Translator: Naveed Noori
Narrator: Sean Antony Farmiloe
Published by l'Aleph on June 7, 2022
Genres: Classic, Horror
Length: 4 hrs 9 mins
Purchase at Bookshop.org or Audible
Add on Goodreads
Widely regarded as Sadegh Hedayat's masterpiece, The Blind Owl is the most important work of literature to come out of Iran in the past century. On the surface, this work seems to be a tale of doomed love, but with each minute basic facts become obscure and the listener soon realizes this book is much more than a love story. Although The Blind Owl has been compared to the works of Kafka, Rilke and Poe, this work defies categorization. Lescot's French translation made The Blind Owl world-famous, while D.P. Costello's English translation made it largely accessible. Sadly, this work has yet to find its way into the English pantheon of classics.
This 75th anniversary edition, translated by award-winning writer Naveed Noori and published in conjunction with the Hedayat Foundation, aims to change this and is notable for a number of firsts:
* The only translation endorsed by the Sadegh Hedayat Foundation
* The first translation to use the definitive Bombay edition (Hedayat's handwritten text)
* The only available English translation by a native Persian and English speaker
* The preface includes a detailed textual analysis of The Blind Owl
Finally, by largely preserving the spirit as well as the structure of Hedayat's writing, this edition brings the English listener into the world of Hedayat's The Blind Owl as never before. Extensive footnotes (explaining Persian words, phrases, and customs ignored in previous translations) provide deeper understanding of this work for both the causal listener and the serious student of literature.
The Blind Owl is unsettling and darkly romantic. It’s an Iranian classic and I only ran into it because I was looking for something by a South Asian writer, but it’s definitely worth reading.
The book has two distinct parts. The first one feels almost like a nightmare, but a calm one. It has an inevitability but not one that makes you scream. I chose not to use the word nightmare because no matter how macabre this first part is, it has a peaceful almost tranquil quality to it. Our narrator sees a beautiful woman who he falls in love, or at least lust, with. Then, he ends up killing her and the section becomes more and more disturbing.
Then we have a break. The second part presents an alternative story, maybe more realistic but our narrator is still not fully connected with reality. He tells us about his complicated family history and about how he is in love with a woman who tricked and humiliated him.
The Blind Owl is not difficult to read/ listen to, but it is loaded with symbolism and surreal vignettes. I’m sure I missed things, in part because don’t tend to analyze the books I read, but also because it is a culture I am not at all familiar with. I totally see the comparison with Poe. It’s that same understated horror, that descent into madness.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: