View Full Version : Sadeq Hedayat: The Blind Owl
This is a book I am going to come back to one day. I tried it in 2006 and found it so intriguing yet frustrating as it's arhythmic repetition was disorientating and, looking back, a complete mystery to me.
Written in 1937, the novel deals with a painter, drugged up as I recall, who sees all these strange images in his work. No doubt it was some disguised representation of Persia - I really don't know - but as I read it, passages were identical, the same images came round and round again. A real headspin of a book. You can read it here (http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/bashiri/BlindOwl/blindowl.html).
Sadeq Hedayat was a curious fellow. He wrote for his "shadow," and almost always decided that this mysterious absence of light should read depressive, downright suicidal stories; there is no mistaking the dark hues of his weltanschauung, for he, himself, referred to the world as a "cataract of shit," and, unsurprisingly, ended up gassing himself after an earlier attempt at suicide, if my memory serves me correctly.
I have found myself reading the works that have been translated into English, which, as far as I know, are limited to the extent of The Blind Owl and Three Drops of Blood, the latter being a small collection of short stories published this year by Oneworld Modern Classics.
The Blind Owl is a gothic love story as seen through a morbid kaleidoscope of madness. I enjoyed the first half in all its imagery, language, surrealism, but found the second half lacking; the second half resembles his short story Buried Alive, where we find our narrator bedbound, locked in misery, contemplating how to die and very much wanting to die. There is no hope, you see, but with Hedayat, there never really is.
His short stories are, for the most part, about the ugly side of life: a routinely abused and starving stray dog, longing for the companionship of a loving master; lost lovers; an ugly, neglected sister, the black sheep of the family, who uses religious values as a defensive shield against the pressures of marriage in her family and culture, while her beautiful sister is courted and marries; a ridiculed hunchback; and a few more.
While his stories do contain Persian culture, they are no doubt highly influenced by Western tradition and very accessible.
Sadeq Hedayat won't put a smile on your face, but he was a talented writer whose works are decidedly worthwhile, especially considering their brevity.
Daniel del Real
I've been looking to read this novel a long time ago, but I has been very hard to get. A long time ago I read an essay of writer Alberto Mangue, who categorized this book as one of the top 15 terror and mistery short stories. I've been trying to read all of that list, but it's hard to get some of the books.
I'm honestly not sure what to make of this. Cavalier Bizarre above calls it a gothic love story, and there are certainly some of that in there; Poe meets Kafka meets Burroughs (yes, in a Persian novel from 1937). There's no denying Hedayat's talent as a writer (nor his very dark view of the world), and the way the novel constantly skates figure-8s around the themes of sex and love and death and dreams and sickness and hate and religion and self and and and... is often very effective. You get sucked into a nightmarish hall of mirrors where everything mutates into something else, and every time you think you see the way out, you just end up back where you started.
At the same time, it gets a bit too much. It's so surreal right from the get-go that there's no baseline, no point in the narrative from which to view the judge how mad the other bits are. It's just a swirl of images repeating and the same nightmarish quality that makes me like the book, along with the blatant and rather tiring misogyny of the narrator, eventually starts to bore me.
Like Stewart, I'll put this on the To Be Revisited shelf. Maybe it'll all click on a second read. ***00
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