Jamalzadeh and Sadeq Hedayat: Vanguards of Modern Persian Writing

Based on the personal idiosyncrasies of Jamalzadeh and Hedayat, the similarities and differences in their style and the nature of their interpersonal relationship, the author compares and contrasts the life and works of these two pioneering Iranian writers. He suggests that despite the many differences that separated them, mutual bonds of friendship and respect marked their disparate lives.

Jamalzadeh's life had little resemblance to Hedayat's quiet and uneventful existence. The former, had witnessed or experienced in the early stages of his life many of Iran's social and political ills, including despotism, injustice, religious prejudice and fanaticism, and disregard for human rights. Hence, his continued preoccupation with the idea of democracy and his early involvement in political activities and a campaign against foreign intervention in Iran's internal affairs. Hedayat, on the other hand, led a secluded and rather pampered life in Tehran. He was tutored by a French instructor and came to know about European culture and democratic institutions through a number of his relatives who had studied or traveled extensively in Europe.

In terms of their writings, while Hedayat mostly focuses on the existential aspects of life, Jamalzadeh is often preoccupied with life's concrete and material manifestations. Thus, whereas in Jamalzadeh's writings human despair takes on social and political connotations, in Hedayat's works it assumes an absolute and eternal sense. Moreover, they are particularly distinct in their opposition to religion. Hedayat is not only opposed to Islam but to all religions and ideologies which presume to have the exclusive right to guide and control man's life. Even his early fascination with Zoroastrianism was mostly due to the rising spirit of nationalism in Iran. Jamalzadeh, however, dislikes not the idea of religion but the manifestations of arbitrary and inhuman application of religious tenets by their zealous and bigoted interpreters and adherents. In a broader context, while Hedayat does not believe in life after death, Jamalzadeh, insists on his metaphysical beliefs. Ironically, Hedayat who dreaded frailty committed suicide at a relatively young age, while Jamalzadeh, 105 years old at his deathbed, still lamented the approaching end.

M. F. Farzaneh
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