Oral History Training

The First step in Compilation and Implementation

Seyyedeh Tahereh Moayedi
Translated by Ruhollah Golmoradi


In the case of teaching topics of oral history compilation and adjusting, before addressing principles of implementation, it is necessary to pay attention to two important points:

  1. Understanding type and nature of what we're doing.
  2. Having a straightforward expression in doing so.


Harmony of text and content

In the world of literature and art, writing styles, forms and types almost gets everything clear for the audience, and their boundaries are quite clear and different. For example, there is a book called religious book. When it is said this is a revelation book, it means no one thinks about its school whether it is realist or romantic, has a historicist or literal approach, whether it is poem or art; Therefore, scope and inclusion of religious text as well as its setup are clear. Or when we say Nahj al-Balagha, no one thinks it is a poetic work, but knows a prominent religious saint in religion of Islam is behind Nahj al-Balagha. Now it may also be poetic and has aphorisms, or has a rhythm and manifestation of Arab literature too, but we hear name of Nahj al-Balagha after that it is said the words of Amir al-Mu'minin(AS).So it is clear what is domain and inclusion of that book.

In recent years, in books that are related to memories have either been published as oral histories, or books that are titled story of Persian literature, etc., we are faced with a lack of transparency and equivocal format and writing style. On the covers, we see something while something else is inside the volume. Therefore, before reaching the cover and when a work becomes a product, we need to know what is its identity and type, and located in which genre and which writing style it has used.

Researcher, writer, memory writer, and practitioner of this field should have clarified his/her duties with the two words of "history" and "literature". The two are different and are two different sciences, have similarities and differences. If we don't know what history is, what is literature and where the place of memory is, we will be skeptical about memory writing and our own writing style. It should be clear specifically what memory is and what is its location in relation to literature and history?! Essentially, whether it has an interaction with these two, or it is an independent science, major, and credit.

Unfortunately, today, the products that are offered in this regard, their relation is not clear with literature and history. Sometimes if we say they don't have an identity, we haven't got a point there. On memories, some works have been done that are not clear whether they have been in loyalty to history or literature! We need to know literature well. In this case, we know that literature can't be excluded from anything, and somehow it exists in all sciences and disciplines. When a product is presented, the means carrying it is literature. It is through literature that wagon of that science is placed on the rails and takes it forward. Now whether that science is chemistry, computer or other sciences. Whenever it is supposed to transmit a science to people in any language, it is transmitted by literature, no matter whether it is physics, chemistry, law or other sciences.

Memory-writing is knitted closely to literature in its general sense. However, literature has many forms and formats such as: story short, long story, travelogue, biography, Soliloquy, dramatic monologue, play, screenplay, novel, etc.

Now the question is, which one have we used? What is our production method?  Have we used them all? What is our method of creation and writing? These ambiguities exist frequently in the published works, and in critique, it is hard to determine what is its nature, or if we specify it, sometimes what is written on the cover is different from the text.  For example, on the cover of a book, there is a very nice two-word title and then memories of a fellow, but when we open that book, we see there is everything but memory! Or it's far beyond a memory. This is where we say that what's on the cover doesn't match text and content of the book.

Today, apparently, the only persons who object to this method are experts of the National Library, where the work before publishing is sent to them for recording in CIP (in Iran FIPA), and there is they don’t know what to write! They constantly review the text, but they don't know whether it is a research, literature, history, novel, fable, etc. Finally, in order for advancing the work, they put it on the list of Persian Stories, only because it is written in Persian, they think that the story is Persian. Now we have over twelve to thirteen thousand books, which their source, extract and soul is memories. Their creator believe they are documentary because they have interviewed the narrator and recorded a memory. While he/she has written something else, but it is recorded in FIPA: Persian Stories! Those who know meaning of story well, they know very well how the story is classified and judged.

Today, in order to prevent irregularities, inconsistencies, as well as to avoid the difference between cover and content, and the work that take place in this field, the advisor and supervisor should be used both in the research and in the writing phase of the book. The necessity of the supervisor is more evident when we want to find a suitable and original writing style for a project and our oral achievement. It is clear that it is very decisive and as clear as day.

The second point that we need to pay attention to is criticism and review of the work before publication. If we review our work before it becomes a product, we will not lose, as much of the effort and costs are devoted to converting it into a product. The researcher and author work with effort and saving, and with the lowest credit and budget, whereas in the meantime, not so much is really given to them. But all of a sudden, paper, cardboard, covers, prints and bookbinding are huge giants that devour a lot of expenses. This is where we say it is better to reflect a little before paying these costs, the pre-publication review prevents money from being wasted.

Therefore, all enthusiasts and practitioners of this path are advised to care about these two important points and take it seriously in order to succeed in this direction:

1- Using advisor and supervisor in this field.   2- Reviewing the work before publishing.

Those who are wise usually consult in their works and leave it to be reviewed and criticized. Surely, this is their open opinion and freedom of their character that they give their manuscripts, which are wage of their suffering in writing and perseverance, to friends and pundits to read and criticize. The world is the world of communication; it isn’t the world of closed doors and working in closed doors. The stage of creation and writing is a grueling stage that many prefer to do it in private and lonely, but before publicity and public release, it is not bad that a number of wise people to see, read and comment these works. This is a formula that the macro society seems to have to accept; otherwise, it loses. We should not be afraid of criticism. Works, in specialized and private gatherings, should be subjected to judgment and evaluation, that in this case, they will definitely become riper. This is a professional method that produces successful books.

That several people accept gather in a province, an area, a complex, a class, etc. that means they tolerate each other, and no matter what the sign above them? Or, for example, who is going to teach what? Therefore, this patience and acceptance in being together is precious and valuable.

We have a famous book called Da, that there is no person who hasn’t heard its name, although despite its presence in the homes of a large number of culture community, many may not have read it yet. Some circles have not yet reached a consensus on the style and format of this book.

The very book Da, at a famous and large university in the country, becomes the subject a thesis of a PhD student. The thesis is titled "Review of Da Novel". On the cover, it is written very beautiful name of four PhDs of literature in a gold-bitter format! Who are supervisor and advisor of novel of Da and have given guidance and consultation. But they have not reviewed what is format of this novel? And what's published in the name of Da, where does it fit into the novel format?! While many of the newcomers who are freshmen of story writing, this is clear to them, but the literature department of the country's top and number one university makes such a mistake.

This also happen in many other parts of the country, and unfortunately in many cases, it is done behind name of martyrs. Martyrs are precious, martyrs are valuable. Most of the work in oral history is either about the martyrs or are martyr memoirs, or their follower friends, survivors, and veterans have come and talked about their memories; so, there is a huge investment in this regard, there is a lot of hope for them, and there is much motivation behind them. Many of these disturbances are due to lack of and knowledge managerial weakness. Of course, we can't tolerate this situation and causes forever and adapt to it. We have to tune our instrument up accurately and correctly. That is, to know who we are? in which style, form and literature we want to write? and in this style and format and what we write, we have to be explicit and honest with the reader. We shouldn’t deceive anyone. But unfortunately, this is what's going on! Sometimes our covers are inconsistent with contents. But if the people of meaning, accuracy and wisdom read it, they will perceive. In all corners of the country, works are unveiled and presented in hurly-burly, and are being introduced with much propaganda, while some people ask: Is this a memory? If we ask him/her: What is your idea? He/she might say, "I don't think that's a memory. In response, it should be said, "So think about it, be careful, if it's not a memory, you don't write like that you write on it memory, then there's no memory within it."[1]


[1] From the session of Compilation and Adjusting Oral History taught by Mohammad Ghasemipour on Saturday, September 7, 2019

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