Sadeq Hedayat [1903-1951]

BIO BRIEF 

Sadeq Hedayat was born in February 17, 1903 and was educated at Dar-ol-Fonoon (1914-1916) and the Lycée Français (French high school) in Tehran. In 1925, he travelled to Europe to continue his studies. There he initially pursued dentistry before giving it up for engineering. After four years in France and Belgium, Hedayat returned to Iran where he held various jobs for short periods.

Hedayat subsequently devoted his whole life to studying Western Literature and to learning and investigating Iranian history and folklore. The works of Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhov, Rainer Maria Rilke, Edgar Allan Poe and Franz Kafka intrigued him the most.

Hedayat is one of the most prestigious and most controversial writers of Iran’s past 100 years. Tens of books and hundreds of articles have been written about him in the world’s most spoken languages.

During his short literary lifespan, Hedayat published a substantial number of short stories and novelettes, two historical dramas, a play, a travelogue, and a collection of satirical parodies and sketches. His writings also include numerous literary criticisms, studies in Persian folklore, and many translations from Middle Persian and French.

He is credited with having brought Persian language and literature into the mainstream of international contemporary writing. There is no doubt that Hedayat was the most modern of all modern writers in Iran. Yet, for Hedayat, modernity was not just a question of scientific rationality or a pure imitation of European values.

Hedayat’s most enduring work is the novella The Blind Owl (1937). It has been called one of the most important literary works in the Persian language.

He ended his life by gassing himself in 1951 and is buried in the Père Lachaise. Hedayat’s last day and night was adapted into a short film, The Sacred and The Absurd, which was featured in the Tribeca Film Festival in 2004.

Late writer and playwright Gholamhossein Saaedi said of Hedayat:

“If they have labelled this poor alienated critic as a lover of death or anti-social, they have erred. He valued life in its splendor. He sought, and suffered. He was an intellectual in the full meaning of the word as he never bowed down to any sort of might. He had discovered, and become intensely aware of the corrupt odor of the clerics. At a time when even talk of clerical rule had yet to emerge, he painted us a picture of it. He correctly predicted the catastrophes that were to come. Hedayat is but a star in the gloomy era of tyrannical rule. He taught everyone how to dissent, and how to resist.”

Hedayat often wrote on the moods and methods of Iranian society of his time. Rarely had the depths of Iranian society been so exposed and the tongue and spirit of the poor in Iran so vividly represented. So many of Hedayat’s works tell of the tortured soul of a deprived people, their lamentations, and their rebellions.

He was one of the first Iranian writers that wrote stories in the common tongue (colloquial language). He sets aside the painstaking, dust-ridden writings of the scholars, and tells his stories through the tongue of everyday life, the tongue of his society’s populace. The idioms and speech of the common folk are gathered through stories for the first time by Hedayat.

Hedayat inspects the highs and lows of his people’s history to better understand their yearnings through history as well as their successes and their failures. He simultaneously translated and popularized the works of other writers including Jean Paul Sartre, Franz Kafka, and Anton Chekhov.

His most celebrated novel, The Blind Owl, has made an impact far beyond Iranian literary circles and has drawn the attention of Western critics. But Hedayat’s impact on the development of modern fiction and on the lives of generations of Iranian intellectuals derives also from his other works and from his unique approach to life and art in a rapidly changing society. This book is the first comprehensive study of Hedayat’s life and works set against the background of literary and political developments in Iran over the first half of the 20th century.

|   BIBLIO BRIEF   |

Fiction

  •   Buried Alive (زنده به گور). A collection of 9 short stories.
  • Mongol Shadow (سایه ی مغول)
  • Three Drops of Blood (سه قطره خون)
  • Chiaroscuro (سایه روشن)
  • Madame `Alaviyeh (علویه خانم)
  • Mister Bow Wow (وغ وغ ساهاب)
  • The Blind Owl (بوف کور)
  • The Stray Dog (سگ ولگرد)
  • Tittle-tattle (ولنگاری)
  • The Elixir of Life (آب زندگی)
  • Mr. Haji (حاجی آقا)
  • Tomorrow (فردا)
  • The Pearl Cannon (توپ مرواری)

 Drama (1930-1946)

  • Parvin, Sassan’s Daughter (پروین دختر ساسان)
  • Māzīyār (مازیار)
  • The Fable of Creation (افسانه آفرینش)

Travelogues

  • Isfahan: Half the World (اصفهان نصف جهان)
  • On the Wet Road (روی جاده ی نمناک), unpublished, written in 1935.

Studies, Criticism and Miscellanea

  • Hakim Umar Khayyam’s Quatrains,رباعیات حکیم عمر خیام 1923
  • Man and Animal 1924 (انسان و حیوان)
  • Death 1927 (مرگ)
  • The Advantages of Vegetarianism 1927 (فواید گیاهخواری)
  • The Story with a Moral, 1932 (حکایت با نتیجه)
  • The Melodies of Khayyam, 1934 (ترانه های خیام)
  • Tchaikovsky, 1940 (چایکوفسکی)
  • About Asadi’s Persian Dictionary 1940 (در پیرامون لغت فارسی اسدی)
  • A New Method of Literary Research- 1940 (شیوه ی نوین در تحقیق ادبی)
  • The Story of Naz- 1941 (داستان ناز)
  • New Trends in Persian Poetry- 1941 (شیوه های نوین در شعر پارسی)
  • A review of the film “Mulla Nasru’d Din” 1944
  • A literary criticism on the Persian translation of Gogol’s The Government Inspector 1944
  • Some Notes on Vis and Ramin 1945
  • The Message of Kafka 1948
  • al-Be`thatu-Islamiya Ellal-Belad’l Afranjiya (An Islamic Mission in the European Lands), undated.

Translations to Farsi

  •  The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (along with Hasan Ghaemian)
  •  Gooseberries by Anton Tchekhov
  • Pahlavi language translations:
  •  Karname Ardashir-e-Papakan
  • Gojaste Abalish
  • Amadan-e Shah Bahram-e Varjavand (Return of King Bahram Varjavand)
  • Zand va Homan Yasn

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Sadeq Hedayat Official Website
Sadeq Hedayat at Encyclopedia Iranica

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