Thursday, December 29, 2016

Iran: The Blind Owl, by Sadeq Hedayat

The Blind Owl was initially banned in the author's native Iran, and became a best seller after it first appeared in 1941. It reminded me, a little, of my choice for Afghanistan - Atiq Rahimi's "A Curse on Dostoevsky". It is hallucinatory, nightmarish, circular - one is never quite sure what is being presented as having actually occurred and what is being presented as occurring only in the opium fuelled visions of the narrator, a solitary man disillusioned with life.

His occupation is a maker of pen cases, on which he paints images of an old man beneath a cypress tree. A young girl in a long black dress offers him a blue flower of morning glory. These characters and images - the old man, the young girl, the blue morning glory - appear repetitively through the book, as living characters, as images on a pottery jar, as a corpse, as the narrator himself. Similarly, tastes and smells recur such as "bitter as the stub end of a cucumber".

To say I enjoyed the book would not do it justice (and would not be quite true) but it is certainly a powerful book which lingers in the mind.

Sadeq Hedayat lived from 1903-1951, when he committed suicide. He was the founder of modernism in Persian fiction and is considered the greatest modern Persian writer.

I read the edition translated by D P Costello and published by Alma Classics.

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