The Blind Owl - Sadegh Hedayat NO SPOILERS!!!

"The Blind Owl” is considered a modern Persian classic. a masterpiece of Iranian literature. So I was intrigued. It was first self-published in Bombay and written in Farsi. It was not available in Iran in 1937, then under Reza Shah’s oppressive control. It wasn’t until 1941 that it came out in Iran, as a serial in the daily Iran. It is said that much was written earlier while the author, Sadegh Hedayat, was living in Paris. It is to be noted that he was raised both under the influence of the Iranian and French cultures. His writing has both Western and Eastern aspects. It caused a wave of suicides in Iran, and the author himself committed suicide in Paris in 1951 at the age of 48.

So I figured I had to see what this book was all about……. I didn’t expect a cheerful book. I wanted to know why people were killing themselves after reading this book. I read it and could not figure out why this was classified as a masterpiece, nor why it should cause suicides. I went back and reread the introduction – very, very carefully. In the introduction it is stated that the book does not explain how to live your life, but it does deal with how to create something. I agree with both points.

It is composed really of two novellas, the first being a dream which is set in the present and the latter a story set in the past. The narrator is talking about his life; he is speaking to a shadow on the wall that resembles the form of an owl. But isn’t the shadow really us, isn’t he directing his tale and his thoughts to us his readers? I assume so.

The book certainly does not tell the readers how to successfully and happily live their lives. It is a book of horror and delight in horror. The closest I can come in style is the writing of Edgar Allen Poe. Terror is almost glorified. Joy is drawn from pain and cruelty. Not a pleasant read.

The book does speak perhaps about creation of a novel piece. The author has a group of set phrases that get repeated time and time again. In the beginning these phrases are thrown at you; they are the skeleton of a story. Then as the story goes on, the lines are repeated and more and more details clothe the skeleton until you have a full story. The author has shown us how he created this story…….but what a story! The story itself is terrible. I am not particularly enticed by learning how to create a bad story! There is no humor, none at all. The characters are not well rounded. What the author has accomplished is the draping of sensory details onto the skeletal bones of a story. And of course this is an important element of a book. Nobody wants to read an outline of a book.

This technique of repeating phrases over and over again did not appeal to me. I was thinking – OK, here we go again! You will hear the following phrases repeatedly:

“tastes like the stub of a cucumber”

“cypress tree at the foot of which was sitting a bent old man”

“the index finger of his left hand”

butcher shop with meat hanging ….

an old man with a scarf wrapped around his neck, an Indian turban on his head and a ragged yellow cloak on his back

a girl in a long black dress offering a morning glory flower

Maybe these lines symbolize something. I do not know what.

I did not like this book, so only one star from me. If it was trying to teach me something; I do not know what. It was boringly repetitive. I just wanted it to end as quickly as possible. There is one good thing about the book. It was short! :0)


Before Reading: The Kindle sample was only the introduction to the book! I prefer to taste the author's writing style. Could anyone tell me more about this or give me info where I can read a bit? The introduction definitely makes me want to read the book, but still I want to know how the author expresses himself. This is so important to me.