Kader Abdolah, whose real name is Hossein Sadjadi Ghaemmaghami Farahani, was born in Arak, Iran, in 1954. Still a child he dreamed of being a famous writer, like his great-great-grandfather. Secretly he read the books from Western countries. He studied physics in Teheran und joined the left-wing students’ underground movement, which first fought against the authoritarian rule of the Shah, and later against Ayatollah Khomeini’s fundamentalist regime. Abdolah published two clandestine novels, before he fled from Iran in 1985. His pen name is the name of a friend, who was murdered. After some time in Turkey he was granted political asylum in the Netherlands in 1988, where he started a new life. Five years later his first book written in Dutch appeared, a collection of short stories with the title »De adelaars« (tr. The Eagles). The Het Gouden Ezelsoor award for the best-sold debut of the year was bestowed on him for this anthology.
Abdolah’s work is closely linked to his experiences in Dutch exile. His first novel »De reis van de lege flessen« (1997; tr. The Journey of the Empty Bottles) is a description of the contradictions in the life of Bolfazl, an Iranian in exile, who lives the life of a political fugitive in the Netherlands between two worlds. The autobiographical novel »Spijkerschrift« (2000; En »My Father’s Notebook«, 2006) connects two very different contexts. In his exile in Amsterdam, Esmail finds the hardly legible manuscript of his deaf-mute father about life in a small Persian village in the mountains. He translates it, learning more and more about his roots in the process. Autobiographical traits are also to be found in the bestseller »Het huis van de moskee« (2005; En. »The House of the Mosque«, 2010). Against the backdrop of the political disruptions of the 20th century, it tells the story of the pious carpet dealer Agha Djan and his extended family that disintegrates under the Ayatollah’s rule. »I want to write down the stories of the people with whom I spent the first 34 years of my life. I want to tell the truth«, says Abdolah. In masterly fashion the author dips into different narrative traditions: Persian motifs, the poetical sense of the indirect and the idiom of the Koran, which is full of metaphors, blend with the Dutch context of his writings and become sophisticated compositions.
Abdolah’s recent novel bears the title »De koning« (2011; tr. The King) and deals with Naser al-Din Shah, the King of Persia in the 19th century. In addition to numerous awards, the author was granted an honorary doctorate by the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in 2009. He lives near Amsterdam.
© internationales literaturfestival berlin