Iran Literature: The Neo-Persian Production

By | September 4, 2021

With the Arab invasion of the century. VII begins the neo-Persian literature. The rich and vital Arab tradition grafted onto the aristocratic aristocratic culture of the Sassanids, so much so that after just over a century the Persian literary lexicon was largely replaced by the Arab one. Neo-Persian literature appears perhaps as the most refined and elegant of the great Islamic literatures and embraces almost all traditional literary genres, poetry (lyric and epic-chivalric), art prose, historiography, philosophy, scientific treatises, etc. Its linguistic vehicle, the Neopersian (fārsī), formerly the art language of the courts of the Islamic world from Ottoman Turkey to Moghūl India and then the official language, albeit with variations, of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, has contributed greatly, with its extremely flexible grammatical structure and loose, to the development and knowledge of this literature far beyond the political borders of present-day Iran, a country located in Middle East according to topschoolsoflaw. Often the expression of an elite society, and already at its appearance sought after and almost definitively specified in its aesthetic canons, neo-Persian literature can be said not to know, in the course of its already over millennial history, great stylistic variations and, especially in poetry, if anything, relies on the diversity of content traditionally provided by its literary genres (qaṣīda, masnavī, ġhazal, rubā’ī) to vary one’s motives of inspiration. The first great names are those of the poets of the Samanid age (9th-10th century), the lyric Daqīqī (d. Ca. 952, author of a masnavī) who is partly known through the Book of Kings of Firdūsī, and Rūdakī (d. 943), who in an ornate style reworked the famous collection of Indian fables Calila and Dimna, sadly lost. But it was among the poets of the so-called Ghaznavid pleiad, gathered at the court of the ruler Maḥmūd’d of Ghaznā and his successors, that figures of the first magnitude emerged in the history of Iranian and Islamic culture of that period; they remember the names of Farrūkhī (d. 1038), Asgiadī, Manūčihrī (d. 1041) and above all of Firdūsī (d. Ca. 1020), author of the Book of Kings, a grandiose chronicle in verse of the history of Iran from its origins to the Arab conquest. The subsequent period of the Seljuk Turks (11th-13th century) saw the flourishing of the great masnavīs of Niẓami di Gangia (1140-1203) and the poetic and scientific work of ʽUmar Hayyām (d. Ca. 1123), also famous in Europe for the successful translation of his short poems made in the last century by the English scholar E. Fitzgerald. Prose also reached its maturity in this period: the precious ones are remembered Four treatises by Niẓami ʽAruzi of Samarkand (d. 1174), full of useful cultural information and stylistic culmination of old-style prose. The period of the Mongols and their Timurid successors (13th-15th centuries), politically characterized by the splitting of Iran and Central Asia into many small autonomous kingdoms, is the era of Saʽdī (1184-1291) and Ḥāfiẓ (ca. 1319-ca. 1390), the first unsurpassed masters of prose art (in the very elegant and clear Roseto) and of opera (especially ġhazal) the second. This very fertile period, perhaps the “golden age” of neo-Persian literature, still saw the figures of Rūmī (1207-1273), the greatest mystic of Persia, by the historian Mīrkhwānd, to close with the harmonious masnavīs of the last “classical” poet, Giāmī (1414-1492). His work shows the degree of perfection and refinement achieved by Persian poetry, but also the need for renewal of a poetic no longer vital, worn out by the unrepeatability of its own perfection.

With the sec. XVI in fact began a period of decline also caused by the difficult political conditions of the country, upset by internal struggles. Many poets took refuge in India at the court of the Great Mogul, giving life to that so-called “Indian style” which had its greatest representative in Ṣāʽib of Tabrīz (1601-1677). Only between the end of the century. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century there was a revival of literary life, also stimulated by the changed political climate. Under Western influence, Persian writers abandoned the canons of classical imitation for a lean, simplified prose, that is adapted to the issues dealt with, which are mostly a denunciation of the backward conditions of the country. The language has also been radically renewed; on the one hand there was an attempt to replace the Arabic lexicon with peculiar Iranian terms, also requested by the authorities, but which remained essentially a dead letter, on the other hand an interest in popular language developed, successfully adopted by most writers contemporaries. Dominates among all the figure of another has developed an interest in popular language, successfully adopted by most contemporary writers. Dominates among all the figure of another has developed an interest in popular language, successfully adopted by most contemporary writers. Dominates among all the figure of Ṣādieq Hidāyat (1903-1951), regarded by the Persians as their greatest storyteller. And indeed his narrative within the country has been of enormous importance for the introduction of new techniques in the young Persian novelist, while offering few values ​​on a universal level. The best known of his works in the West is The Blind Owl (1941), the story of a solitary painter, an opium smoker, in the throes of a nightmare that can be defined as Kafkaesque. Other notable names are, among the narrators, Muḥammad ʽAlī Ǧamāl-zada (1892-1997), author of the collection of short stories Once upon a time (1922) and of the novel Il asylum (1942), and, among the poets, Farrukhī Yazdī (1888-1938), author of collections praising freedom and communism, Abū’l-Qāsim Lahūtī (1887-1957), whose ode to the Kremlin, a poet of exaltation to socialist Russia, the poetess Parvīn Eʽtesami (ca. 1906-1941), who expressed herself in colloquial language, is most famous. Among the other authors, Āl-e Aḥmad (1923-1969), Afghānī (b.1925), Nāder Nāderpūr (1929-2000), Modarresī (b.1934), Aḥmad Reẓā Aḥmadī (b.1940). Abdulkarim Soroush (b.1945), philosopher and lecturer (for some years at Harvard) stands out from these, but above all a figure of reference for the Iranian democratic movement at the forefront of the fight against fundamentalism and censorship. The generations of new Iranian writers already count some names on the international limelight. Among these, there are three women: Azar Nafīsī (b.1955), expelled from Iran in 1997, who with Reading Lolita in Tehran, a world best-seller, she was able to talk about the years of the Islamic dictatorship with strength, sensitivity and courage like few others before her; Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, author of The woman who read too much, in which literature is once again the means of expression and rebellion against impositions from above; and Marjane Satrapi (b. 1969), whose autobiographical comic novel Persepolis illustrated a further cross-section of Iranian society in the late twentieth century to the general public.

Iran Literature