Exclusive Unpublished Work from Iranian Novelist Moniru Ravanipur
It is Sunday and I have an appointment with Tracy. The night before, I thought about the cup of coffee that I always drink in her office. Lying in bed, tossing, and waiting for tomorrow morning and a mysterious cup of coffee… This is what I consider fun in my life… and what is life really? What is life, Moniro? And why do life and love start with same letter L… And what else? Land, loose, lost, live, look… And what is the relationship between lose and life? And lost… No, I don’t want to lose that cup of coffee. I don’t want to…
I wake up early at 5:30 and I wonder if I slept at all.
- Moniru Ravanipur
- Moniru Ravanipur has written novels, short stories, works for children, plays and screenplays.
- She was among 17 activists to face trial in Iran for their participation in the 2000 Berlin Conference, for which they were accused of taking part in anti-Iran propaganda. Copies of her books were recently stripped from bookstore shelves in Iran in a countrywide police action.
- On March 7, 2014, Moniru visited City of Asylum to read from a work-in-progress.
I look out the window to the street, the street is quiet and my neighbors are still asleep. I say, thanks, but I don’t know who I thanked, I am thankful because I can see a calm beautiful street without fear, I am thankful because I am here, although I brought many baggage, visible and invisible. But, I want to throw out my invisible baggage.
As usual, Benji and Smoky are waiting for me downstairs. And when they see me they start jumping. Do they love me? Do they really love me?
I go downstairs. We should always be quiet because my husband sleeps on the couch every night. There is a big master bedroom on the second floor, but nobody sleeps there except when my son has a guest, his classmate.
The kitchen is messy as usual: a half-filled bottle of wine, an empty bottle of whiskey, and a half bottle of beer. My husband uses all of these to sleep and every morning when I come down he says: I did not sleep or I had a nightmare.
I hear him snore and I’m afraid to wake him. I walk on my toes, find the dog collars and take Benji and Smoky out for a walk.
Nobody is in the park. We walk till 6:30 when my husband wakes up, and then we go home. Usually he makes a Turkish coffee for himself and goes to the garage to smoke. Then he takes our son to school and goes to work.
Always when he leaves, Smoky and Benji start to dance. Smoky lies on the floor and he claps his hands (his paws), Benji grabs my shoe in her mouth and runs. Then I start laughing and talking to them. I feed them. Whatever I eat they want to eat, when I cook they come to the kitchen and beg. Smoky fights with me if I don’t get him Iranian food. He barks at me, so I give him a hug but he barks again and looks at the food in the oven. And because I want him to be quiet I feed him.
The first thing I need to do is call Tracy and confirm the time. Is my appointment at 10:00, 10:30 or 2:00? But it’s still early. I should wait until 9:00.
Finally I call Tracy and ask her about my appointment. She says at 10 o’clock. When I have a meeting with her I always try to be in a good shape. I take a shower, wear a nice dress and perfume…
For two years now, I have been meeting her regularly and she is the only one I feel comfortable speaking English with.
I like this route: Wigwam, turning to Pebble and turning left on Pebble to the Pecos intersection and again turning right to reach Tracy’s office. At the end of this road there is someone who helped me get my driver’s license. At the end of this road there is someone who taught me that immigration is not easy. That immigration is not only going from one country to another country; that changing your situation is a kind of immigration and has its own difficulty.
The door is locked, I wonder for a moment and when I see her behind the door I remember that it is Sunday. She cut her hair and changed her hair style, she looks beautiful as usual.
She begins with these words. I sit on the couch.
I give her one chapter of my novel in Persian, she puts it in the file and looks at me.
“I didn’t write my diary in English.”
She doesn’t say a word. Her face doesn’t change; she just looks at me.
I say, “Actually I thought a lot but I did not write… because… because I thought I couldn’t.”
“You can, you just don’t want to write in English.”
“No, believe me I want to, but I feel I can’t. I asked myself how I can get to the words, how can I grab them. I have to feel the words, to touch them.”
She said, “If you have enough power to choose the place to live in, where is that place?”
“And do you want to continue writing in Persian in the U.S., the country where everybody speaks English?”
“Ok, I thought I am strong in Persian and if I don’t write in my language I will lose my skill.”
Actually one of my biggest problems since I arrived is how to continue writing? All my books are banned in my country and they won’t let me publish a new one. It has been a long time since I’ve written anything and I have put my stories on the shelves. Am I strong enough to continue? And how many readers can I have here? I know that since the Revolution many Iranians have escaped from my country and they have been scattered around the world, but even those who have come to America do not live in one state. If I publish my books in Persian here, it will not succeed. Barnes and Noble does not distribute Persian books and small publishing houses cannot sell my books. When I got this point I tried to learn English. I tried; I ended up starting and quitting several times. Reading stories in English, finding the meaning of words, but after two or three pages I reach the point where it is all a waste of time. So I start to write my novel in Persian, and after a few days I start talking to myself and ask why are you writing in Persian? For whom? To put them on the shelves?
I am quiet and Tracy is standing in front of her book shelves. She takes a tiny book and starts looking at it and shows it to me. Satan’s Stone, a short story collection of mine that has been translated into English many years ago and she bought it from Amazon.
I say, “Oh let me have the names of the translators. I was looking for them.”
She asks, “Did you write these stories?”
“Of course I did.”
“Did you get any money?”
“And these guys I am sure made money from your book but they didn’t give you one penny and you are still looking for them?”
She puts her fingers over the names in such a way that I could only see my name.
“The only name that should be here is yours.”
I remember those days when I was writing this collection. I didn’t have my own place, I was in trouble, my sister was in the jail, my brother was executed, and any second they might come and arrest me.
I said, “I wish I could write in both languages.”
“I am sure you can.”
“Moniro, I understand you easily when you talk. When you write you will have enough time to correct yourself.”
I don’t say anything.
She asks, “Tell me the name of two or three famous Iranian writers.”
I look at her.
“Who is the most famous writer?”
“I was famous before I got married.”
“Yes I was.”
“And who is the most famous right now?”
I slide into the couch. I don’t say anything. I remember the days of fame and work. I remember two writers who were looking for publishers when many publishers wanted to sign me, and now these two writers are famous even in western countries. They have published their books in English.
“My husband put me in a grave.”
Tracy says, “No, you put yourself in the grave. You choose to be nothing.”
I can’t breathe, I can’t see. I am like a prisoner who suddenly comes out of darkness into brightness, a prisoner whose soul suddenly opens.
“Can you give me a cup of coffee?”
She is making coffee and I remember my life as a writer, not as a married woman. Then I remember many times when I was invited to read in many European countries, but since I was just recently married at the time, I didn’t accept the invitations. Instead, I recommended one of these writers.
Tracy puts the coffee on the coffee table and sits.
“Moniro, do you know why you persist working in Persian?
I look at her.
“Because you don’t want to go further, because you don’t want to be more than your husband. Man is god for you. You can’t disobey the god.”
“But I am not a traditional woman.”
“You are. A traditional woman hides within YOU. You should kick her out.”