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New Left Review I/24, March-April 1964

Sadegh Hedayat


Sadegh Hedayat is the leading Persian writer of the century. He was born in Teheran in 1903 and committed suicide in Paris in 1951. His masterpiece The Blind Owl was written in 1930, after he had already travelled widely in Europe and absorbed European literary influences. The Kafkaesque quality of his writing has often been commented on, perhaps because his heroes are typically solitary, anguished, afflicted by the nightmare of the world. In his short story Tomorrow, written in 1946, Hedayat returns again to this theme of the solitary, disinherited and in despair, but in a context which reflects in concrete detail the changing conditions of Persian life. After the forcible abdication of Reza Shah in 1941 a great political and cultural ferment broke out in Persia; much of this ferment sprang from the foundation of the Tudeh (Masses) Party and the consequent growth of class consciousness among the working class and the literary intelligentsia. Although Hedayat was in no sense at one with the Tudeh Party, he too was affected by the ferment. In Tomorrow the solitary becomes absorbed, willy-nilly, into the mass movement; Hedayat’s tendency towards solipsism—formalized in his ‘stream of consciousness’ technique—becomes absorbed into a wider naturalism. Tomorrow evokes not only the anguish of the worker but the harshness of his conditions of work; not only his personal desperation, but the aspirations of his class.

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Sadegh Hedayat, ‘Tomorrow’, NLR I/24: £3

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