From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
He was born to an aristocratic family and was educated at Dar ol-Fonoon (1914-1916) and the Lycée Français (French high school) in Tehran. 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. 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.
In his later 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, especially by 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.
His work is coming under increasing attack in Europe from political Islamists, and many of his novels (Haji Aqa in particular) are no longer stocked in some French bookshops and libraries. The novels The Blind Owl and Haji Aqa were banned from the 18th Tehran International Book Fair in 2005. The Blind Owl contains a great deal of Buddhist and Hindu imagery. In Haji Aqa his characters explore the lack of meritocracy in Iran:
In order for the people to be kept in line, they must be kept hungry, needy, illiterate, and superstitious. If the grocer's child becomes literate, he not only will criticise my speech, but he will also utter words that neither you nor I will understand.... What would happen if the forage-seller's child turns out intelligent and capable—and mine, the son of a Haji, turns out lazy and foolish?
In November 2006, republication of Hedayat's work in uncensored form was banned in Iran, as part of a sweeping purge. However, surveillance of book-stalls is limited and it is apparently still possible to purchase the originals second-hand.
- 1930 Zendé be Gūr (Buried Alive). A collection of 8 short stories.
- 1931 Sāye-ye Moghol (Mongol Shadow)
- 1932 Sé qatré khūn (Three Drops of Blood)
- 1933 Sāyé Roshan (Chiaroscuro)
Alaviyeh Khanum (Madame `Alaviyeh)
Vagh Vagh Sahab (Mister Bow Wow)
- 1937 Būf-e Kūr (The Blind Owl)
- 1942 Sag-e Velgard (The Stray Dog)
- 1944 Velengārī (Tittle-tattle)
Ab-e Zendegi (The Elixir of Life)
- 1945 Hājī Āqā (Mr. Haji)
- 1946 Fardā (Tomorrow)
- 1947 Tupp-e Morvari (The Pearl Cannon)
- Drama (1930-1946)
- Parvin dokhtar-e Sāsān (Parvin, Sassan's Daughter)
- Afsāne-ye Āfarīnesh (The Fable of Creation)
- Esfahān Nesfe Jahān (Isfahan: Half the World)
- Rū-ye Jādeh-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 Fārs-e Asadi (About Asadi's Persian Dictionary) 1940
- Shiveh-ye Novin dar Tahqiq-e Adabi (A New Method of Literary Research) 1940
- Dāstan-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.
- Hassan Kamshad, Modern Persian Prose Literature ISBN 0-936347-72-4