The Genius of Author Bahram Sadeqi, Iran’s Answer to Kafka

Tara Taghizadeh

 

As the old saying goes, French is the language of love; German is the language of war; and Russian is both. However, as most international linguists will tell you, it is Farsi (Persian) that is the most poetic.

 

Iranian poets and authors, from the great Hafez to Ferdowsi to Omar Khayyam to modern writers, including literary giants such as Forough Farrokhzad, Ahmad Shamlou, Sadegh Hedayat, and Simin Behbahani, have all contributed masterworks that have long ingrained themselves in the Iranian literary mainstream and are worshiped (even after the 1979 revolution) by past and current (and no doubt future) generations of Iranians. This is no doubt Iran’s most important cultural contribution to the world (along with Iranian cinema), which is slowly gaining the worldwide recognition and respect it deserves.

 

Add Bahram Sadeqi to the above-mentioned roster of Iranian literary greats. Sadeqi, a medical student who began his literary career writing dark, eerie short stories, has been lauded as the Iranian Kafka.

 

In Malakut and Other Stories, published by Ibex Publishers, translator Kaveh Basmenji writes in the introduction:

 

“Gabriel Garcia Marquez said it was Kafka who showed him that it was possible to write in a different way. In the words of Milan Kundera, “a different way” means to put a crack in the barrier of the plausible….That is Sadeqi’s major accomplishment: to seriously analyze the world and, at the same time, to give free reign to his imagination.”

 

And what an imagination it is. Reading Sadeqi’s stories, one gets the sense that a number of his characters inhabit worlds from which most of us are removed – or that simply do not exist. Which begs the question: Are these characters insane? Or has the author moulded them to become so engrossed in their own reeling minds, thereby drowning (so to speak) in their own alienated, brooding universe.

 

 

Sadeqi’s interest and fascination for the darker and more stark side of life no doubt began with his love of crime novels. As Basmenji explains:

 

“Bahram Sadeqi used to read detective stories endlessly; the appeal of crime fiction was for him, above all else, in the absurdity of its beginning and ending. With contracted brows, sitting on the daises outside shops or teahouses, finishing crime novels and saying with a grin: ‘Nothing in it. He should have left off the business right in the middle.’”

 

In “Tomorrow is On the Way,” a gripping short story in the collection, Sadeqi weaves a bizzare “whodunit” tale of the murder of one Fazli, who locals suspect was killed by his longtime rival, Gholam Khan. Sadeqi takes the reader through a maze, never revealing who actually murdered Fazli, although he lays the blame with Gholam Kahn, despite Gholam Khan’s sympathy for his rival’s demise:

 

“Gholam Khan stopped. He looked at the closed door. His lips pressed against each other and his eyes felt hot. How Fazli’s mother had dreamt of seeing her kid’s wedding. What a hard time Gholam Khan had given him. But was he to blame for everything? No. It was Sanam’s fault. It was Fazli’s fault. And it was his own fault as well. They were all guilty.”

 

To the native Farsi speaker, reading Sadeqi’s elegant words will no doubt ring the familiar sound of the beautiful and poetic prose that Iranians have long associated with their treasured writers. Basmenji’s English translation  (with Ehsan Yarshater serving as general editor) is equally impressive, and he has deftly captured the essence of Sadeqi’s pain, angst, and flirtation with death and the macabre.

 

 

Several sections of the book pay homage to Sadeqi’s raw talent and his masterful – and forthright  -- way with words:

 

“My misery lies right here. That’s why I want to try death. I don’t want to say …that all roads are blocked; no, that’s meaningless, everything does exist and will continue to exist; everything will even be all right…but only my past remains for me, and today? I’m afraid of getting trapped. Shame on me if I fall into the trap of today. A day when poverty and misery hide themselves in poetry so that aristocracy, as you put it, can vindicate itself in the same spectacular vistas that have existed in the past. A day when demagogy has advanced to the level of social science.”

 

I was once asked by a British friend why Persian literature was focused on such great sadness. I mulled over the question and realized that aside from the occasional satirist and humorist author, such as the great Iraj Pezeshkzad, my British friend had hit the nail on the head: Most Iranian writers tend to focus on the unhappiness and hardships that life can bring. Sadeqi, however, is in a class all his own: His prose is best described as otherworldly and perhaps even bizarre and nightmarish, which has carved itself a unique niche in modern Persian literature. No other Iranian writer quite resembles Sadeqi.

 

Perhaps Basmenji summed it up best: “Bahram Sadeqi’s presence in – and influence upon -- contemporary Persian prose and fiction was like that of a lone meteorite: appearing in a blinding flash, instantly yet fleetingly illuminating its surroundings, then abruptly fading into the darkness, leaving only a completely original, overwhelming and fantastic trail, the remainder of something singularly magnificent that we cannot hope to ever see repeated.”

 

For more information about Bahram Sadeqi and Malakut and Other Stories, visit: Ibex Publishers.

 

Author Bio:

 

Tara Taghizadeh is the founding editor and publisher of Highbrow Magazine.

 

For Highbrow Magazine

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Photos courtesy of Ibex Publishers; Wikipedia (M. Jamsheed)
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