The Blind Owl
|Original title||بوف کور|
|Translator||D. P. Costello|
Published in English
The Blind Owl (1937) (Persian: بوف کور, Boof-e koor) is Sadegh Hedayat's most enduring work of prose and a major literary work of 20th century Iran. Written in Persian, it tells the story of an unnamed pen case painter, the narrator, who sees in his macabre, feverish nightmares that "the presence of death annihilates all that is imaginary. We are the offspring of death and death delivers us from the tantalizing, fraudulent attractions of life; it is death that beckons us from the depths of life. If at times we come to a halt, we do so to hear the call of death... Throughout our lives, the finger of death points at us." The narrator addresses his murderous confessions to the shadow on his wall resembling an owl. His confessions do not follow a linear progression of events and often repeat and layer themselves thematically, thus lending to the open-ended nature of interpretation of the story.
The Blind Owl was written during the oppressive latter years of Reza Shah's rule (1925—1941). It was originally published in a limited edition in Bombay, during Hedayat's year-long stay there in 1937, stamped with "Not for sale or publication in Iran." It first appeared in Tehran in 1941 (as a serial in the daily Iran), after Reza Shah's abdication, and had an immediate and forceful effect. It is believed that much of the novel had already been completed by 1930 while Hedayat was still a student in Paris.
The Blind Owl was translated into French by Roger Lescot during World War II, apparently with Hedayat's knowledge and approval, and published as La Chouette Aveugle (1953), and later by Pasteur Vallery Radot, a member of the French Academy. The book was well received in the French literary circles. It has been known to make its readers suicidal, hence the banning in Iran.
In Germany, two translations appeared in the early 1960s. The first, entitled Die Blinde Eule, was translated by Heshmat Moayyed, Otto H. Hegel and Ulrich Riemerschmidt directly from the Persian; the second, in East Germany, was translated by Gerd Henniger from the French version.
In Poland The Blind Owl was translated from the Persian original by late specialist in Iranian studies, Barbara Majewska, Ph.D. It appeared under the same-meaning title "Ślepa sowa" twice. First in the respectable literary quarterly „Literatura na Świecie” (No 10(90), Warszawa, October 1978, pp. 4–116); then as a separate book (Warszawa, 1979).
In Romania, The Blind Owl was translated from Persian into Romanian in 1996 by the orientalist philologist Gheorghe Iorga, under the title Bufniţa oarbă. A revised second edition came out in 2006.
In Mexico, The Blind Owl was translated from the Roger Lescot's French version into Spanish by Agustí Bartra, under the title La lechuza ciega. It was published by Joaquín Mortiz Books in 1966.
In Urdu the novel has been translated by Ajmal Kamal with the original name Boof-e-Kor. Many of Hedayat's short stories have also been translated into Urdu, mostly by Bazl-e-Haq Mahmood, who published one volume of his short stories as Sag-e-Awara (Sag-e Velgard).
In India, two translations appeared in the Malayalam language. The first, entitled Kurudan Moonga, was translated by the famous novelist late Vilasini. The second, entitled Kurudan Kooman was translated by S. A. [Qudsi] and published by Mathrubhumi Books in 2005; second edition has been published by DC Books in 2011.
In Finland, The Blind Owl was translated from Persian into Finnish in 1990 by Henri Broms, Petri Pohjanlehto and Leena Talvio, under the title Sokea pöllö.
In Armenian, translated by Eduard Hakhverdyan.
In Japan, The Blind Owl was translated by Kiminori Nakamura and published by Hakusuisha in 1983 under the title "盲目の梟 (Mōmoku no Fukurou)."
Iraj Bashiri's translation of The Blind Owl, 1984, 2013
Published in English
|1974, 1984, 2013|
(from the Iraj Bashiri translation )
- There are certain sores in life that, like a canker, gnaw at the soul in solitude and diminish it. (opening line)
- I passed through many streets without any predetermined destination and, distraughtly walked by the rabble who, with greedy faces, were in pursuit of money and lust. In fact, I did not need to see them to know them; one was enough to represent the rest. They were all like one big mouth leading to a wad of guts, terminating in a sexual organ.
- I write only for the benefit of my shadow on the wall. I need to introduce myself to it.
- I thought in this base world, full of poverty and misery, for the first time in my life, a ray of sunshine shone on my life. But alas, instead of a sunbeam it was a transient beam, a shooting star that appeared to me in the likeness of a woman or an angel. In the light of that moment that lasted about a second, I witnessed all my life's misfortunes, and discovered their magnitude and grandeur. Then that beam of light disappeared into the dark abyss for which it was destined.
- I was not in full control of myself, and it seemed that I knew her name from before. The evil in her eyes, her color, her scent and her movements were all familiar to me. It was as though my souls, in the life before this, in the world of imagination, had bordered on her soul and that both souls, of the same essence and substance, were destined for union. I must have lived this life very close to her. I had no desire to touch her; the invisible beams that emanated from our bodies and mingled were sufficient for me. Isn't this terrifying experience which seemed so familiar to met quite the same as the feelings of two lovers who feel that they have known each other before and that a mysterious relationship has previously existed between them? Was it possible that someone else could affect me? The dry, repulsive and ominous laughter of the old man, however, tore our bonds asunder.
- I was growing inward incessantly; like an animal that hibernates during the wintertime, I could hear other peoples' voices with my ears; my own voice, however, I could hear only in my throat. The loneliness and the solitude that lurked behind me were like a condensed, thick, eternal night, like one of those nights with a dense, persistent, sticky darkness which waits to pounce on unpopulated cities filled with lustful and vengeful dreams.
- What relationship could exist between the lives of the fools and healthy rabble who were well, who slept well, who performed the sexual act well, who had never felt the wings of death on their face every moment—what relationship could exist between them and one like me who has arrived at the end of his rope and who knows that he will pass away gradually and tragically?
- What is love? For the rabble love is a kind of variety, a transient vulgarity; the rabble's conception of love is best found in their obscene ditties, in prostitution and in the foul idioms they use when they are halfway sober, such as "shoving the donkey's foreleg in mud," or "putting dust on the head." My love for her, however, was of a totally different kind. I knew her from ancient times—strange slanted eyes, a narrow, half-open mouth, a subdued quiet voice. She was the embodiment of all my distant, painful memories among which I sought what I was deprived of, what belonged to me but somehow I was denied. Was I deprived forever?
- My life appeared to me as unnatural, uncertain and incredible as the design on the pencase I am using at this moment. It seems that a painter who has been possessed, perhaps a perfectionist, has painted the cover of this pencase. Often, when I look at this design, it seems familiar; perhaps it is because of this design that I write or perhaps this design makes me write.
- Finally I realized that I was a demi-god and that I was beyond all the low, petty desires of mankind. I felt the eternal flux within me. What is eternity? Eternity for me was playing hide-and-seek with that whore on the banks of the Suren river; it was a momentary closing of my eyes when I hid my head in her lap.
- Online Persian text
- Hedayat's original handwriting of The Blind Owl
- Iraj Bashiri's translation
- D.P. Costello's translation
- Symbolism of women in Hedayat's "Blind Owl", by Massoume Price, Iran Chamber.
- This Book Will End Your Life: The Greatest Modern Persian Novel Ever Written by Porochista Khakpour
-  by Mansoureh Sharifzadeh