Perito Prize 2021 – Transcript of Our Podcast Interview With Perito Prize 2021 Third Place – Ali Azar
You can find the audio version of this excellent interview with CHIARA on our podcast host here https://www.buzzsprout.com/507109/9726008 available on all podcast sites like Apple and Spotify.
Perito: Welcome to Episode 3 of the Perito Podcast 2021, a special Podcast series all about celebrating the writing and creativity for this year’s Perito Prize and Anthology, now in this episode we are pleased to be joined by Ali Azar, writer of the third place story for the Perito Prize 2021. Ali wrote the short story Exit The Shaitan which can be found in the Journal section of the Perito website and was selected by judges as the third place story for this year. (0m.24s) Hi Ali and welcome to the Podcast.
Ali: Hello there and thanks for having me.
Perito: It’s a pleasure, so before we kick off let’s get a warm up since it’s so cold outside at the moment. (0m.34s) What is the most important thing in your opinion Ali so is it ambition, talent or opportunity which I guess you could classify as luck as well?
Ali: Sure, well the boring answer would be a combination of all but I think I will, I’m gonna focus on the third one which is opportunity or I’m gonna rephrase it into a circumstances I think it’s really important that where we were when you’re writing about the things, that you were there or not because it can be very inspiring, it can stir you up, can be very inspiring for your soul, I would say the opportunity, the luck of being in a particular place which will help you to write a particular point of view about the things, I think that’s the, for me that’s the more important part.
Perito: I think I agree with you as well I was reading something, there’s a fantasy author called Brandon Sanderson on his Wiki page he’s, it took until his 6th novel Elantris to get picked up by a publisher and I was thinking 6! and this guy’s obviously globally famous and does huge books so definitely seems to be that kind of like opportunity, he had the ambition to write, had the talent clearly.
Perito: And then he just needed that one moment, so yep good answer.
Perito: Thank you very much for entering the Perito Prize I think the judges especially really enjoyed your story.
Ali: Oh thank you.
Perito: (1m.51s) What you made you enter the prize and how did you find out about it in the first place?
Ali: Right I had never heard about this and then, I was as a part of my, I had written a few short story with particular themes and I wanted to enter competition and I come across with that and obviously I just wanted to send some random stuff, so when I went to your website the things about your messaging, your website about being inclusive and the jobs you’re doing as a consulting and making the environment of the work more inclusive, so it draw my attention and then I had a chance to read the previous winners’ stories which I really enjoyed that. One of the recurrent theme of my work is always about talking about the people they’ve been excluded, I just didn’t have a second thought and I went for it because I thought it’s very relevant, so yeah I submit for that and where did I hear about it, I don’t remember it but I think that this prize come up in a few, in several other websites as a recommendation that you can enter the competition so yeah.
Perito: Perfect thank you very much. (3m.00s) So some people won’t have read Exit The Shaitan yet and I’m assuming I’ve got the pronunciation right there as well Ali so?
Ali: Perfect, perfect.
Perito: (3m.08s) Yeah, good, so can you tell us about what the story is all about?
Ali: Sure just by the way Shaitan it’s Satan so we say Shaitan for Satan so. Exit the Shaitan it’s about an exorcism. It’s a about a possessed girl that as his father just ran to an old ladies which is known in the area for helping people out when they’ve been possessed or etc. and in the one midnight and this is all about the journey of this old lady just she had to deal with this possessed girl, yeah if I have to summarise it that way.
Perito: (3m.45s) Ingi is the older lady whose, I kind of got the impression she was a bit, maybe a bit like a medicine woman perhaps?
Perito: Providing sort of alternative complimentary therapy to the community but she’s quite a long way away from this place where the family is. (4m.02s) You’re from Iran originally, is this kind of the area you’re from did you write about your home area?
Ali: Your surprised yes, so just to give you a bit of background I am coming from the North West of Iran called the State of Azerbaijan which are the second largest city in Iran, we speak language of Turkic, version of the Turkic which is called Azerbaijani, 30% Iranian are Turkic speaking as Azerbaijani’s so yes which is a very mountainous area and is very close to border with the Turkey and I am from there and this is the story I inspired it is the village that my great parents come from so it’s actually little town and I brought up in the big city called Tabriz which is the fifth biggest city in Iran but we always went for a holiday and all sort of things to this little town called Miskin, these character I inspire, these are the character whether they were a relative, far distant relative of mine or Ingi I inspired by my great grandmother which I was lucky to see her before she died several years, many years ago at the time I was 6 or 7, her character was so strong that has always remain in me and felt is this as the medicine woman it’s a good way to get a better understanding of it but these woman was a Sayyid and Sayyid it means a person who is a descendent of Prophet Muhammad so these people they were kind of a mediator meaning that their prayer heard by the God or Allah so what they did in the Society they kind of, the people come to them and they would kind of channel them through, channel their prayer to the God so God can hear them. So my great grandmother she was like that and yeah and I found it very inspiring, very interesting.
Perito: (6m.00s) Excellent and did she have sore knees and I kind of got the impression with the way the characters have to help her in and out of the Land Rover?
Perito: (6m.07) That perhaps you’d had a lot of experience doing that over the years or someone had?
Ali: I’m glad you raised it up because it may sound trivial but for me it was a part of his character, she was quite, she was older lady, quite at advanced age but yeah she had suffered from the knees and I think it’s remind me of many of other ladies, woman in Iran particularly very older generation, they work very hard, they wash many things, they always do the things that they eventually had arthritis either because of the knee problem, either because they were doing a lot of household work or it’s because they get, yeah these sort of things and for me it’s always I remember her that because she always couldn’t walk and yeah for me that was the part of that health issue of hers so always a part of her character.
Perito: Initially Layla struck me as the protagonist of the story but on second and third readings I started to think maybe it’s actually Ingi who’s the character and exclusion comes down to there’s a part where she couldn’t remember the last time that she got out of the house.
Perito: And then I start to think well from an accessibility point of view that’s exactly it she’d become a prisoner in her own house as you write and then this is almost like a journey for her to go out there and to kind of experience life again. So that was interesting from the exclusion perspective it wasn’t just, it was how her body had essentially started to entrap her.
Ali: For me it’s an important point because a, okay many people come, the people like me which coming from, I don’t like this word developing but I have to go for it. It’s coming from developing country many people say, “oh they come like country, developed country like Britain” they always say, “oh it’s a very nice the rules are, people obey the rules or you’ve got in it’s just etc. etc.” but for me one of the things really struck me is about how many disabled people I can see in the street, it doesn’t, it isn’t because the Britain has a more people that they have accessibility issues compared to Iran, you haven’t many disabled people we had 8 years’ war with Iran they are many people, they lost their limbs and etc. but you don’t see them in Iran on the street because they are not suitable for them, for that reason they can’t find a work, they can’t, they are less preferred finding a job and I suppose it’s not just for Iran for many countries are like that and yeah with the Ingi things she can’t because she can’t walk properly and the house, the way her house is lay out there are many stairs so yeah she become the prisoner of her own house.
Perito: That’s really useful I think it gives us the sketch over, we won’t spoil like the principle of people who have to read this story to get the idea but essentially it’s about a small journey to the village which is far away, I kind of get the impression it’s very highland, very bumpy.
Ali: That’s right.
Perito: And the Land Rovers kind of Layla’s father is driving too fast and then you kind of so the build-up and then kind of reach the crescendo and then at the end of it it’s very nice and calmly done and your story has this gentle flow despite the urgency of the family situation. (9m.24s) We talked a little bit about why you were writing it in terms of the area but what made you use this particular situation of Layla’s to create a story around, what was the reason behind that?
Ali: The weirdest thing with the writing you remember some of the things you never thought about, I am a late starter when it comes to writing, I start when I was 30 and I’ve been writing nearly for 10 years, I heard this when I was a little boy and the guy who was telling this story was telling to show how can people can be deceived because they are possessed and it’s superstition etc. and etc. but that wasn’t my take on on it and I just found this story very fascinating and it always was in my mind and I didn’t, yeah in back of my mind and then I start writing about the things and after many things they came straight in was this but I didn’t want to focus on superstitious, another thing if I may add to this exclusivity things you can’t hear the woman voice a lot in the Iranian literature, we are quite advanced society we’ve got many ladies working different part of Iranian Society although it’s a very patriarchal society but the literature you don’t see many woman or woman point of view unfortunately, it’s not a surprise so somehow hearing this story I thought okay actually I’m just gonna, because when the guy was writing this story the guy who was going to deal with this possession is a man and I said let’s, I’m just gonna replace it with a woman and let’s see how it’s gonna happen because I didn’t know the end and I say I just like the setting that this old lady is gonna have, her house is gone a bit knacked in and knacked and then when he’s gonna open it and there’s a guard roaring father that her child has been possessed. So yeah and then I start writing it up and then I have to decide and what to write up, how to end it but the real driver of it, it was that story that I heard many years ago.
Perito: (11m.31s) Thank you Ali, your first language must be Farsi/Azerbaijani perhaps?
Perito: (11m.39s) Turkic yeah, so do you find when your writing that you write in your Turkic.
Perito: (11m.46s) Language first and then you have to translate it, how do you find that when you’re coming up with these stories and having to go through that computation in your mind cos they’ll be a lot of people who will want to embrace the Perito Prize because we get hundreds of entries from around the world and how did you feel about kind of that translation mission and what sort of techniques did you take on to accomplish it?
Ali: Sure, okay, well although my mother language is Turkish but I unfortunately because circumstances in Iran you can’t write and read in Turkish so if it comes to the writing yeah we’ve been taught to write in Farsi or Persian but it’s a good point because it is not easy, it’s my third language, I am writing in it, what I did initially I write it in Turkish or in Farsi and then translate it in the English but I found it not particularly useful, I mean if you wanna have a plan just to see what you’re writing it might be useful but when you really wanna compose your text I didn’t find it useful or put it this way, it is a bit of a, it’s not the best use of time what you could do instead you can just start with the crude language of English and then you can just filling in, it’s a very slow process. What I do sometimes, sometimes when it comes to very complex things or I have to really show some, when I wanna say something very subtle or something like that and I, nothing come up to my mind in English I write it in Turkish and then I translate it, let’s say within the paragraph I needed this last bit, last touch, I write it in whatever language is come to my mind because I’m comfortably can write in Persian as well and then I translate it in English and I think that’s useful but to write whole section in one language and translate it I didn’t find it very, what is the word, is a very effective approach.
Perito: (13m.55s) Okay that’s really useful thanks for covering that off. So as you know the Perito Prize is dedicated to inclusion, access and inclusive environments did you find that topic difficult to write about or come up with obviously ideas or do you write about that normally with the other stories you do?
Ali: It is a difficult topic and I didn’t, okay by itself I’m coming from the country you have to self-sensor yourself so but I didn’t find it particularly hard to write. I don’t want to give a spoiler but it’s one of the problems with Iran is the way the woman has been treated for example their virginities, so all the society has made the woman to behave as if their virginity is an asset and there are many things going around that, and also I’m fascinated by that the way the woman or men approach this sort of things. So you may say what to do with being inclusive or whatever I think it is important because it’s just made in this particular case a woman it is a bit, being considered as a kind of in the position of the men or do you see what I mean so?
Perito: I do yeah.
Ali: Particularly with Iran it can be hard issue because there are many layer of it.
Perito: (15m.27s) Excellent thank you very much. What do you think was the most valuable thing about going through this writing process for you?
Ali: You mean in this particular story or as a whole?
Perito: Either, whatever you fancy really just go for it.
Ali: Yeah the thing is I really don’t, when I talk with other people I don’t say I write it because they, then they say, “it’s a good hobby” and I don’t like it, I think if you want to write you have to take it seriously. When you write it can be difficult and can be very slow process but at the same time the aspect of the writing I love is, you come back, I’m quite a nostalgic guy so you come back to your past, your own past and you dig in and sometimes you got surprised with things you did as if someone is telling you, “do you remember that?” and I love that and you kept being surprised by yourself, this is self-indulgent I know.
Perito: To be honest writing is kind of like that isn’t it as you say it’s kind of like the sudden urge to go and do something cool.
Perito: And you’ve got it put it down.
Ali: Yeah exactly.
Perito: (16m.35s) Brilliant so has this prize made you think differently about how inclusive and accessible the world we live in actually is, you kind of hit on this at the beginning with the idea of the streets of Tabriz and Tehran maybe people are not likely to be seen because there’s not the infrastructure or the culture’s not there in the supportive way.
Ali: Exactly I mean I encourage in audience to read the previous winners or previous stories they have been published, just surprised about how people consider this topic, take it from the being bullied in school to the like sexuality issues or all sort of things and it doesn’t matter where you come from you will always find this margin part of the society those people they’ve been excluded, some of them they are not we always see them in the TV’s and radios and some of them just they are too subtle to see them so I think for me in every society you’ve got this kind of confliction, we feel those kind of, what’s the word, the majority and those people they are in the outside in the skirt of the centre so.
Perito: Well as Keshe wrote last year Every Other which probably.
Perito: Sums it up quite nicely isn’t it.
Ali: Wonderful story yeah.
Perito: Everyone else and the others but I guess the interesting thing about exclusion and inclusion is that we’ve all been included and excluded in different ways.
Perito: Across different stratas and thinking about Iranian Society you can’t just look at one person isn’t one thing they might have social connections, economic, different history, different religious beliefs and you might be and have maybe in Iran Society I think maybe five or six primary identities that you could be moving through on a daily basis.
Perito: (18m.20s) It’s just a lot of shades of grey isn’t there?
Ali: It is, the successful community it’s the one, I think it’s one of the goals to see whether society’s been successful, it’s how you’re gonna integrate all this shade of greys you see what I mean?
Perito: Indeed, brilliant. (18m.34s) So Ali finally any recommendations for people entering next year?
Ali: Yeah, sure I mean first thing is obviously they have to be interested in this kind of topic which is a very strong topic and people write about it and another thing is if they’re interested in it they don’t have to go and catch those things you always hear about, if you, I think if you have a good look around you will find something relevant, very relevant to your own life, your own little circle of people, your own little hub whether it’s at work or whether it’s a neighbourhood or whatever. I don’t, in my opinion you don’t really have to look hard it’s always it’s interest, you have to have obviously interest to develop this story and then you will see it’s there.
Perito: Perfect, thank you very much for that. I think that’s good advice.
Ali: Sure, thank you.
Perito: Now it’s been great to find out more about you and your story, Exit The Shaitan, but now it’s time to sign off and tell listeners about the upcoming Anthology which will be available from Amazon around the world and ideally will be on audio book potentially later on but for now you should be able to buy that in time for Christmas 2021, thanks again to our special guest, Ali Azar.
Ali: Thank you for having me.
Perito: Absolute pleasure, who was the author of the short story Exit The Shaitan and thank you very much for coming along today Ali. You’ve been tuning into the Perito Prize 2021 Podcast that’s a Special Edition thanks for listening everyone, everywhere.