The Blind Owl

  • Author: Sadeq Hedayat
  • Translator: D. B. Costello
  • Publication Date: 1937 (Persian); 1958 (English)
  • ISBN: 9780802144287

The night was departing on tip-toe. One felt that it had shed sufficient of its weariness to enable it to go its way. The ear detected faint, far-off sounds such as the sprouting grass might have made, or some migratory bird as it dreamed upon the wing. The pale stars were disappearing behind banks of cloud. I felt the gentle breath of the morning on my face and at the same moment a cock crowed somewhere in the distance.


D.B. Castello’s translation of Sadeq Hedayat’ The Blind Owl, was first released in 1957, has so far proved to be the most eloquent rendition of this symbolic text, although in many cases it shows divergences from the original sense and should not be regarded as a loyal translation.

Often compared with Poe’s frenzied fiction, The Blind Owl is narrated by an insane man whose experiences sound surrealistic and unbelievable to the reader. And that is perhaps why a tangible storyline or linear progression is hardest to find in this novel.

The story is divided into two parts:

Part (1) The anonymous narrator who is a miniature painter always paints the same scene on pen cases: a woman in black standing beside an old Indian man with a narrow river in between. One day, he sees the same girl through a hole on the wall and falls in love with her. The girls ends up dying in his bed and, in order to make her beauty everlasting, he draws her eyes on paper. Quite surprisingly a vase is found in the girl’s grave that bears the painting of the same eyes. Baffled and desperate, the narrator turns to opium – in a Coleridgeian manner – and through hallucination he finds himself few centuries ago in a totally different yet familiar life.

In Part (2) we find the narrator as a sick and suffering young man whose shrewish wife flirts with every rascal – including an old man sitting before his house – but her husband. Gradually the man diminishes into seclusion and accustoms himself with talking to his shadow that resembles an owl. Finally he decides to kill his wife only to find out that his visage in the mirror is akin with the peddler old man.

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