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Literature / The Blind Owl

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There are sores which slowly erode the mind in solitude like a kind of canker.

The Blind Owl (Buf-e Kur) is a Persian novella written in 1937 by Iranian elite, Sadeq Hedayat. Conceived as a personal tale for Hedayat's social circle, it became on of the most appraised literature of 20th century Iran. Written in Mumbay, it infuses Indian and Iranian mythus and icons, and is generally regarded as an homage to Pre-Islamic Iran (like most of Hedayat's books). This book was written during rise of the Nazi ideology and anti-Semiticism (although Iranians hated the other Semitic group, Arabs who destroyed their immaculate culture with Islam) by Iranian elite. In fact, this novella was written two years after Persia, as per Nazi Germany's suggestion, changed its international name to what Iranic people referred to their country, which means Land of Aryans.


The Blind Owl is comprised of two parts. It starts in the modern day, when a Reclusive Artist who draws image of a girl dancing for an old man who's sitting under a pine tree on stuff for a living, is suddenly greeted by his uncle who's coming back from India. When he goes to fetch his guest a bottle of wine, he finds the image of his stock drawing relived outside of his window. Later he's visited by a mysterious female figure, which he thinks of an angel, who dies on his bed. After he buries her, desperate, he starts writing.

This is where the second part starts. The man he's writing about becomes the narrator of the story. He lives during the reign of Islamic World, in one of the biggest and ravishing cities of Iran, Ray. But his life is miserable. The second narrator is married to his cousin, which is referred to as "whore" throughout the book, because she is a whore who sleeps with everyone, even the ugly, old man who sells "junk" in front of his home. Most of the second part is about how screwed up the narrator's life is, and how his life-long crush, his cousin, has turned out to be a whore. He falls sick, and after a while, he decides to murder his wife. Before doing that, he looks at his shadow reflected on the wall, which resembles a blind owl.


The Blind Owl provides example of the following tropes:

  • Author Appeal: Lots and lots of reference to Indian mythology, as the book was written when Hedayat was learning Sanskrit, a language closely related to Persian in India. Also a lot of hatred inflicted on Islam and Arabs in general, as Hedayat was an established atheist.
  • Axe-Crazy: The second narrator, who decides to kill his promiscuous wife.
  • Cultural Cringe: "the junk-selling old man" is embodiment of Iranian culture after the Islamic conquest, which Hedayat hates. He reads Quran on the street for money, and one of his items is rat trap, referring to "rat-eating Arabs".
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Hedayat's obsession with Indian culture is evident in this book. Also not much of a "foreign" culture, but there are a lot of references to Iranian culture during the Sassanid era.
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  • You Are What You Hate: At the end, the second narrator takes a look at the mirror and realizes he's became the "junk-selling old man".

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