Interview with Navid Hamzavi, an award-winning Iranian writer
Navid Hamzavi is an award-winning Iranian writer, now living in the UK. He graduated with a Masters degree in Cultural and Critical Studies from Birkbeck, University of London. His works of fiction include the collections Rag-and-Bone Man, (2010), and London, City of Red (2016) published in Iran; both were severely censored by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. City of Red was banned from sale at the Tehran International Book Fair.
Navid has given readings and performances at various festivals in the UK and his stories have appeared in magazines such as Ambit, Stand and Critical Muslim. His Chap book ‘Body: a triptych’ is out and can be purchased at: https://www.exiledwriters.co.uk/book/
He is interviewed by Lolita, a first-year student in Creative Writing and Journalism at Middlesex University.
Lolita: Hi Navid, It’s great to have you here. This year’s theme at the North London Story Festival is Transformation. As buddy writers, we have many questions about translation and how to create amazing work in a different language. What language do you speak? Which do you prefer to write in?
Navid: My mother tongue is Persian. However, when writing an essay or an article, I write in English. When it comes to fiction, I write it in Persian and then render it to English.
Lolita: How do you feel about translation? Does it feel true to what you try to say, or do you find it lacking?
Navid: It is obvious that a translation cannot be a copy of the original. To overcome this, I translate my stories myself for it to stand in the closest connection with the original. However, if we consider translation as art, maybe we should not concern ourselves very much with the original and that the relationship between languages could not be experienced in a single language.
Lolita: In terms of portraying the reality of living in a foreign country: do you feel that what you read and write really portrays the difficulties or someone still learning a new language, of the challenges it creates?
Navid: My background, coming from Iran, a country from the Middle East, and my experience studying on an MA Cultural and Critical Studies initially put me in a position to have a hostile relationship with the West and so to believe that integration is impossible. It was only later in my immigration journey that I come to understand that I was too concerned about my political identity and that political identity is a construct and Identity itself is a broken concept. Although you might still find the traces of colonial thinking here and there and you have every right to resist the suppressing power anywhere, I learned to value the achievements of Enlightenment, no matter how critical I am toward it. Integration is a unique experience. You would never fully integrate into another culture and that is the beauty of this process. You might become A non-Iranian Iranian!
Lolita: What advice would you give to writers who come from a different country and talk a foreign language?
Navid: Throw yourself in the game and play, and read and read and read.
Lolita: Is there something you miss from back home, which you wish you could portray well in your writing?
Navid: There are loads of things that I miss from my culture; however, I think my stories have the sense of being between two cultures rather than a culture-specific text. So, I, the same as my stories, am both in and out of cultures.
Lolita: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? Which do you dislike the most?
Navid: It might sound crazy, but I do not enjoy writing at all. I only enjoy it when it is crafted and penned. The exciting part is when someone reads your story and sends a text about it or writes a review on it.
Lolita: Can you describe your writing process?
Navid: It depends. I might postpone a story for months until I know the first sentence and secondly, know the plot. Obviously, the plot might change in the process of writing, but I have to have these two elements in order to crack on.
Lolita: What inspires you to write?
Lolita: What are your plans for the future? Are you working on something right now?
Navid: Having had a track record of publication in English including my chapbook, Body, A Triptych, I now would like to put my stories together and start sending them to the agents to publish my first short story collection in English.
Lolita: Thank you so much Navid for taking the time to answer our questions. I wish you all the best in your future writing endeavours.
Follow Navid on Twitter: @NavidHamzavi
Follow Lolita on Twitter: @atlolis1989