Sadegh (or Sadeq) Hedayat (in Persian: صادق هدایت; February 17 1903, Tehran—9 April 1951, Paris) is Iran's foremost modern writer of prose fiction and short stories. He was born to an aristocratic family and was educated at the Lycée Français (French high school) in that city. In 1925 he
was among a select few students who travelled to Europe to continue their studies. There he initially pursued dentistry before giving this 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. During his short literary life span, 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.
In his latter years, feeling the socio-political problems of the time, Hedayat started attacking the two major causes of Iran’s decimation, the monarchy and the clergy, and through his stories he tried to impute the deafness and blindness of the nation to the abuses of these two major powers. Feeling alienated by everyone around him, specially his peers, Hedayat’s last published work, The Message of Kafka, bespeaks melancholy, desperation and a sense of doom experienced only by those subjected to discrimination and repression.
Hedayat's most enduring work is the short novel The Blind Owl (1937).
He ended his life by gassing himself, and is buried in the Père Lachaise.
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.
An outstanding feature of Hedayat’s modernism is his secular criticism in regard to the Iranian society. Hedayat thus established a critical approach that was almost unique in the period between the two World Wars in Iran. His modern search for truth avoided any romantic glorification of ideology and a more realistic view of the underdeveloped and underprivileged members of the Iranian society. Much of this was carried out by Hedayat in a universal style and tone. This perhaps is the main reason why Hedayat can be considered as a universal writer and not simply as an Iranian writer. His work belongs to what Goethe described as Weltliteratur in the last decade of his life as a reaction to Romantic literary criticism’s breaking through the traditional limits of European literature by re-evaluating the literatures of the Middle Ages and of the Orient. For Goethe world literature was not a hierarchically structured thesaurus, but as an element contemporaneous to him. In a letter to Adolph Friedrich Carl Streckfuss on January 27 1827 he compares his situation to that of a sorcerer’s apprentice with the world literature streaming towards him as if to engulf him. Goethe echoes Herder in stressing that literature is the common property of mankind, and that it emerges in all places and at all times. “National literature does not mean much at present, affirms Goethe in his conversation with Eckermann on 31January 1827, it is time for an era of world literature, and everybody must endeavour to accelerate this epoch”. Erich Auerbach has the same idea in mind when he writes: World literature refers not simply to what is common and human as such, but rather to this as the mutual fertilisation of the manifold. It presupposes the felix culpa of mankind’s division into host of cultures. Edward Said also reminds us of the relevance of views put forward by Goethe and Auerbach: “The main requirement for the kind of philological understanding Auerbach and his predecessors were talking about and tried to practise, notes Said, was one that sympathetically and subjectively entered into the life of a written text as seen from the perspective of its time and its author. Rather than alienation and hostility to another time and a different culture, philology as applied to Weltliteratur involved a profound humanistic spirit deployed with generosity and, if I may use the word, hospitality. Thus the interpreter's mind actively makes a place in it for a foreign "other". And this creative making of a place for works that are otherwise alien and distant is the most important facet of the interpreter's mission.”
1930 Zindeh be-gur (Buried Alive). A collection of 8 short stories.
1931 Sayeh-ye Mughul (Mongol Shadow)
1932 Seh qatreh khun (Three Drops of Blood)
1933 Sayeh Rushan (Chiaroscuro)
Alaviyeh Khanum (Madame `Alaviyeh)
Vagh Vagh Sahab (Mister Bow Wow)
1937 Buf-e Kur (The Blind Owl)
1942 Sag-e Velgard (The Stray Dog)
1944 Velengari (Tittle-tattle)
Ab-e Zendegi (The Elixir of Life)
1945 Haji Aqa (Mr. Haji)
1946 Farda (Tomorrow)
1947 Tup-e Murvari (The Pearl Cannon)
Parvin dokhtar-e Sasan (Parvin, Sassan's Daughter)
Afsaneh-ye Afarinesh (The Fable of Creation)
Esfahan nesf-e Jahan (Isfahan: Half the World)
Ru-ye Jadeh-ye Namnak (On the Wet Road), unpublished, written in 1935.
Studies, Criticism and Miscellanea
Rubaiyat-e Hakim Umar-e Khayyam (Khayyam's Quatrains) 1923
Ensan va Hayvan (Man and Animal) 1924
Marg (Death) 1927
Favayed-e Giyahkhari (The Advantages of Vegetarianism) 1957
Hekayat-e Ba Natijeh (The Story with a Moral) 1932
Taranehha-ye Khayyam (The Melodies of Khayyam) 1934
Chaykuvski (Tchaikovsky) 1940
Dar Piramun-e Lughat-e Furs-e Asadi (About Asadi's Persian Dictionary) 1940
Shiveh-ye Novin dar Tahqiq-e Adabi (A New Method of Literary Research) 1940
Dastan-e Naz (The Story of Naz) 1941
Shivehha-ye Novin Dar She'r-e Parsi (New Trends in Persian Poetry) 1941
A Review of the Film "Mulla Nasru'd Din" 1944
A Literary Criticism on the Persian Translation of Gogol's The Government Inspector 1944
Chand Nukteh Dar Bar-ye Vis va Ramin (Some Notes on Vis and Ramin) 1945
Payam-e Kafka (The Message of Kafka) 1948
al-Be`thatu-Islamiya Ellal-Belad'l Afranjiya (An Islamic Mission in the European Lands), undated.
List of Sadeq Hedayat's Works
Modern Persian Prose Literature by Hassan Kamshad, ISBN 0936347724
Intellectual Movements in Iran
Sadeq Hedayat's Life by Iraj Bashiri
Sadeq Hedayat's Corner, further articles and English translations by Iraj Bashiri
Persian Language & Literature — Sadeq Hedayat
Hedayat Page (in French)
Sadegh Hedayat Site (in Persian)
Sokhan — online literary magazine (in Persian)
Adabkade (in Persian)
Hedayat's art work
Homa Katouzian, Sadeq Hedayat: Life and legend of an Iranian writer, I.B. Tauris, 2000. ISBN 1860644139
Hassan Kamshad, Modern Persian Prose Literature, Ibex Publishers, 1996. ISBN 0936347724
Michael C. Hillmann, Hedayat's "the Blind Owl" Forty Years After,Middle East Monograph No. 4, Univ of Texas Press, 1978.
Iraj Bashiri, Hedayat's Ivory Tower: Structural Analysis of The Blind Owl, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1975.
Iraj Bashiri, The Fiction of Sadeq Hedayat, Mazda Publishers, 1984.
Sayers, Carol, The Blind Owl and Other Hedayat Stories, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1984.
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