Persian Language & Literature

Bozorg Alavi


Bozorg Alavi
Bozorg Alavi, born in 1904 in Tehran, became a great name in Persian literature & Iranian political circuit. He is the most famous "leftist" Iranian writer. His father, Abul Hassan, was a revolutionary man who took part in the constitution movement of early 20th century. His grandfather was a member of parliament. In 1923, Bozorg & his brother Morteza were sent to Germany to continue their educations. After graduating, he returned to Iran in the early 1930s & started teaching in Shiraz.

During his stay in Germany, he had acquainted himself with European literature & poetry. He began to translate famous books into Persian. Around this time, he met the Sadeq Hedayat. The two men had a lot in common, & it is very hard to say who had a greater influence on the other one. Their socialist ideas resulted in the publication of political articles & magazines. Around this time, the gang of 53, led by Dr. Arani, came to existence. Bozorg Alavi was one of the most active members of the group. He was arrested in 1937 for violation of a 1933 anti-Communist law. He and fifty-two others remained in jail until the Allied Occupation of Iran in the fall of 1941. They were all arrested, & he was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

Just prior to going to jail, he published his Chamedan (The Suitcase) series. During his prison years, Bozorg continued to write various stories. Afterwards, Alavi wrote two books on his time in prison Panjah-o seh Nafar (Fifty-Three Persons) and a collection of short narratives called Varaq'pareh'ha-ye Zendan (Prison Scraps of Paper), which appears in translation along with a biographical sketch by Donne Raffat in The Prison Papers of Bozorg Alavi: A Literary Odyssey (1985).

In the World War II years, Alavi was one of the founders of the Tudeh (Communist) Party of Iran and edited the party newspaper Mardom. In 1952, Alavi published his most famous work, a novel called Chashmhayash (Her Eyes) and a collection of stories called Nameh' ha va Dastan'ha-ye digar (Letters and Other Stories). The famous short story from that collection called "Gileh Mard" (The Man from Gilan) appears in translation in Literature East & West 20 (1980).

During the royalist coup d'etat 1953 brought Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq's nationalist government down in mid-August 1953, Alavi was in East Germany, where he remained, subsequently teaching Persian literature at East Berlin's Humboldt University. Alavi's novel called Salariha (The Salari Family) and Mirza, a collection of six short stories written in the late 1960s and early 1970s, were published in Tehran in 1978. Alavi visited Iran briefly in 1979 and again in 1980, where he had a family before his 1952 departure for Europe. Throughout the 1980s, Alavi lectured widely in Europe and North America.

After spending many years writing & translating books, Bozorg Alavi died in 1997 in Berlin.