The imposed war between Ba’ath regime of the ousted Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Iran during 1980s was certainly the most difficult point in Iran’s history after the Islamic Revolution.
The war displaced many people, scattered many families and claimed many lives either on the conflict spot, in prisons, or as a result of war injuries.
Many successful narrations had introduced the imposed Iraq-Iran war and the imperialistic nature behind the miseries that inflicted Iranians as well as Iraqi families.
Bearing 270 Degrees by Ahmad Dehghan and Chess with the Resurrection Machine by Habib Ahmadzadeh are only two of the novels that describe the Sacred Defense.
However, “Da” is the only novel narrated by a woman and the most successful, of course. It is the written memories of Seyyede Zahra Hosseini that was published by Surey-e Mehr Publications in 2008.
Da has reached to almost 140th edition and became a bestseller in the first six months of publication by more than 70 editions and more than 50,000 copies sold.
Da reached its 129th edition in Iran’s 23rd International Book Exhibition of Tehran and its 137th in the 24th version of the event.
Da means “mother”
Da is, in one sense, the exhibition of Iran’s multi-culture by presenting an ethnic and linguistic evaluation of the war that was imposed on the whole nation.
In Kurdish and Lori dialects spoken in western parts of Iran that share boundaries with Iraq, “da” means any of the parents and Hosseini takes it to refer to both her mother and father, but the one who is specifically referred to by the word is her grandmother who has a major role in her extended family.
Zahra is the third child of an extended Iranian family of 11 leave Dehloran in Ilam province to live in Iraq’s capital Basra.
Due to the anti-Ba’ath activities of her father, the family relocates again to Iran’s Khorramshahr when she is only 5, the stories of which we read in the first 3 chapters of the book.
Zahra is suddenly transferred in a very different location, the mortuary house in Khorramshahr, when she is 17 and witnesses the beginning days of the war.
Due to the feminine view in presenting the novel, Da affords delicate descriptions of the realistic scenes of war, a scarcity in Iran-Iraq war literature so far.
The descriptions, however, are defined also as containing grotesque in the sense that it brings horror, fear, melancholy, and trauma at the same time in one scene.
“Despite all my disgust, I took the broom and began sweeping the parcels of human brain, blood and skull from the earth”.
These feelings of fear and misery are even doubled by the knowledge of the femininity of its narrator.
Da is the Iranian heroin
Da was pronounced by many in Iran and abroad, including the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran who recommended it to the youth and many literary figures such as Mostafa Rahmandoost who described it as a successful memory novel.
Several artists announced intention for adapting the novel in their movies, theatres, and including Tahmineh Milani, Homayoun As’adian and Hossein Parsai whose “I’m Not Da” theatre that was released last week on the occasion of Iran’s Sacred Defense Week, celebrating the beginning of the defense in September 1988.
On the other hand, the American translator of the novel, Paul Sparchman, described the novel as the representation of Iranian women after he made one of his travels to Iran to discuss the translation he made of the book with the critics and the author.
Sparchman described Iranian women as very active and sociable women who are probably very stronger than Iranian men and said that “Da” is a representation of the Iranian women.
Women have been partly represented in the war literature, such as in “Maryam’s Boots” by women relief workers of war, or “Letters from Fahimeh” by Alireza Kamari.
By the way, the delicate description of a 17-year-old girl’s experience of war with very minute facts and the frequent references to the family, a major part of Iran’s culture, has made it the symbol of Iran’s women in the war literature.