The early twentieth-century nationalist discourse in Iran reviled, on the one hand, a Qajar hegemony on account of an exhausted “manifest destiny,” and lauded, on the other, a discourse of masculinity that assumed moral responsibility to protect the imaginary “geobody” of Iran. In this paper I examine how this discourse of patriotism resonates through Mehdi Akhavan-Sales’s poem “This Autumn in Prison” (1966) and Esmail Fassih’s novel The Story of Javid (1981). With a comparative—and conducive—focus on Akhavan-Sales’s poetic figure Mazdusht at the outset of analysis, before turning primarily to Fassih’s protagonist Javid, I argue that the construction of an archetypal form of gender, or what I term an “original Iranian manhood,” is integral to both men of letters as they have channeled their nationalist concerns through literary expression. As I proceed with The Story of Javid, I propose that gender—nationally reimagined—shapes a quest narrative set, quite symbolically, during the historic decade of 1920s when the politically bankrupt Qajar rulers were giving way to the iron fists of a Pahlavi state apparatus, with fateful repercussions for Javid’s performance of masculinity—particularly with regard to the novel’s treatment of female characters.
Keywords: Esmail Fassih, Mehdi Akhavan-Sales, Iranian nationalist discourse, men and masculinities in Iran, gender archetype