Thoughts on the Imagery of Persian Literature

In a comparative survey, the article discusses the subject of imagery in literature and contrasts the long tradition of European scholars and literary critics in their interpretive studies of literary imagery with a dearth of similar scholarship in Iran. The main reason for this contrast, the author suggests, is the availability of literary evidence and source material in Europe and lack of such basic data in the Iranian literary and historical heritage. Thus, whether Islamic prohibition of representational art had any effect on the development of imagery in Persian literature continues to invite, according to the author, contradictory speculation which in most part is devoid of substantial historical evidence.

Basing his analysis on two of Nizami’s celebrated works, Khsrow va Shirin and Haft Peykar on the one hand, and Hedayat’s Buf-e Kur [The Blind Owl], on the other, the author attempts to compare one of Iran’s major classical poets with one of its celebrated contemporary writers in terms of their use of imagery. Nizami, the author claims, focuses more on the physical, rather than moral, attributes of his characters. He employs imagery not only to highlight the sheer physical beauty of his subjects but also as an expression of the most delicate of the narrator’s inner feelings.

According to the author, in Iran’s modern literature, Hedayat’s celebrated work, The Blind Owl, represents the author’s intense preoccupation with imagery. Indeed, images dominate almost every passage of the narrative. However, while Nizami’s imagery bespeaks of beauty, love and vitality, Hedayat’s represents decay, disintegration and death. Furthermore, Hedayat’s imagery also provides some clues about his fascination with a number of modern European philosophers on the one hand, and his preoccupation with man’s increasing sense of fear and loneliness in the modern world.

Azin Hossein Zadeh
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