“The Presence of the Past”: A Historical Reading of Bizhan Najdi’s “A Plant in Quarantine”

Ahad Mehrvand, Amin Pourhassan


Using flashbacks, Bizhan Najdi’s “A Plant in Quarantine” tells the story of the central character called Taher, an Iranian boy, who has been quarantined in a hospital due to abnormal spread of skin rashes after a military service physician took off a lock from the back of his right shoulder. Immediately, Taher came down with a contagious skin disease called hereditary fear by the rural doctor. This short story brings the past and present together in a peculiar manner, providing an overview of present condition actuated by past events revolving around the Tudeh Party, an Iranian Marxist political party, and the Iran-Iraq War. The analysis of this relationship and the possibility of Taher’s hereditary fear is the main focus of the paper, which can account for the role of history in this short story. For such an end, the analysis is carried out at the two levels of writer and story. The writer’s disturbed memories, which are related to fear and violence in Iran’s contemporary history, and the conditions of their emergence are explored so that the roots of the protagonist’s inherent fear might be discernible. The findings of the paper show that the unpleasant presence of the main character’s ancestral past is the cause of his predicament, introducing past as an active agent of the present.

Keywords: “A Plant in Quarantine”, hereditary fear, lock, olive, “presence of the past”, history

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