stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
'The book kind of healed me in a way'
space
Nazanine Hozar discusses what led her to write Aria, a novel that centres on the Iranian revolution
space
By MARSHA LEDERMAN
  
  

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Saturday, June 22, 2019 – Page R11

Iranian-Canadian author Nazanine Hozar was born into chaos. She began her life in Tehran in April, 1978: The revolution was brewing and, 10 months into her life, it would erupt, deposing the Shah and bringing in religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini - one dictator replacing another. This massive upheaval was followed the next year by Iraq's invasion of Iran, sparking a long and brutal war.

This political bedlam, and the years-long buildup leading to it, is the setting for Hozar's debut book, Aria. The novel, which began its life while Hozar was an MFA student in the creative-writing program at the University of British Columbia, has launched into the world this month with some serious cred.

The book has sparked bidding wars among publishers in Europe, with rights sold for translation into several languages. Pantheon has acquired it for the United States. There are two blurbs on the back - one by John Irving, who calls it "a feminist odyssey" and the other from Margaret Atwood, who called it, on Twitter, "A Doctor Zhivago of Iran." The novel was selected as a Heather's Pick at Heather Reisman's Indigo chain, and its on-sale date was moved up two weeks to June 11.

For all this success, Hozar has mixed feelings about this moment in her life. "There is an element of guilt that's involved," she says. "It's a story about people who suffered ... and I don't want to be benefiting from that. But at the same time, I feel like I had to tell the story of people who couldn't tell it for themselves."

Her story moves from 1953 to 1981. It begins with the birth of a child to a woman in an abusive marriage, followed by the abandonment of that newborn in a Tehran alley. The baby is rescued by Behrouz, a gentle, kindhearted driver in the Iranian army. He names the girl Aria for the music he loved secretly as a child.

"If you sing an aria, the world will know all about you," he tells the infant. "It will know your dreams and secrets. Your pains and your loves."

But there is a great deal of secret pain in his own love life; and his wife, Zahra, with whom he is mismatched, proves to be a wicked and abusive mother to Aria.

The girl will eventually find a new home and new families. The story reaches its horrific, chaotic climax as the revolution erupts.

Almost immediately, it becomes clear that the new boss, the Ayatollah, is no improvement over the old boss, the Shah - and that life is going to be horrific under his reign.

"It became very evident that what Khomeini and the regime had planned was different from what they had said all along. [The revolution] was a very unifying moment in the history of the country and very soon that unification was destroyed," Hozar says. "So being born into that is just a part of your life, and I was always in so much pain over it, you know? So I decided very early on in my life that I had to speak out, but in a more intelligent way so I wouldn't land in prison."

We're speaking at the rooftop garden atop the Vancouver Public Library's Central Branch. Hozar came to this branch pretty much every weekday for about a year and a half while conducting research for this novel, reading books and archival news reports about the revolution and other relevant issues.

The most important research for this story was known by Hozar instinctively, in her body; she was brought up with the trauma of these events. But there were things she learned from her library research that help bring the story to life. For instance, she learned that Khomeini's supporters made mixed tapes of pop music by acts such as Abba and the Beatles, splicing in clandestine interstitials of Khomeini's sermons in between. The tapes were secretly sent to Tehran's massive Grand Bazaar and then distributed at mosques - a savvy way to get young people onside, without alerting the Shah and his henchmen, who would stifle political dissent using horrific means. Hozar also learned that guards under Khomeini would hold fake executions - blindfolding prisoners and terrifying them by shooting blanks in the air. Both of these revelations made it into her novel.

Each section in the book is named for a different mother in the epic story. And while it is a historical novel set around the Islamic Revolution, it is also very much about personal relationships - their power to destroy and their potential to be destroyed by political events. "Love is a terrible thing, not what dreamers say it is," one of the characters, Maysi, says at one point. "And hope is just as bad. Hope will turn you mad."

The story began in Hozar's mind as a screenplay for a film, which she then turned into a book. She became inspired one night while at her teaching job.

The kids were on a meal break and Hozar began writing the story, by hand, on loose-leaf notebook paper. "I wrote the first 40 pages like that," she says. "And after the 40 pages, I thought: I think I can do this as a novel."

She wrote the book while teaching at UBC, and also through illness. Some of it was written from a hospital bed. Much of it was composed on iPhone notes while she travelled by bus to and from UBC where she taught fulltime at an after-school academy.

Hozar knew she wanted to be a storyteller from the age of five. At 7, she immigrated to Canada with her mother, an accountant; they joined her father, a lawyer, who was already here. (In the book, Aria studies accounting and the man she marries studies law - but the autobiographical similarities end there for Hozar's characters.)

Despite the fact that she could not speak English, Hozar was placed in a Grade 2 class in Surrey, B.C. But when she was given a read-aloud assignment, and could not make out a single word on the page, teachers clued in to the situation. She was taken into a separate classroom and placed with two other students who couldn't speak English, either.

"We couldn't talk to each other.

It was just silence; all three of us in this room sitting in silence.

And then the teachers would come into the room and do their bit." Within a month, she had learned enough to return to the regular classroom. (In Grade 3, a teacher who could not pronounce her name started calling her "Naz" and despite the girl's hatred for the short form, it stuck.

Most people call her that now.)

Hozar grew up acting in little plays an older cousin would put on and wanting to work in theatre or film. Foreign film became a passion when she was a teenager.

She did her undergraduate degree at UBC in English literature before entering the MFA program in 2008, where she began writing what she thought was a script, but would become the novel Aria.

"Because of my life experience, the book kind of healed me in a way. I think had I not written this novel, had I not been able to realize that I could write a novel and written this novel, I think I would not be in a good position in my life right now," says Hozar, who now lives in Vancouver.

She has not been back to Iran since she left. Now, having written this book, she's not sure she will be able to return. "Obviously going is not a problem. It's leaving that might be a problem," she says, although some friends are encouraging her to visit. "I didn't write this as a political statement," she adds. "I'm very aware of politics and understand it to a certain extent. But for me, art is above politics."

Associated Graphic

Nazanine Hozar visited the Vancouver Public Library's Central Branch nearly every weekday for a year and a half to work on her debut novel, Aria.

RAFAL GERSZAK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Leah_McLaren Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page