Abbas Kiarostami, Iran’s best-known and most acclaimed film director, regained consciousness on April 5 following a series of surgeries in March, some of which appear to have gone badly wrong. Below, his son Bahman Kiarostami highlights the hazards of going into surgery ahead of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, when many well-off Iranians are holidaying in the country’s north or travelling abroad.
Kiarostami’s medical team reports that he was in an induced coma following surgery. Some sources have claimed Kiarostami was suffering from cancer, but members of his medical team denied this.
Kiarostami, who is 75, is famous for innovative art-house films including Close Up (1990) and A Taste of Cherry (1997). He has received numerous awards, including the Palme d’Or. He has won praise from cinematic giants including Martin Scorsese, Jean-Luc Godard and the late Akira Kurosawa. His admirers — especially those in Iran — also know him as a painter, a photographer, and a poet.
Below, IranWire presents the English translation of Bahman Kiarostami's article for Shargh newspaper.
On the morning of one of the busy days before Nowruz, I was driving to the hospital with the car radio on. Mr. Sadegh Larijani, the Judiciary Chief, was telling law enforcement to be especially vigilant during new year’s holidays, and to fight illegal construction and land grabs because land grabbers do not take vacations to northern Iran during the holidays. Nowruz holidays are so long that land-grabbers can wall off hectares of land, or start constructing a house and finish the ceiling by the time the holidays are over. If the house has a ceiling, it becomes harder for the judiciary to tear it down. So this year, agents working for the municipality, or those responsible for protecting natural resources did not take new year’s vacations. They stayed on to prevent land grabs. We owe them a debt of gratitude.
Now that the holidays are over, and our father has opened his eyes in hospital, the trembling in my heart and in my hands has subsided enough for me to write a few lines -- not about my father who, thank God, is feeling good today -- but to explain why I hate the long holidays of Nowruz. Of course, nobody can hate spring weather or Nowruz melodies, but these forced holidays have never been an occasion to lift my spirits. Even thinking about the holidays for longer than 48 hours gives me an anxiety attack. This year I found out that I was right and all along since I had had a premonition about the Nowruz of 1395 .
Everybody keeps saying that we should not have gone to the hospital so near Nowruz “because it is not the time to have surgery.” As though there was a season for surgery like there is a season for flowers and blossoms, and that we should have waited for a couple of months for the anesthetics to mature and for the surgeons to become spirited. Yes, our surgeons are responsible and expert and skillful, but infection after surgery is not their expertise. Or is it? I don’t know. In these few weeks, I have heard so many contradictory things that I could not make sense of anything, even if I was a doctor. I have only learned that a doctor specializing in infection must deal with an infection. A patient who, for whatever reason, has gone through surgery (before the holidays), and has been kept in an intensive care unit for more than a week, is very vulnerable to infection. If we are still nervous, it is because we know that we have a long way ahead of us for my father to arrive at a complete recovery, and the reason is not cancer, but the effects of the infection.
There was a doctor at our patient’s bedside who was an infection specialist, or so I thought. He has now returned from a two-week vacation and said in an interview that he had not been the doctor in charge, but had acted only as an advisor. “Since Mr. Kiarostami was not hospitalized as an infected patient, there was no prognosis suggesting he would get infected after the surgery,” he said. “Otherwise, he would never have been let out of the hospital.”
We are not blaming anybody. Everybody needs vacations, especially doctors, who do not work in a pleasant environment and who could use a change in their surroundings. The same is true of anybody who has a job, from teachers, journalists, judges and engineers to those who work for the city government or protect natural resources.
But I am ready to sign and certify a statement that this country has plenty of attractive places with good weather that you can visit all year round. They say that doctors usually travel abroad for the new year’s holidays. I say that I have not travelled abroad that much, but common sense says that if one country has enough places to visit all year round then this planet Earth has them as well. You can shutter the store for two weeks at any time of the year and go for an excursion. In most places in the world, if most people responsible for something leave their jobs at the same time and go away, it is called a strike. We have all heard about the consequences of strikes, but for us who, according to the philosopher Dariush Shayegan, are living in a “historical vacation,” a few weeks should not be that important.
Today is April 5. In the morning, while I was driving to the hospital, the city was not crowded, and I was able to find a parking space on Shahid Beheshti Avenue. Today our father opened his eyes and my dear uncle and I were standing in the hospital’s small courtyard. We had a sigh of relief and we are thinking about this year’s Nowruz holidays. Like municipal and environmental agents, some of the doctors and staff of the hospital did not take a vacation this year. We owe them a debt of gratitude.