Re-examining the works of Ahmad Mahmud : a fictional depiction of the Iranian nation in the second half of the 20th century
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In this dissertation, I examine the work of an important yet insufficiently studied Iranian novelist and short-story writer, Ahmad Mahmud. Because of his early affiliation with leftist socialist groups, Mahmud's work has been subject to various, sometimes contradictory, interpretations by critics. Such readings of Mahmud's work have resulted in making him a controversial literary figure. Hence, this project aims to re-examine the critics' current viewpoint of Mahmud's works, which they regard as "ideologically driven" and "Marxist and/or political writing." Although Mahmud's ideology played a significant role in creating his stories, particularly in his early works, I argue that storytelling is the predominant concern for Mahmud. In fact, a large portion of his writing depicts his own life and his own development as a person and a writer. Mahmud's portrayal of the main protagonist of his stories, Khaled, who goes through various stages of transformation, indeed reflects his own evolution and development. In other words, I contend that Mahmud's literary output is essentially "autobiographical." In addition, I argue that Mahmud's autobiographical fiction helps to shape and articulate his emerging role as a novelist as he strives to record decades of turbulent social and political upheaval and change in the post-1950s era, as the Iranian nation undergoes various stages of transformation and growth in search of a new identity and political autonomy. With an analysis of a select number of Mahmud's novels, furthermore, I discuss the social and historical nature of this transformation of the author/protagonist/nation and argue that from early on Mahmud was determined to depict the linear socio-political movement that took place in the modern history of Iran in the character of his memorable hero, Khaled, who appears in various guises and matures both as a person and a social entity from one novel to the next.