Monday, January 22, 2024

The Writing University conducts a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the various University of Iowa writing programs. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.

author photo at river

Today we are speaking with Ara Javaheri (AJ), an Iranian translator, currently in a second year in the Literary Translation MFA. She translates contemporary Iranian fiction and poetry from Farsi and has several translated books from English published in Iran. She is currently working as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Translation and Global Literacy at the University of Iowa.


1. Can you tell us a little bit about what brought you to the University of Iowa?
I worked as a translator my whole life but I always believe when it comes to translation, you can never stop learning. I wanted to translate Iranian literature and introduce it to the other side of the world where we’re not known much. For doing this I needed to learn even more about translation. There are only a few literary translation programs at the graduate level and the University of Iowa was one of the oldest and most prominent ones. I dreamed of becoming a student here to learn from the best and I finally got my wish.  
2. What is the inspiration for your work right now?
The translation workshop is the source of my courage and confidence. Every time I translate a piece from one of my passion projects and present it to the workshop, the amount of positive feedback and encouragement I get from those brilliant people makes me even more passionate about what I’m doing. I need this courage to make sure I’m doing my work the way it should be and when I see tiny bits of success, I get inspired to do more and go further.  
3. Do you have a daily writing routine?
I’m currently taking an online short story writing workshop with my Iranian author and we have assignments every session and write about a certain topic. My days are spent thinking and working on those pieces. I try to have a routine but my writing is always tied to my feelings. Some days I can’t do anything but write, some days I just can’t write no matter how hard I try.  
4. What are you reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?
The good thing about being in a literary major is that we are reading literature or about literature all the time. For me, anything slightly literary is pure pleasure, even if it is for a research project. Apart from course materials, I read a lot of English fiction, which helps me with my own translations and teach me more about different English writing styles. I also try to keep up with the newest Iranian fiction so I can find my future projects from among them.  
In the writing workshop I mentioned, we also have reading assignments. We read a novel or a short story collection every week and then discuss it in class. This week we’re reading an Iranian novel.  
5. Tell us about where you are from - what are some favorite details you would like to share about your home?
I’m originally from the city of Sanandaj in the Kurdistan province of Iran but I lived in Tehran for almost 15 years before moving to the US last year. What I love the most about my hometown is how kind and affectionate the people are. Whether you’re buying something from a street vendor, chatting with a taxi driver, or meeting a group of people for the first time, you are always showered with kindness and respect. I always felt safe, loved, and respected in Sanandaj.
Tehran is an entirely different world. The big city vibes make you choose a different lifestyle but amongst the crazy busy life, you could always take refuge in a little café with a friend, walk into a bookstore, or watch a play in the magnificent downtown area. Tehran is loud and crowded but once you find your little happy places, you form a friendship with the city that will not break no matter how far you move away from it.  




Thank you for talking with us today, Jungin Angie Lee!