Sadegh Hedayat

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Sadegh Hedayat
The last photograph he posted from Paris to his relatives in Tehran. (1951)
Born(1903-02-17)17 February 1903
Died9 April 1951(1951-04-09) (aged 48)
Paris, France
Resting placePère Lachaise Cemetery
Alma materDar ul-Funun
St. Louis School
University of Tehran
Known forWriter of prose fiction and short stories
Notable workThe Blind Owl (Bufe kur)
Buried Alive (Zende be gur)
The Stray Dog (Sage velgard)
Three Drops of Blood (Seh ghatreh khoon)

Sadegh Hedayat (Persian: صادق هدایت Persian pronunciation: [ˈsɑːdɛq ɛ hɛdɑːˈjæt] listen; 17 February 1903 – 9 April 1951) was an Iranian writer and translator. Best known for his novel The Blind Owl, he was one of the earliest Iranian writers to adopt literary modernism in their career.

Early life and education[edit]

Young Sadegh Hedayat

Hedayat was born to a northern Iranian aristocratic family in Tehran. His great-grandfather Reza-Qoli Khan Hedayat Tabarestani was a well-respected writer and worked in the government, as did other relatives. Hedayat's sister married Haj Ali Razmara who was an army general and among the prime ministers of Iran under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.[1] Another one of his sisters was the wife of Abdollah Hedayat who was also an army general.[2]

Hedayat was educated at Collège Saint-Louis (French catholic school) and Dar ol-Fonoon (1914–1916). In 1925, he was among a select few students who traveled to Europe to continue their studies. There, he initially went on to study engineering in Belgium, which he abandoned after a year to study architecture in France. There he gave up architecture in turn to pursue dentistry. In this period he became acquainted with Thérèse, a Parisian with whom he had a love affair[citation needed]. In 1927 Hedayat attempted suicide by throwing himself into the Marne but was rescued by a fishing boat. After four years in France, he finally surrendered his scholarship and returned home in the summer of 1930 without receiving a degree. In Iran, he held various jobs for short periods.[citation needed]


Hedayat subsequently devoted his whole life to studying Western literature and to learning and investigating Iranian history and folklore. The works of Rainer Maria Rilke, Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka, Anton Chekhov, and Guy de Maupassant 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 the Persian language and literature into the mainstream of international contemporary writing.

Hedayat's corpse in Paris, following his 9 April 1951 suicide

Hedayat traveled and stayed in India from 1936 until late 1937 (the mansion he stayed in during his visit to Bombay was identified in 2014). Hedayet spent time in Bombay learning the Pahlavi (Middle Persian) language from the Parsi Zoroastrian community of India. He was taught by Bahramgore Tahmuras Anklesaria (also spelled as Behramgore Tehmurasp Anklesaria), a renowned scholar and philologist.[3][4] Nadeem Akhtar's Hedayat in India[5] provides details of Hedayat's sojourn in India. In Bombay Hedayat completed and published his most enduring work, The Blind Owl, which he had started writing, in Paris, as early as 1930. The book was praised by Henry Miller, André Breton, and others, and Kamran Sharareh has called it "one of the most important literary works in the Persian language".[6]


Hedayat was a vegetarian from his youth and authored the treatise The Benefits of Vegetarianism whilst in Berlin in 1927.[7]

Death and legacy[edit]

In 1951, overwhelmed by despair, Hedayat left Tehrān and traveled to Paris, where he rented an apartment. A few days before his death, Hedayat tore up all of his unpublished work. On 9 April 1951, he plugged all the doors and windows of his rented apartment with cotton, then turned on the gas valve, committing suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. Two days later, his body was found by police, with a note left behind for his friends and companions that read, "I left and broke your heart. That is all."[8][9] He is widely remembered as "a major symbol of Iranian nationalism."[10]

The English poet John Heath-Stubbs published an elegy, "A Cassida for Sadegh Hedayat", in A Charm Against the Toothache in 1954.


Tomb of Sadegh Hedayat, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

In November 2006, republication of Hedayat's work in uncensored form was banned in Iran, as part of a sweeping purge. However, surveillance of bookstalls is limited and it is still possible to purchase the originals second-hand. The official website is also still online. The issue of censorship is discussed in:


The Blind Owl[edit]

  • In life there are certain sores that, like a canker, gnaw at the soul in solitude and diminish it. (opening line)


  • Fiction
    • 1930 Buried Alive (Zende be gūr) A collection of 9 short stories.
    • 1931 Mongol Shadow (Sāye-ye Moqol)
    • 1932 Three Drops of Blood (Se qatre khūn). A collection of 11 short stories.
    • 1933 Chiaroscuro (Sāye-ye roushan) A collection of 7 short stories.
    • 1934 Mister Bow Wow (Vagh Vagh Sahāb)
    • 1936 Sampingé (in French)
    • 1936 Lunatique (in French)
    • 1936 The Blind Owl (Boof-e koor)
    • 1942 The Stray Dog (Sag-e velgard). A collection of 8 short stories.
    • 1943 Lady Alaviyeh (Alaviye Khānum)
    • 1944 Velengārī (Tittle-tattle)
    • 1944 The Elixir of Life (Āb-e Zendegi)
    • 1945 The Pilgrim (Hājī āqā)
    • 1946 Tomorrow (Fardā)
    • 1947 The Pearl Cannon (Tūp-e Morvari)
  • Drama (1930–1946)
    • Parvin dokhtar-e Sāsān (Parvin, Sassan's Daughter)
    • Māzīyār
    • Afsāne-ye āfarīnesh (The Fable of Creation)
  • Travelogues
    • Esfahān nesf-e jahān (Isfahan: Half of the World)
    • Rū-ye jādde-ye namnāk (On the Wet Road), unpublished, written in 1935.
  • Studies, Criticism and Miscellanea
    • Rubā'iyāt-e Hakim Omar-e Khayyām (Khayyam's Quatrains) 1923
    • Ensān va heyvān (Man and Animal) 1924
    • Marg (Death) 1927
    • Favāyed-e Giyāhkhāri (The Advantages of Vegetarianism) 1927
    • Hekāyat-e bā natije (The Story with a Moral) 1932
    • Tarānehā-ye Khayyām (The Songs of Khayyam) 1934
    • Chāykovski (Tchaikovsky) 1940
    • Dar pirāmun-e Loqat-e Fārs-e Asadi (About Asadi's Persian Dictionary) 1940
    • Shive-ye novin dar tahqiq-e adabi (A New Method of Literary Research) 1940
    • Dāstan-e Nāz (The Story of Naz) 1941
    • Shivehā-ye novin dar she'r-e Pārsi (New Trends in Persian Poetry) 1941
    • A review of the film Molla Nasrud'Din 1944
    • A literary criticism on the Persian translation of Gogol's The Government Inspector 1944
    • Chand nokte dar bāre-ye Vis va Rāmin (Some Notes on Vis and Ramin) 1945
    • Payām-e Kāfkā (The Message of Kafka) 1948
    • Al-bi`tha al-Islamīya ilā al-bilād al-Afranjīya (The Islamic Mission to the European Lands), undated.
  • Translations

Films about Hedayat[edit]

Sadegh Hedayat and Rozbeh, son of Sadeq Chubak
  • In 1987, Raul Ruiz made the feature film La Chouette aveugle in France: a loose adaption of Hedayat's novel The Blind Owl. Its formal innovations led critics and filmmakers to declare the film 'French cinema's most beautiful jewel of the past decade.'[14]
  • Hedayat's last day and the night was adapted into the short film, The Sacred and the Absurd, directed by Ghasem Ebrahimian, which was featured in the Tribeca Film Festival in 2004.
  • In 2005, Iranian film director Khosrow Sinai has made a docudrama about Hedayat entitled Goftogu ba saye = Talking with a shadow. Its main theme is the influence of Western movies such as Der Golem, Nosferatu, and Dracula on Hedayat.
  • In 2009, Mohsen Shahrnazdar and Sam Kalantari made a documentary film about Sadegh Hedayat named From No. 37.

See also[edit]


  • Hassan Kamshad, Modern Persian Prose Literature ISBN 0-936347-72-4
  • Acquaintance with Sadegh Hedayat, by M. F. Farzaneh, Publisher: Markaz, Tehran, 2008.
  • Sadeq Hedayat, the foremost short story writer of Iran
  • The Sacred and the Absurd, a film about Hedayat's death

Further references[edit]


  1. ^ Fariborz Mokhtari (2016). "Review: Iran's 1953 Coup: Revisiting Mosaddeq". The Middle East Book Review. 7 (2): 118. doi:10.5325/bustan.7.2.0113. S2CID 185086482.
  2. ^ Homa Katouzian (2007). Sadeq Hedayat: His Work and His Wondrous World. London; New York: Routledge. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-134-07935-3.
  3. ^ Azadibougar, Omid (2020-02-01). World Literature and Hedayat's Poetics of Modernity. Springer Nature. ISBN 978-981-15-1691-7.
  4. ^ Beard, Michael (2014-07-14). Hedayat's Blind Owl as a Western Novel. Princeton University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-4008-6132-3.
  5. ^ "HEDAYAT, SADEQ v. Hedayat in India – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 2015-09-03.
  6. ^ "From Persia to Tehr Angeles: A Contemporary Guide to Understanding and Appreciating Ancient Persian Culture", p. 126, by Kamran Sharareh
  7. ^ Sollars, Michael; Jennings, Arbolina Llamas. (2008). The Facts on File Companion to the World Novel 1900 to the Present. Facts On File. p. 347. ISBN ISBN 978-1438108360
  8. ^ Dohni, Niloufar (April 13, 2013). "A Man Out Of Place". Majalla. Archived from the original on June 27, 2020. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
  9. ^ Kuiper, Kathleen (ed.). "Sadeq Hedayat: Iranian author". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on July 19, 2015. Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  10. ^ Amiri, Cyrus; Govah, Mahdiyeh (2021-09-22). "Hedayat's rebellious child: multicultural rewriting of The Blind Owl in Porochista Khakpour's Sons and Other Flammable Objects". British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 50 (2): 436–449. doi:10.1080/13530194.2021.1978279. ISSN 1353-0194. S2CID 240547754.
  11. ^ "Frieze Magazine | Archive | Tehran". Archived from the original on 2013-10-01. Retrieved 2013-09-26.
  12. ^ Robert Tait in Tehran (2006-11-17). "Bestsellers banned in new Iranian censorship purge | World news". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-09-26.
  13. ^ "Iran: Book Censorship The Rule, Not The Exception". 2007-11-26. Retrieved 2013-09-26.
  14. ^ "Excerpted from Trafic no. 18 (Spring 1996) Translation Rouge 2004".

External links[edit]