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Sunday, January 3, 2016

*****The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat

This is an incomplete and unedited overview of The Blind Owl.  I have published it in this form because I do not know when or if I will get back to working on it soon. However, it is such a magnificent and important work of literature, I hope what information I do provide entices you to read this novel. Despite the fact it is a novella it warrants a minimum of two readings. I have read it once, hence my reluctance to complete and edit my scruffy notes at this time.

Sadegh Hedayat 1903-1951
  • Sadegh Hedayat  1903-1951
  • first published 1937
    • written in Persian
    • first printed in Bombay bearing the stamp, "Not for sale or publication in Iran"
    • 1941 - first appeared in Tehran as a serial in the weekly journal, Iran.
    • It was believed that The Blind Owl made its readers commit suicide.
    • This novel has been banned several times.
  • Translated by D.P. Costello
  • Introduction by Porochista Khakpour
  • psycho-fiction
  • Hedayat is considered the father of modern Iranian Literature
    • Committed suicide at age 48 while living in France.

Setting
  • city of Rey, now known as Tehran, Persia (now Iran)

Main Character* -  an unnamed pen-case artist who narrates the entire novel


Themes and Motifs (These should not be housed as one; please bear with me for now.)
  • death (esp by murder or suicide: i.e., narrator will give woman his poisoned wine to kill her, or narrator will drink it in order to kill himself  p. 63)
  • sexual desire
  • madness - a developing psychosis
  • repetition**
  • opposites: desire for sex vs. sexual repulsion, fear of death and desire for it
Symbols
  • owl
  • black eyes
  • cypress tree
  • jar/container form, as in an urn
  • smell of cucumber on especially a female's breath (as adult or child)

Quotes & Notes
  • This book opens with one of those fantastic and memorable first lines you do not easily forget: 
    • "There are sores which slowly erode the mind in solitude like a kind of canker."  (p. 17)
  • *Protagonist / narrator  - it is difficult to determine what are hallucinatory and what are real thoughts:
    • Is there one female who symbolizes all females - i.e., the desired woman = the unattainable wife. 
    • Likewise, are all or some of the portrayed men the narrator hallucinating- i.e., the butcher across the street = the one who butchered the girl, or his wife.
      • Simultaneously, is the narrator also the sinister hearse driver who must bury the girl.
      •  Is there a male nanny with his wife caring for him (the narrator), or is the nanny really his uncle, a person who cared for him in the past, or the narrator simply imagining someone taking care of his psychotic self. 
● Old men are always depicted as feeble with crazy laughter, women are seductress' but unattainable, so must die.
  • **"I write only for the benefit of my shadow cast on the wall," is an  oft repeated phrase throughout the novel.
  • The novel is broken up into two sections:
    • The first part is a sort of journey where the narrator, a painter of pen-cases, sets out to find a woman who haunts his mind, the same woman he paints on his pen-cases.
    • In the second section the narrator confesses his murder, revealing the background of the first section, as he is cared for by a Nanny and his wife.
  • There is a developing sense of madness that increases as the novel progresses.  
    • The narrator addresses his murderous confessions to the shadow on the wall which resembles an owl. 


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