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This book introduces the canonical figure Sadegh Hedayat (1903–1951) and draws a comprehensive image of a major intellectual force in the context of both modern Persian Literature and World Literature. A prolific writer known for his magnum opus, The Blind Owl (1936), Hedayat established the use of common language for literary purposes, opened new horizons on imaginative literature and explored a variety of genres in his creative career. This book looks beyond the reductive critical tendencies that read a rich and diverse literary profile in light of Hedayat’s suicide, arguing instead that his literary imagination was not solely the result of genius but rather enriched by a vast network of the world’s literary traditions. This study reflects on Hedayat’s attempts at various genres of artistic creation, including painting, fiction writing, satire and scholarly research, as well as his persistent struggles for artistic authenticity, which transcended solidly established literary and artistic norms. Providing a critical reading of Hedayat’s work to untangle aspects of his writing – including reflections on science, religion, nationalism and coloniality – alongside his pioneering work on folk culture, and how humor informs his writings, this text offers a critical review of the status of Persian literature in the contemporary landscape of the world’s literary studies.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Persian Literature, World Literature

Abstract
This chapter first discusses the reasons why the study of world literature in an academic system that lacks a department of Comparative Literature proper and is dominated by a narrow idea of Persian literary history could be problematic. Then, arguing that contemporary cultural/political issues and the rise of exclusionary nationalism are the legacies of Iranian Eurocentric modernization, the significance of world literature as a corrective discourse in the study of literature and culture is emphasized. The chapter also discusses the status of Sadegh Hedayat in modern Persian literature, the reductive simplification of his works in both national and international reception, and the reasons why it is important to revisit his texts to appreciate his sophisticated formal innovations that respond to his peripheral position in world literature.
Omid Azadibougar

Chapter 2. Writing for His Shadow

Abstract
This chapter presents a career-oriented and chronological biography of Sadegh Hedayat to historically locate his work and list his literary creations. Since this study makes the case for the necessity of broadening the critical horizon to study the diversity of Hedayat’s creations as a historical development of ideas and genres, this chapter uses the chronological narrative to display how reading his work in light of a few clichéd biographical ideas is insufficient for appreciating an intellectual development that is a major clue to understanding Iranian literary modernity. Hedayat did not theorize his ideas and only occasionally reflected on aspects of his work (e.g., on translations or folklore); so, this approach is a step toward a new and theoretical look at his literary career.
Omid Azadibougar

Chapter 3. Contested Canonization

Abstract
This chapter discusses the contested canonization of Sadegh Hedayat in Persian literary history and his status in world literature. Early in the twentieth century, there was competition between modern writers, i.e., Hedayat and his peers, and classical poetics which was embodied in the rivalry between emerging writers and mainstream critics. The neglect of the former group led to the delayed national recognition of Hedayat’s work. Ironically, even this happened in the frame of classical poetics and led to the image of a tragi-romantic writer. This chapter argues why Hedayat’s work has been canonized for the wrong reasons, with reference to assumptions about the life of the person, instead of the qualities of the author’s texts. The impact of the reception of Hedayat by French surrealists on his national status and position in world literature has also been problematized.
Omid Azadibougar

Chapter 4. Dreaming from the Margins

Abstract
This chapter discusses Hedayat’s short fiction. First, his “nationalist trio” has been reviewed, arguing how Hedayat’s nationalism and relationship with the nation changes even at an early stage of his career. Then, his short story collections are examined. His short stories are groundbreaking in that they legitimize the use of common language for literary communication and develop the short story as a genre in modern Persian. The stories focus on sociocultural issues and as such depart from classical poetics and idealistic or moral narratives. They are shaped by ideas of marginality and some are quite radical in engaging progressive subjects: The tribulations of a closeted gay man, the miniature depiction of the contradictory impact of modernity on Iranian intellectuals, the presentation mad characters, the clashes between scientific rationality and religious spirituality, among others. These themes are delivered through subtle formal innovations which are explained in relation to the poetics of peripheral modernity.
Omid Azadibougar

Chapter 5. Intellectual Journeys

Abstract
This chapter addresses Hedayat’s four long narratives. One could label them “novel” or “novella” only with reference to the length of the narrative, because their formal features are specific and do not abide by the rules of narrativity established by European traditions. In this category, The Blind Owl has been the most famous and controversial, but other long narratives, Ms. ’Alaviyeh, Mr. Haji, and The Pearl Cannon, and their significance to his poetics have not been sufficiently studied. The last text, Hedayat’s final, is a key work whose humorous features have hidden a radical critique of colonial history through which a transnational history of modern Iran is delivered. This chapter ends with an extended discussion of Hedayat’s poetics of modernity and how his consciousness of the peripheral status of his national culture in modern history emerged in his fictional creations as formal elements.
Omid Azadibougar

Chapter 6. Textual Strategies

Abstract
This chapter engages textual strategies in Hedayat’s writing: humorous works, translations, and adaptations. His humorous works falsify the predominant idea of him as a dark and depressed writer, and deliver social, cultural, and political critique in a very secular spirit because they are merciless in targeting dominant ideologies of the time—both religious and secular. Since most of this kind of writing is parodic and adapts previous narratives for its own purposes, adaptations and translations are also discussed in the present chapter. His views on adaptation are significant to understanding the way his creativity was nurtured and informed by diverse literary traditions. Similarly, even though in most studies only his translations from European literatures are mentioned, it is important to know that he also translated texts from Pahlavi literature into Persian, and the introductions he added to these texts explain his motivations for selecting them, and the role he conceived for the act of translation in a literary tradition.
Omid Azadibougar

Chapter 7. Scholarly Ventures

Abstract
This chapter addresses Hedayat’s scholarly writing and his pioneering research on folklore and oral culture, as well as their implications for his reception. This is a fascinating part of Hedayat’s literary career because understanding the logic of his lifelong interest in folklore in particular, elaborated on in introductory notes, is essential for forming a more comprehensive image of him as a modern author and further clarifies his relationship with (European) modernity. In fact, there is a clear link between his research on folklore, his translation interests, and his fictional writing, which cannot be, as it is often thought, solely explained through nationalist interests. In folklore, he found the echoes of an ancient pre-national humanity, as opposed to the modernity he critiqued, and the possibility of expanding one’s imagination. Neglected until then in scholarship, folklore’s universality created continuity in human history and brought it close to an idea of world literature—what he found inspiring for contemporary society.
Omid Azadibougar

Backmatter

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