecture of houses and alleys in creation of atmosphere for neighborhoods. In fact, the memories should not be grey, they should have colors so that the audience can make images in his or her mind while reading them.

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