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Omar Khayyam. Rubáiyát. Translated by Edward FitzGerald with illustrations by Arthur Szyk. New York: Heritage Press, ca. 1946. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (028.00.00)
Reproduced with the cooperation of The Arthur Szyk Society, Burlingame, California www.szyk.org

Twentieth- and twenty-first century Persian literature continues to evolve within a changing and sometimes disruptive political climate in the region. In the twentieth century, standardization of the Persian language, a focus on education, and an engagement in social and political discourse became popular themes throughout the region. Old poetic structures, seen as inadequate to reflect modern concerns, gave way to vibrant and expressive methods of literary self-expression. The region has also witnessed a tremendous expansion in the number of genres and authors from Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, as well as from diaspora communities that continue to publish in Persian.

Ṣādiq Hidāyat

Ṣādiq Hidāyat (1903–1951), born in Tehran is Iran’s foremost modern writer of prose, fiction, and short stories. He spent years studying Western literature and Iranian history and folklore. His writings were also influenced by the literary traditions of both the East and West. During his short lifetime, Hidāyat published short stories, novels, historical dramas, satirical parodies, and sketches. In India he finished his most noted work The Blind Owl, interlaced with Buddhist and Hindu themes.

Ṣādiq Hidāyat. بوف کور (The Blind Owl). Tehran: Amir Kabir Publishers, 1952, Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (046.00.00)

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Aḥmad Shāmlū

One of the most influential modern poets of Iran, Aḥmad Shāmlū (1925–2000), born in Tehran, is also known by his pen name A. Bamdad. Influenced by the free verse poetry of Nima Yushij, Shāmlū’s poetry makes use of simple imagery to express intensity through traditional concepts present in the classic works of Hāfiz and Khayyam. Shāmlū published more than seventy books including poetry, novels, short stories, screenplays, and numerous translations of poetry and novels into Persian during his lifetime. This book is a recent edition of his 1957 poetry book Fresh Air.

Aḥmad Shāmlū. هوای تازه (Fresh Air) Tehran: Nigah Publishing House, 2009. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (047.00.00)

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Ṣādiq Chūbak

Novelist, short story author, and satirical playwright Ṣādiq Chūbak (1916–1998) was born in Bushihr, Iran, and writes about people who have been broken or victimized by society and natural forces. Influenced by both Eastern and Western literature, Chūbak drew on classic epics in Persian poetry as well as the work of James Joyce (1882–1941) and William Faulkner (1897–1962). Among his most important novels are Chirāgh-i Ākhar (The Last Alms) and Sang-i Sabur (The Patient Stone), which is considered a masterpiece of modern Persian literature.

Ṣādiq Chūbak. چراغ آخر (The Last Alms). Tehran: Javidān Ilmi Printing House, 1966. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (048.00.00)

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Ṣamad Bihrangī

Ṣamad Bihrangī (1939–1967) born in Tabriz, Azerbaijan, was one of the leading twentieth-century Iranian short story writers and also recognized for his work as a translator, folklorist, and social critic. Bihrangī is well known for his children’s books, particularly Mahi Siah-i Kuchulu (The Little Black Fish). Bihrangī’s books often portray the lives of poor urban children and espouse such ideas as changing one’s circumstances by taking personal initiative. This book contains the full text of twenty-three short stories by Bihrangī, including The Little Black Fish.

Ṣamad Bihrangī. قصه‌هاى بهرنگ (The Stories of Bihrangī). Tehran: Nashr-i Sarāyish, 2005. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (050.00.00)

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Suhrāb Sepehri

Painter and poet Suhrāb Sepehri (1928–1980) born in Kashan, Iran, expressed mystical concepts of love through evocative imagery found in nature. Sepehri incorporates Buddhist, Sufi, and Western philosophical traditions in his free verse poetry. He embraced new forms as the means to express his thoughts and feelings in all his work. His poetry has been translated into several languages. The book on display is a new edition of Sepehri’s anthology Hasht kitāb (Eight Books).

Suhrāb Sepehri. هشت کتاب (Eight Books). Tehran, Iran: Payk-i Iran, 2010. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (049.00.00)

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Loiq Sheralī’s Kulliët

Loiq Sheralī (b. 1941) born in Tajikistan during the Soviet era (1924–1991) blends classical Persian poetry with modern Tajik nationalist themes. The influence of the masters of Persian poetry, namely Ferdowsi, Khayyam, and Rumi, are evident in his poetry. His collection of poems Rūḥ-i Rakhsh: gulchīn-i ashʻār (Rakhsh’s Spirit: Selection of Poems) and other significant works, which have been printed in Iran and Afghanistan, have helped to bring recognition to Tajik-Persian poetry. The book on display is a Tajik-Persian volume from his complete works, the Kulliët.

Loiq Sheralī. كليات (The Complete Works of Loiq Sheralī). Dushanbe, Tajikistan: Adib, 2008. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (051.00.00)

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Jalāl Al Aḥmad

Jalāl Al Aḥmad (1923–1969), a prominent Iranian writer, thinker, and a social and political critic, conducted research in the fields of sociology, anthropology, and dialectology and translated Western works into Persian. His political activism from early on tagged him as the unofficial spokesperson for the dissident intelligentsia of the 1950s. As a social critic, his works deal with themes such as the superstitious beliefs of the common people, the excesses of the clergy, and the intrusion of Western ideas into Iran's Shi`ite ideology. Al Aḥmad’s 1962 essay Gharbzadigi (Fascination with the West) addressed Iran’s social problems directly—a first in Iranian literature. He married the renowned Iranian novelist Sīmīn Dānishvar. This book is a recent edition of his novel The Cursing of the Land, originally published in 1967.

Jalāl Al Aḥmad. نفرین زمین (The Cursing of the Land). Tehran: Ghazal Publishing House 2008, Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (052.00.00)

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From This Avesta

Mahdī Akhavān S̲ālis̲ (1928–1990), pen name M. Omid, was born in Mashhad, Iran, and was a major pioneer of free verse Persian poetic style. As an intellectual during the 1953 CIA coup and the 1979 Iranian Revolution, he came into conflict with government censors. In his work Ākhar-i Shāhnāmah (The End of the Shahnameh), S̲ālis̲ examines contemporary socio-political problems in Iran in the context of Iran’s own ancient legends channeled through the poet Ferdowsi. Similarly in his work Az īn Avistā (From This Avesta), his criticism is voiced through the Avesta, the ancient Zoroastrian scriptures.

Mahdī Akhavān S̲ālis̲. از این اوستا (From This Avesta). Tehran: Zimistan Publishing House, 2010. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (053.00.00)

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Maḥmūd Dawlat‘ābādī

Maḥmūd Dawlat‘ābādī (b. 1940), born in a remote village near Sabzivar in northeastern Iran, is a celebrated writer, actor, and promoter of social and artistic freedom in contemporary Iran. His work is particularly noted for its use of rural, colloquial speech, which he elevates by drawing on the lyrical tradition of Persian poetry. Among his most important works is the novel series Kelidar, the tale of a Kurdish nomadic family told in ten books that took more than a decade to complete. This book is a recent publication of Dawlat‘ābādī’s conversations, articles, speeches, and literary criticism.

Maḥmūd Dawlat‘ābādī. قطره محال اندیش (A Drop of the Unthinkable). Tehran: Chishmah Publication House, 2004. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (054.00.00)

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My Uncle Napoleon

Īraj Pezeshkzad (b. 1928) born in Tehran, best known for his satirical novels and stories, is the author of the well-known novel Dā‘ī-i jān Nāpuli‘ūn (My Uncle Napoleon). Pezeshkzad served as a diplomat until the 1979 Iranian Revolution and subsequently left Iran to reside in France. My Uncle Napoleon earned him acclaim by Iranian national and international critics and was adapted as a highly successful television series in Iran. A social satire, the story takes place in a garden in Tehran at the onset of World War II where three families live under the tyranny of a paranoid patriarch nicknamed “Dear Uncle Napoleon.” The story became a cultural reference point and its characters national icons. The book has been translated into English and numerous other languages.

Īraj Pezeshkzad. دائی جان ناپلئون (My Uncle Napoleon). Tehran: Shabakah Yik, Sida va Sima, 1952. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (055.00.00)

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Nowruz is Not the Same Away from Kabul

Muḥammad Āṣif Sulṭān‘zādah (b. 1964) was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and writes novels and short stories, primarily in the Persian language. During the years of war in Afghanistan he moved to Pakistan and then to Iran in 1985. Sulṭān‘zādah has published several short stories in various literary journals. His book Dar gurīz gum mīʹshavīm (We Disappear in Flight), published in 2002 in Tehran, won praise and was followed by an anthology of short stories titled Asgar’gurīz (The Deserter). Sulṭān‘zādah has moved to Denmark where he continues to publish. The Library holds seven titles by the author, including Nowruz (Persian New Year) is Not the Same Away from Kabul.

Muḥammad Āṣif Sulṭān‘zādah. نوروز فقط در کابل باصفاست (Nowruz is Not the Same Away from Kabul). Tehran: Markaz-i Nashr-i Danishgahi, 2003. Near East Section, African and Middle Eastern Division, Library of Congress (075.00.00)

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