Death and Women in Sadegh Hedayat Blind Owl by Nasim Basiri

Topics: Iran, Sadeq Hedayat, Persian literature Pages: 5 (1777 words) Published: February 14, 2013
Death and Women in Sadegh Hedayat’s “ The Blind Owl”
Nasim Basiri

Sadeq Hedayat's 'The Blind Owl' is one of the most important literary works in Persian language. The original Persian text of The Blind Owl, marked "not for sale in Iran," appeared as a mimeographed publication in India in 1937. It was assumed at the time that Hedayat feared the repressive rule of Reza Shah; he feared especially that with the publication of this work he might have violated the established norms. He was aware that the propagation of a message that focused on the strangulation of the Iranian people, on the denial of individual human rights, and on the need for individual enlightenment would not remain undetected for ever. The central theme of the story is an attempt toward the resolution of the writer's dualistic experiences of the real versus unreal, the sensual against the spiritual and death as opposed to life. Underlying his problems are sexual fear, association of women with death (a common theme in literature) and disgust affiliated with death and women. Perhaps no other modern Iranian writer has been claimed by his countrymen more than Sadegh Hedayat has. A tale of one man’s isolation, the novel contains a maze of symbols, recurring images, social commentary, allusions to opium-induced states, contemplations of the human condition, interjections on art, and references to literary and religious texts—all of which have, for decades, made it fertile ground for critical interpretation. The most long-standing theory was espoused by the Iranian Communist Party (Tudeh), with which Hedayat for a time sympathized. The Tudeh’s claim was that the black mood in the book is an allusion to life under Reza Shah, who ruled Iran from 1925 until 1941. But as scholar Homa Katouzian points out in Sadeq Hedayat: The Life and Legend of an Iranian Writer, while Hedayat did oppose the shah’s tyrannical reign, the book is a far more universal statement about alienation. Often compared to the work of Franz Kafka (whom Hedayat admired), The Blind Owl also brings to mind Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet in its stark meditation on dejection. '“There are sores which slowly erode the mind in solitude like a kind of canker,” begins the book, and in the pages that ensue we glimpse this solitude, through the narrator’s room, which “stands upon the ruins of thousands of ancient houses… like a tomb”; through the landscape of “crouching, accursed trees,” between which there are “ash-grey houses” where “no living creature could ever have dwelt”; and through the narrator’s estrangement from the “rabble-men” who bear “an expression of greed on their faces, in pursuit of money and sexual satisfaction. An ethereal girl appearing throughout offers hope. She is the image the narrator paints on his pen cases, a vision he falls in love with, and the portrait on an ancient jar, inside “an almond-shaped panel” (perhaps a reference to a mandorla, an almond-shaped contour found around images of Mary—the almond representing virgin birth). But the girl has a “double nature,” resurfacing as the narrator’s cunning mother, and, later, as his promiscuous wife. 


The word manic is important in connection to the story. The narrator wants the ethereal woman to remain in the world of death. Furthermore, she must remain out of touch and not to be seen by others. Later on, when the ethereal woman and the mother image become the same, one realizes why the narrator is so pre-occupied with woman as a focus of the problem of life and death. Mother is the birth giver. The narrator is mystified by the strange psychic state of his mother. The mother withdraws and there is an intense need to find her. The ethereal woman becomes the mother. How could anyone bear a sex encounter with her, to enter her body? Therefore any suggestion of love intimacy with women in the sexual sense must be avoided. For him it is not...
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