Mohammad Reza Yousefi was born in Hamadan, Iran, in 1953. With over one hundred and fifty titles to his name, he is one of the most prolific authors of children’s and young adult books in Iran. His childhood in a large family of herdsmen and cattle breeders living on the fringes of the Zagros mountains led to a profound knowledge of the nomadic everyday life of a traditional tribal community, as well as of nature and its dangers, and the mythical traditions of the country. After studying History and Literature in Teheran, Yousefi worked as a teacher and appeared as an actor and director in street theatres around the entire country. This peripatetic lifestyle brought him closer to the realities of life in Iran’s diversely populated society: “I have lived with all the children of Iran: with the child of the desert, of the forests and mountains; the child that goes fishing at night in the turbulent waters of the Persian Gulf, the Turkmen Child who rides untamed horses; the Turkish child who cherishes grandfather’s musical instrument as a holy souvenir, and the Kurdish child with his love for horses and wrestling.” Yousefi has worked as a freelance author since 1978 and writes in Farsi.
For over twenty years a large spectrum of works has been published, among them adaptations of folkloric tales, interpretations of classical legends, modern fairytales and everyday stories from present-day Iran, whose focus is the fantasy and lives of children and adolescents. In his stories, distant times and cultures acquire a new timeliness for his readers. He skilfully describes human differences and reveals the apparent imperfections of his characters to be in fact strengths and human greatness. In his much noted keywork, the symbolic novella “Dokhtarane Khorshidi” (1999; t: The sunlike girls), the inhabitants of the drought stricken pottery city of Meybod search for the “sunlike girl”. Their master Mehraban informs them that her sacrifice, based on an old myth, will bring the hoped-for rain. When no girl from the village passes the master’s test, the desired girl appears to his student Merhad in a dream. As soon as he realises that each of the girls inherits a part of the divine quality, it starts to rain and Merhad becomes the new master.
Mohammad Reza Yousefi has received many prizes and a number of his texts have been adapted for children’s and young people’s theatre. His play “Khaleh tanha, Khaleh ba ma” premiered at the Hamadan Theatre Festival in 1998. He has twice received the IBBY Diploma, and in 2000 was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Yousefi lives with his family in Tehran.
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