Simin Daneshvar, first Iranian female novelist who created masterpieces

Simin Daneshvar, was the first Iranian female novelist who created masterpieces, thus contributing greatly to the already rich Persian literature, such as her ‘Soo va Shoon’ (Vailing) immortal novel, that is translated into many languages and is read broadly by millions of people around the globe.

Novel writing in Western-type of late 19th-century style, when the Iranian Constitutional Revolution was in the process and the modernization movement was progressing, can be the cause for the emergence of the Persian language novel writing after the entry of modern printing machines to Iran, the establishment of the Iranian press, and the translation movement of the European novels that were initially mainly from French, and later also from Russian and English and other languages.

Modern Iranian novels began with Sadeq Hedayat’s ‘Boof-e Koor’ (The Blind Owl), and then continued with Sadeq Choobak’s ‘Sang-e Saboor’ (The Patient Friend) and Hushang Golshiri’s “Shazde Ehtejab (Prince Ehtejab), but Simin Daneshvar was the first women who in her novel ‘Soo va Shoon’ (Vailing) demolished the then-existing traditionally oppressed viewpoint about the Iranian women.

Zari, the main personality in her book, is a woman with her fears, who fights against her loneliness, and although she is at the beginning a timid, conservative woman turns into the hero of this adventurist novel. This kind of approach turned into a style in Iranian novel-writing, known as Iranian feminism. The Iranian female writers found this style as the best way to reflect their inner world, their loneliness, their pains, and their sorrows.
Life and studies

Simin Daneshvar was one of the first Iranian women who wrote professional novels in the Persian language. She was born on April 27th, 1921, in Shiraz. Her father was a medical doctor who had completed his studies in Germany and France and her mother was an artist and drawing teacher.
Therefore, she was raised in quite a learned and rich family.

Victoria Daneshvar, Simin’s sister, says about the childhood years of herself and Simin: We enjoyed a very fine childhood. Our parents were both intellectuals… When we were still little children, whenever the family had guests Simin used to recite various poems and I used to accompany her recitation by playing the violin. I used to hide behind the curtain of the guestroom and told my father: Daddy, ask me to come out of my hiding and play my musical instrument. Then I would come out to play my violin, Voo Voo…

Victoria Daneshvar also writes about Simin's enthusiastic love for poetry and rich Persian literature: She was quite intelligent and once she recited a piece of Hafez poems, she instantly learned it by heart. She could also recite Saadi by heart. Simin was the chief editor of the school’s newspaper and whenever she read an article before the students who had queued up before going to their classes everyone clapped for her enthusiastically.  

After finishing high school, majoring in Persian literature, Simin Daneshvar entered Tehran University's Literature College in the year 1941 and began writing articles for Radio Tehran, pen-named ‘Shrazi bi-Naam’ (Nameless Shirazi Citizen). Daneshvar continued her studies up to the Ph.D. level and wrote her dissertation under the title “Science of Euphemism and Beauty in Persian Literature up to 7th Century AH’ with assistant professors Fatemeh Sayyah and Badioz-Zaman Foruzanfar.

After defending her Ph.D. dissertation in the year 1951 Daneshvar got a scholarship from the US Stanford University in the linguistics field. In that university, she learned novel writing and playwriting with professors Wallace Earle Stegner (February 18, 1909 – April 13, 1993) and Nathaniel Philbrick (born June 11, 1956).
Simin married the Iranian internationally-renowned intellectual and writer Jalal Ale-Ahmad in the year 1951.
Executive activities

After completion of her studies in the euphemism field in America, this internationally renowned literary personality returned home and began teaching at Fine Arts College, and after a while, she became a full professor of the University of Tehran’s Faculty of Literature and Faculty of Human Sciences.

She was also the first head of the Syndicate of Iranian Authors after the victory of the Islamic Revolution.

Artistic and scientific activities

Daneshvar is among the creators of unique masterpieces in Persian literature. She published a collection of her short stories, titled ‘Aatash-e Khamoosh’ (The Flameless Fire) for the first time in 1948. Among her guides in writing stories, we can refer to Professor Fatemeh Sayyah, and internationally renowned author, Sadeq Hedayat.

Her acquaintance with Hedayat was a turning point in Simin’s life and can be called the meeting of two of Iran’s most famous literary figures in the world.
Her ‘Aatash-e Khamoosh’ (The Flameless Fire) collection includes 16 short stories that had already been published separately in some newspapers and magazines of the time. She had written them under the influence of William Sydney Porter (September 11, 1862 – June 5, 1910), better known by his pen name O. Henry, a famous American author.

One of the most read, best works of Daneshvar is her masterpiece ‘Soo va Shoon’ (Vailing), an immortal novel, that is translated into many languages and read broadly around the globe.

Daneshvar wrote that novel under the influence of an ancient Iranian tradition that includes symbols of being oppressed, campaign for liberty, martyrdom, and seeking justice for the shed blood of martyrs. The book is still reprinted half a century after its first publication, and according to many literary critics, it influenced many of the protest movements of her time.

The immortal book reflects the peak of literary maturation of this author, is translated into 15 languages in 5 continents, and is among the best seller of Iranian and world literary works.

The story of ‘Soo va Shoon’ takes place during World War II. Its main personality is a woman called Zari, and the story happens in Shiraz. As the author proceeds with her highly adventurist novel, she narrates the atmosphere of the Fars province region during that period. Many critics consider this novel as an opening chapter of a new style in modern Iranian novel writing.

The novel has a complete structure and can be the index for the genuineness of other novels from the strength point of the view.

This novel’s name has a historical background and is based on Iranian folkloric stories and is a reminder of the martyrdom of Siavosh, a legendary Iranian hero of goodness, whose story is narrated by Hakim Abolqassem Firdausi in his masterpiece, Shahnameh (The Letter of the Kings). Italian Iranologist Anna Vanzan translated Soo va Shoon into Italian only in only six months and the book was unveiled at Milan Book Fair.

Simin Daneshvar’s other novel, ‘Jazeere ye Sargardani’ (The Island of Helpless Wandering), which has been reprinted several times is about the last years of the Pahlavi era and the victory of the Islamic Revolution, which has attracted the attention of literary circles and critics.

The well-learned author’s other book, ‘Sareban-e Sargardan’ (The Wandering Camel Caravan Gide), one of her most loved books, showed that Daneshvar knows well the taste of her readers.

This privilege is more than anything thanks to her deep insight about the Iranians and the Iranian culture and civilization. Daneshvar reflects the personality and beliefs of the Iranians in the deepest possible way, in this second part of her trilogy. The 3rd book in this trilogy is titled ‘Kouh-e Sargardan’ (The Wandering Mountain), which is mainly about the promised savior.

Also in the year 1907, she wrote a story titled ‘Go Tell the King’ that is about Imam Ali (P) and his sufferings.

Simin Daneshvar was also quite a competent literary critic, whose works very well reflect the identity and mentality of the Iranian women.

Daneshvar cared much about realism in writing her stories and refrained from narrating abstract tales. Literary critics believe the high value of a good literary masterpiece is in addition to its high literary value in its historically influencing of the future generations and Simin’s works have this characteristic and are therefore among the masterpieces of Iranian literature.

In fact, one of the turning points in Daneshvar’s works is her focus on the status of the Iranian women’s social endeavors, which has kept her at the focus of attention of her fans.

Daneshvar has written 14 books, translated 20 books, and been involved in many research works.

Among her other works we can refer to ‘A City Like Heaven’, ‘Ask the Migrating Birds’, ‘Zen and Buddhism’, and ‘Autumn and Jalal’.

This literary lady’s translations are from such internationally renowned authors as Antoine Chekov, Rajban Khana, and George Bernard Shaw, including Shaw’s Enemies, and Chocolate Soldier, Alien Paton’s Vail O Homeland, Nathaniel Hawthorn’s Shame Brand, Sunny Honeymoon (Collection of short stories) of Ryunosuke Akutagawa, 1892 –1927), and…

Demise

This literary lady’s demise was following her suffering from an influenza disease on March 8, 2001, in Tehran and she was buried in Tehran's main graveyard, Behensht-e Zahra’s Artists Block.

News Code 192933

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