Ahmad Ahmad Memoirs

Edited by Mohsen Kazemi


In the previous issue, we covered the last part of Mohammad-Rezā Hāfezniā's abridged memoires. The next issue will introduce a work considered groundbreaking for almost 15 years in the realm of memoires-writing of Islamic Revolutionary freedom fighters. It was an attempt to address the pre-revolution memories of a Muslim freedom fighter from a professional oral historic perspective. As admitted by the Islamic Revolution Documents Center, "A new window was opened to the studies on the People's Mujahedin of Iran," after it was published. Tapping the experience he had gained in his earlier works, the author sought to avoid propaganda and persuasion and act like a historian in discovering the truth free from common exaggerations. However, there are few words of propaganda and persuasion in his work. As he himself admits in the prologue to the tenth edition of the book, "while I do not approve of some common words and sentences, I find no reason to obliterate the signs of that era."
One of the shortcomings of ideological works published by government-run organizations and even private publishers is that they campaign propaganda and persuasion. Although stemming from the authors' and publishers' commitment to defend the Iranian nation's struggle to safeguard the Islamic Revolution and their sacrifices during the Iraqi-imposed war, this leads to the creation of works which would not last long enough to experience their second edition without governmental support. Repeated propaganda and incessant slogan-shouting discourages the readership; on the contrary, the truth has more impact on the reader's mind and encourages him to read a work.
Mohsen Kāzemi seeks to achieve this in Ahmad Ahmad's Memoirs by recording the reality of pre-revolutionary era without letting the narrator's and his ideological feelings infiltrate the memoirs. When the reader reads Ahmad Ahmad's Memoirs, he faces no question to which the narrator has tried to provide an answer. It is, however, clear that an inquisitive and hardworking interviewer has sought to scavenge the truth from a freedom fighter's memories through loaded questions. While the propaganda literature is brimming with sole-black and sole-white characters, Kāzemi seeks to depict gray characters. However, the ferocity of SAVAK torturers gives him no option but to reveal their evil characters. Meanwhile, Kāzemi tries to provide the readers with their backgrounds in the footnotes so that they can understand the reasons for such brutality.
Telling the truth as it was, without it being manipulated by the narrator or editor is the main advantage of Ahmad Ahmad's Memoirs. Undoubtedly, Kāzemi's mastery of the era studied and awareness of the relations between people, organizations and other elements involved have played a crucial role in designing the questions he has asked Ahmad. His mastery of the subject has enabled him to address the events totally and provide the readers with footnotes from other sources and narrators. Another layer of his explanations is Kāzami's verifying the narrator's statements. Although Kāzemi mainly seeks to acknowledge Ahmad's statements, he puts forward ideas held by others on a single event and draws attention to the difference between the views held by the witnesses to an event. Needless to say, the restrictions on the volume of the book and fears of distraction from the main subject have limited the reference to different witnesses for all events.
Moreover, the memoires is written in a simple style from beginning to end. Undoubtedly, the narrator's occupation and keen interest in reading is a major factor contributing to this. Avoiding long and complex sentences and observing simple-writing principles does not exhaust the reader's mind. The ups and downs as well as the multiplicity of Ahmad's adventures add to its attraction. Therefore, the reader cannot put Ahmad Ahmad's Memoirs down and continues reading it to the end. This is perhaps the result of editor's intelligent choice of subject. Among the avalanche of subjects available to him, Kāzemi has worked on the memories of a person unknown to the Iranian readership before the publication of his memoires. This arouses the reader's curiosity to know a hero unknown to him.
In Ahmad Ahmad's Memoirs, the human behavior and its fluctuations in moments when sheer brutality prevails attract the reader's attention and move him. Ahmad's taking care of an unknown inmate tortured to death, putting his life in danger to save a fellow who still has the opportunity to flee, falling into the fangs of depression when hearing that his wife has joined a Marxist group, contemplating suicide with cyanide, suffering mental torture in prison and so on are all manifestations of human feelings Ahmad has experienced and narrated for his readers. Kāzemi depict these scenes in a manner so effective that makes the reader repeat the philosophical of why.
Those interested in the Iranian oral history are, thus, invited to read Ahmad Ahmad's Memoirs once again. The memoirs has so far been published sixteen times, published in installments in a widely-circulated newspaper and broadcasted on the radio.
Oral History Weekly proudly announces that it is to publish Ahmad Ahmad's Memoirs for the first time with its English translation in order to introduce the masterpieces of Iranian oral history to the world. While not a standard oral historic work, it is certainly a great work in the realm of Islamic-revolution memoires-writing and a considerable step towards professional Iranian oral history.
Kāzemi is an author whose job is not finished with the publication of his book; he continuously revises and improves his works. For instance, he is to surprise the readers with the changes he has made to Anxious Years, Javād Mansūri's memoirs which is to be published in the near future. However, he has not yet found the opportunity to release his fifteen-year-long research on Ahmad Ahmad's life story in a new edition. Therefore, we asked him to provide us with the most recent and updated information. He kindly accepted our request; therefore, the bilingual version provided by Oral History Weekly is a new edition of Ahmad Ahmad's Memoirs.
Oral History Weekly welcomes and encourages the readers to comment on each and every installment so that its staff and the author would find the opportunity to identify its possible shortcomings and make some improvements. Undoubtedly, these comments would help track the new life of Ahmad Ahmad's Memoirs after fifteen years.

Mohammad Karimi
Translated by Katayoun Davallou



 
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