Khamenei's love of now banned books revealed in new biography

In the book, the Supreme Leader described his "passion for reading famous Iranian and world novels," and insisted that reading novels had a "deep impact on him."

June 3, 2019 23:16
2 minute read.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei views bookstand in Tehran

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei views bookstand in Tehran. (photo credit: REUTERS/STRINGER IRAN)


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 Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had a fondness for romantic French literature and other books now banned in the Islamic Republic, a new book revealed, according to Ashraq Al-Awsat.

The book about Khamenei, described as a sort of biography, was originally published in Arabic as "En Ma'a al-Sabr Fathan," ("Patience Leads to Victory") but was later published in Farsi as "The Drop of Blood that Became a Ruby."
In the book, the Supreme Leader described his "passion for reading famous Iranian and world novels," and insisted that reading novels had a "deep impact on him."

A chapter of the book focuses on the books that Khamenei enjoyed as a young man, including French authors, such as Michel Zevaco and Alexandre Dumas.

Zevaco, a serialist and journalist who featured at the top of Khamenei's list, was also known for being an anarchist, libertarian and militant, according to the Michel Zevaco International Center's website.

Dumas is a well known French author, famous for "The Three Musketeers" and "The Count of Monte Cristo." His works contain more adventure and less sex and violence than Zevaco's novels.

Ashraq Al-Awsat described Zevaco's writings as a "universe of sex, violence, conspiracy and betrayal."

In collected statements published on his official website from a gathering with children and teenagers in 1998, Khamenei described going to the Astan-e-Quds library in Mashahd. "I would indulge in reading; the call for prayers would be broadcasted, but I was so immersed in reading, that I would not hear it!"

"I do not want to introduce too many books and novels to the youths, but I may name some authors," Khamenei said at the gathering. "For instance, there is a well-known French author called Michel Zevaco who has written many books. I have read most of his novels in the past."

Khamenei also mentioned at the gathering that he read Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" a couple of times. In 1993, Khamenei stated that Hugo is a "wise man" and that "'Les Misérables' is a book of wisdom and in my opinion, everyone should read it," according to his official website.

Persian literature is heavily influenced by French literature from the late 19th century, including novels by Emile Zola and Anatole France, according to Ashraq Al-Awsat.

One novel by an author named Ali Dashti featured a heroine named "Fitneh" (Sedition) who used her charm to better her status in a world ruled by men.

Another novel featured the heroine "Shahrashub" (lit. the disturber of peace in the city) with an emphasized appetite for sex.

Yet another novel from the time, "Ahu Khanum’s Husband" by Muhammad-Ali Afghani, sparked a nationwide debate in Iran on the status of women, according to Ashraq Al-Awsat.

Khamenei mentioned that he was fond of all these Iranian novels, although they feature on a list of books banned by former Iranian President Muhammad Khatami in 1999, meaning that present-day Iranians, ironically, cannot read some of the Supreme Leader's favorite novels. The book ban was enacted against books that "corrupt public morality and violate religious values.”

The books by French novelists that Khamenei listed are also banned, according to Ashraq Al-Awsat.

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