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In the midst of the war of words between Iran and the United States and a hot war between Teheran-backed Hizbullah and US ally Israel, young Iranian readers are finding inspiration from the works of American novelist Richard Brautigan.
Azadeh Azizi said she was enchanted by the author's "Trout Fishing in America" as she paged through the book while sitting on the doorsteps of a downtown Tehran bookstore on Tuesday.
"I love Brautigan's work. His pen feeds my appetite for knowing about my own mind, society and the world," the 17-year-old high school student said.
Poet and novelist Brautigan, a 1960s mainstay who died in 1984 at the age of 49, shot to fame in Iran last year, when his "In Watermelon Sugar" hit bookstands.
Mehdi Navid, the Farsi translator of "In Watermelon Sugar," said young people are interested in Brautigan's works because of their counterculture appeal.
"Welcoming Brautigan's works seems similar to the very phenomenon in the United States in 1960s," he said.
Roya Hassanpour, a Tehran University student, said the American author' books empower people to think for themselves.
"Brautigan urges us to leave governments alone with their own decisions. That's why I like him and his works," she said.
Some experts say Iranian interest in the author coincides with an expanding desire for individualism despite the unfriendly relations between Washington and Tehran.
"The young people are potential customers for any cultural product, including books by American authors," said Hamid Reza Jalipour, a sociologist and university professor.
Iran and the United States broke off diplomatic relations in 1979, when militant students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats as hostages for 444 days.
The two countries have continued to oppose each other on many issues including Tehran's nuclear program and the current crisis in Lebanon. Washington alleges that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon and supports the militant group Hezbollah through training, weapons and financing. Iran has denied the claims.
But two countries traditionally have had better cultural relations. In May, for example, Iran awarded an honorary doctorate to Coleman Barks, a U.S. national, who spent 30 years translating the legendary 13th century Persian poet Rumi into English.
Other American authors also have found an audience in Iran, including Walt Whitman, Jack London, John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. Former US President Bill Clinton's autobiography and "Living History," the book written by his wife, US Senator Hillary Clinton, also are popular.
"Revenge of The Lawn," a collection of short stories by Brautigan, was the second of his books to appear last year in Iran's modest book market.
Shortly afterward, "Trout Fishing in America" was released and is currently in its third edition.
"It is a kind of success for a book to reach third edition in Iran, where people do not allocate so much time for books," said Payam Yazdanjoo, the book's translator.
But with avid Brautigan followers who say they learn invaluable life lessons from his books, the author's popularity may continue to rise.
"Brautigan taught me that I have to change myself and reach self-awareness before any attempt for changing the world," said Reza Mahzoon, 23.
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