Biographies: Central Asia and Iran

Prepared by
Iraj Bashiri

al-Afghani, Sayyid Jamal al-Din


Soviet Uzbek author, Aibek (Aibek is the pen name of Musa Tashmukhamedov), was born in Tashkent in 1904 into the family of a simple weaver. After completing the Tashkent Teacher's Training Course in 1925, he became a teacher. He graduated from the Leningrad Economics Institute in 1930 and completed his studies in Tashkent at the Central Asian State University.

Although Aibek's literary career as a poet starts in 1922, his first published work Emotions, about life in Soviet Uzbekistan, does not appear until 1926. His subsequent collections of verse--Torch (1932), Vendetta (1932), and Jure the Blacksmith all deal with an understanding of the traditional world so that its vestiges can be easily abandoned. In 1937, he published Navoi, account of the life of the famous 15th century poet Alisher Navoi and in 1943, he wrote Sacred Blood. This work, which deals with the Uzbeks' contribution during World War I and their role in the 1916 uprising against oppression, is one the most outstanding works of socialist realism in Uzbekistan. And during World War II, he wrote a number of poems including, "To All Men," "Victory is Ours," and "My Homeland" praising the efforts of the Soviet peoples.

Aibek's lasting contribution to Uzbek literature is his novel entitled Navoi.> (1945). In it, with historical accuracy, he describes the inner sentiments of the 15th century poet. The he follows the same line and, In 1948, writes Khamza, about the life and works of Khamza Khakimzada Niyazi, the founder of modern Uzbek literature. The lives of Uzbek farmers are described in his Shores of the Golden Valley (1950).

Like Sadriddin Aini of Tajikistan, Aibek wrote an account of his own childhood years and, appropriately, called it Childhood. (1963). Childhood, however, deals with more than just Aibek's life. It delves into Uzbek society at large, providing fascinating ethnographic details and information about the early days of the Soviet Union.

In addition to a poet, Aibek was a skillful translator from Russian into Uzbek. He has translated Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, Lermontov's Masquerade, andThe Demon. He has also successfully translated the works of Gorky and Belinsky.

Aibek died in 1968.

Aini, Sadriddin

Aitmatov, Chingiz

Al-i Ahmad, Jalal

Son of a Shi'ite clergyman, Jalal Al-i Ahmad was born in 1923 in Tehran. His early education consisted of the normal Iranian curriculum in the 1930s as well as study of the French and English languages; he used both these languages extensively later in translating major western works into Persian and in carrying out research into the sociology, anthropology, and dialectology of some of the remote areas of Iran. As a youth, Al-i Ahmad was actively involved in the Tudeh Party, especially between 1944 and 1948 before the Party was forced underground by the Pahlavi regime.

Between 1951 and 1953, Al-i Ahmad supported the nationalist government of Muhammad Musaddiq. After the fall of Musaddiq, however, he served as the unofficial spokesperson for the 1950s and 1960s dissident intelligentsia. As such he wrote short stories, novels, and essays and in the strongest critical format possible criticized the regime of the Shah, who had been reinstalled in Iran by the America's Central Intelligence Agency.

Al-i Ahmad's last years were devoted to the creation of a government in Iran that would return the country to true independence, self-sufficiency, and a long-awaited prosperity. However, he did not live long enough to see the fruit of his endeavors. Al-i Ahmad died in 1969; according to his wife, Simin Daneshvar, poisoned by the agents of the regime.

Between 1945 and 1962, Al-i Ahmad wrote five major collections of short stories, three novels, and an essay. The themes of the collections are diverse. Prominent among them, however, are the superstitious beliefs of the common people, recorded in their own language; excesses of the clergy in their exploitation of the visible aspects of the religion instead of devotion to the teachings and the dogma; and intrusion of western ideas into Iran's predominantly Shi'ite ideology. Al-i Ahmad's novella, The Headmaster, exposes the life of the Iranian educators of his time. It is not a portrait that one would want to present to the public but one that he, as a teacher, was fully familiar with and wanted his countrymen to become acquainted with. Only exposition of the ills of the system, he believed, can force people to seek a remedy for the malaise.

At first glance, the works of Al-i Ahmad, especially his characters, do not dazzle the reader. But once familiar with his sarcasm, cynicism, and humor one can hardly put his collections of short stories down. He writes, as Kamshad aptly says, with a conviction that is unique to him Ahmad Shamlu adores this very conviction in his "Anthem."

    Before being turned to ashes
      by the wrath of the thunderbolt,
         he had forced the steer of the tempest
              to kneel before his might.

    To test
      the faith of old
         he had worn out his teeth
             on the locks of ancient gates.
         On the most out-of-the way paths
              he struggled,
         an unexpected passer-by
         whose voice every thicket and bridge

Al-i Ahmad's 1962 essay called "Weststruckness" or "Fascination with the West" is even more critical of the regime. Addressing Iran's mounting social problems directly for the first time in Iranian literature, "Weststruckness" takes western intrusion into Iran's traditional Islamic educational system to task. Teaching about the various ways to serve a hot dog to students who have never seen a hot dog, Al-i Ahmad says, is a waste of time for both the teacher and his wards.

In addition to his literary activities, Al-i Ahmad contributed to the understanding of sociological and cultural aspects of far-off regions of Iran such as Awrazan and the Kharg Island. His research, even though he was neither a trained sociologist or a cultural studies expert, leads the way to a better understanding of those regions of Iran.

Finally, Al-i Ahmad has translated a number of important works from French into Persian. These include Dostoevsky's The Gambler, Camus's L'Etranger, and Sartre's Les Mains Sales.

See also:
The China Vase

Auezov, Mukhtar

Mukhtar Auezov, a prominent Soviet Kazakh author was born in 1897 into the family of a nomadic tribe leader, settled in the village of Chingistan (former Chingis volost of Semiplatinsk Region). Although he spent the early years of his life as a nomad in an aul,with his grandfather Auez's help, he learned to read and write. Furthermore, since his grandfather happened to be a friend of the Kazakh poet and enlightener Abai Kunanbaev, he found access to the manuscripts of Abai's verses and used them as a textbook. After learning a rudimentary amount of knowledge from his grandfather, he attended a Russian five-year school in the city. He graduated from the Semiplatinsk Teacher's Seminary in 1919 and, in 1922, from Leningrad State University.

Auezov's plays (more than twenty in number) reflect the different stages of the development of socialism in Kazakhstan. The last twenty years of his life, however, were devoted to two novels about the life and works of the founder of Kazakh literature Abai Kunanbaev. The are called, (Abai and The Path of Abai). The project required a great deal of research, which Auezov willingly undertook. While researching Abai's life, he also coauthored the tragedy with Leonid Sobolev. The tragedy deals with the final years of Abai's life.

Auezov's other dramatic contributions include Nightime Peals (about the 1916 uprising in Kazakhstan), The Hour of Trial and The Guard of Honor. This latter, coauthored with Aljappar Abishev deals with the Soviets' heroic efforts during World War II, especailly Panfilov's 8th Guard Division.

Other sets of notes left by Auezov include those dealing with his travels in India as well as his vigin-land ketches which deal with collectivization.

Auezov translated Gogol's Inspector General, Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, and Pogodin's Aristocrats into Kazakh.

Mukhtar Auezov died in 1961.

Behrangi, Samad

Chubak, Sadeq

Donish, Ahmad

Danishvar, Simin

Simin Daneshvar was born to the family of a physician in Shiraz, Iran, in 1921. She grew up in Shiraz and received her early education there. In 1942 the family moved to Tehran where Simin worked for Radio Tehran and studied Persian literature at Tehran University. In 1948, she became the first Iranian woman to publish a collection of short stories. Called "Atash-i Khamush" (Extinguished Fire), the collection was prepared in tandem with her dissertation, "Beauty as Treated in Persian Literature," which was approved in 1949.

In 1950, Daneshvar married the well-known Iranian short story writer and novelist Jalal Al-i Ahmad and, in 1952, she traveled to the United States as a Fullbright Fellow working on creative writing at Stanford University. When she returned to Iran, she joined the faculty of Tehran University teaching Iranian art history.

As author and translator, Daneshvar writes sensitively about the Iranian woman and her life. Daneshvar's most successful work Savushun (The Mourners), a novel about settled and tribal life in and around her hometown of Shiraz, was published in 1969. A best-seller of all Persian novels, it has undergone at least thirteen reprints. She has also contributed to Sukhan and Alifba as well as translated some of the works of Shaw, Chekhov, Moravia, Hawthorn, Saroyan, and Albe Schnitzler. "A Land Like Paradise" (shahri chun bihisht) is the lead story of a collection she published in 1962.

Atash-i Khamush (Extinguished Fire), 1948
Shahri Chun Bihisht (A Land Like Paradise), 1961
Be Ki Salam Kunam (Whom Can I Greet?), 1980
Savushun (The Mourners), 1969
Jazirai Sargardani (Island of Bewilderment), (in preparation)

Enver Pasha

Faqiri, Amin

Firdowsi, Abu al-Qasim

Gulistan, Ibrahim

Ibrahim Gulistan was born in Shiraz in 1922 into a relatively prominent clerical family. His early education in Shiraz included the French language. He later learned English on his own by listening to the BBC and the American Armed Forces broadcasts. Throughout his career, he used his knowledge of these languages in translating some important peices from western literatures into Persian and in accessing information on western life and culture otherwise outside his reach.

Like Jalal Al-i Ahmad, until 1948, when the Party was forced under ground by the Pahlavi regime, Gulistan was a member of the Tudeh Party. He resigned from the Party at that time and, thereafter, did not participated in its clandestine activities. His contribution to the work of the Party was the translation of two works by Lenin and Stalin.

At about the same time, Gulistan graduated from Tehran University's Faculty of Law and moved to the city of Abadan. There he wrote his first collection of short stories entitled, "Azar, the Last Month of Autumn." In writing, he made an effort to divorce his work from the climate of Hedayat's stories. Instead, he emulated the works of Hemingway, Faulkner, and Henry James.

In addition to literature, from his early days in Shiraz, Gulistan was attracted to motion pictures. Later on in life he used this talent as a freelance photographer first and as a documentary producer later. As a result, in the 1950s, he produced several important documentaries and even an epoch-making feature. These include his "Fire," "The Wave, the Coral, the Rock," and "Marlik Hills."

In 1958, following Sadiq Chubak's advice, Gulistan employed Forough Farrukhzad as an assistant in his studio. Although a married man, Gulistan and Farrukhzad fell in love. Subsequently, he set Farrukhzad up in an appartment in North Tehran and took her, along with his wife, to social events and parties.

A firm, disciplined and confident man, Gulistan helped Farrukhzad realize her potential as a poet and as a film maker. "Courtship" (1960), produced for the National Canadian Film Corporation, is a product of their joint endeavor. They also collaborated in the making of The Mudbrick and the Mirror in 1962. Farrukhzad died in 1967, in a car accident. But Gulistan went on to write Tide and the Moon (1969) and The Secrets of the Treasures of the Haunted Valley (1974).

In addition to a publisher, cimematographer, and short-story writer, Gulistan is a skillful translator. He has translated The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as well as several of Hemingway's stories. "Carrousel" (charkh-u falak) was published in his collection of short stories entitled, The Stream, the Wall, and the Thirsty (juyo divaro teshnah), Tehran, 1967.

Hedayat, Sadeq

Jamalzadeh, Muhammad Ali

Kerbabaev, Berdy

Berdy Kerbabaev was born in 1894 into a peasant family of Kouki-Zereng of the Tejen Region. He received a traditional schooling at the village and later at the Bukhara schools. In 1917, he attended the Leningrad Institute of Oriental Studies. His literary career begins in 1923 with the publication of a series of satirical verses on the issues of the day. Kerbabaev contributed to the development of Turkmen literature with his collection of verses entitled, The World of a Maiden (1927), Moving Towards the New Life (1928), and Amu Darya (1931). His other contributions include Reality (1931), the first book of Turkmen essays and short stories the novellas Bairam (1934) and Batyr (1935).

Kerbabaev's works criticize the traditiona Islamic ways of Turkmen society, promote the emancipation of women so that they can take an active part alongside men in the creation of the new socialist system.

Kerbabaev's novella entitled Kurban Durdy (1942), his poems entitled Ailar (1943), and a libretto called Abadan (1943) were all published during World War II. His novel called Nrbitdag (1957), about the lives of Turkmen oil workers, however, is his most important contribution to the developement of fiction in Turkmenistan.

Kerbabaev is well known for the stories he has written for children. These include At the Border (1955), Batyr (1957), and the novella entitled The Merry Japbacks (1967). This latter, based on a local folktale, deals with the escapades of four mischievous brothers.

Like Abai Kunanbaev of Kazakhstan, Kerbabaev made an attempt to familiarize Turkmen readers of the classical works of Russian and Soviet authors. To this end, he translated such works as Tolstoy's Haji Murat and Anna Karenina, Gorky's Mother and Sholokhov's Virgin Soil Upturned. He has also translated Pushkin's poems, Krylov's fables, and the verses of the Tatar poet Musa Jalil.

Kerbabaev's last major contribution was his A Drop of Water, a Nugget of Gold. Kerbabaev died in 1974.


Mukhammadiev, Fazliddin

Qarib, Shapur

Shapur Qarib is an Iranian short story writer and film director. He has published two volumes of short stories and directed a number of films including Mamal-i Amrikai (Americanized Mamal), Begzar Zendegi Konam (Let Me Live, 1986), a post-revolutionary social drama, and Khorus (The Cockfighters, 1973). He has published extensively in Arash, Payam-i Nuvin, and Jung. Like Nasser Taghvai, Qarib's stories deal with life in the southern regions of Iran. "The Warm South" was published in Jung in 1967. His first collection of short stories was published in Tehran in 1960. Entitled Asr-i Pa'iz (The Autumn Evening), it includes the following stories:

"Hassan Yak Gush" ("One-Eared Hassan")
"Asr-i Pa'iz" ("The Autumn Evening")
"Hama-i Ittifoqot dar Javani Miuftad" ("All Events Are Youth Oriented")
"Mard-i bi Setareh" (Man With No Star")
"Setareha-i ki Aqa'i Miforushand" ("Status Peddling Star")
"Akharin Bud" ("That Was the Last One")
Qarib's second collection of short stories was published in Tehran, in 1963, by Murvarid Publishers. Entitled Gunbad-i Halabi (The Tin Dome), it includes the following stories: "Gunbad-i Halabi" ("The Tin Dome")
"Tale-i Tala'i" ("The Golden Trap")
"Goraz" ("The Boar")
"Qahvekhane-i Kenar-i Jaddeh" ("The Teahouse Along the Highway")
"Ozra Landukah" ("Tall Ozra")

Taghvai , Nasir

Nasser Taghvai was born in Abadan, Iran, in 1941. He is a distinguished film director and screenwriter. In 1973, he was nominated best director. His stories, which primarily deal with life in the southern villages of Iran, were published in Arash and Jung. "Aqa Julu" was originally published in Arash in 1964. Taghvai's film contributions are the following:

"Kaghaz-e bikhat" (Lineless Paper, 2002)
"Ghesseha-i kish" (Kish Tales, 1999)
"Pish - Palm Leaf" (1997)
"Iran, Ay Iran" (Oh, Iran, 1989)
"Nakhoda Khorshid (Navigator Sun, 1986)
"Dai Jan Napelon" (Uncle Napoleon, 1976)
"Nefrin" (Curse, 1973)
"Aramesh dar Hozur Deegaran" (Calm in Company of Others, 1973)
"Sadegh Korde" (Sadeq the Kurd, 1972)
"Palm Tree" (Nakhl, 1969)
"Bad-e Jen" (The Jinn Wind, 1969)

Ay Iran (Oh, Iran) is the story of a sergeant who is led by the villagers to believe that he has been promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He asks the village teacher to arrange for a celebration. The teacher refuses and is jailed. Eventually the villagers get around to holding the fake celebration. Then, when the promotion is about to be announced, a messenger arrives with the news that the Shah has fled the country.

Tursun, Sattor

Tajik author Sattor Tursunov, also referred to as Sattor Tursun, was born into a family of farmers in the village of Posurkhi of Baisun district, Surkhon Dariya, Uzbekistan, on February 15, 1946. He joined the CPSU in 1975.

Tursunov graduated from Tajikistan State University with a degree in Arabic in 1970. In the same year, he worked as the Director of feature stories and propaganda at Sadoi Sharq. The themes of Tursunov's stories are centered on the life of Tajikistan's youth during the war and in peace time. The lives of collective farmers and laborers of Tajikistan are of special interest to him.

Tursun began writing during his school years. His first short story in 1967 was entitled "Dar Roh" ("On the Road"). His first collection of short stories, Dilli Garm (Warm Heart), was published in 1971. His other contributions include "Sukuti Qullaho" ("Silence at the Peaks," 1974); "Kamoni Rustam" ("Rustam's Bow," 1976); "Paivand" ("Connection," 1976); "Az Subh to Shom" ("From the Morning Until Night," 1979); "Barf Ham Miguzarad" ("The Snow, Too, Will Pass," 1983); "Zindagi dar Domani Talhoi Surkh" ("Life on the Slopes of Red Hills," 1983); and others.

Tursunov became a member of the Union of Writers of Soviet Union in 1972. He received the Honorary Order of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of Tajikistan.

Sattor Tursun was born to a family of collective farmers in 1946. In 1973 he graduated from the University of Tajikistan with a degree in Oriental Languages. For a while he was the editor of the literary magazine Sadoi Sharq or The Voice of the Orient. Although Tursun began writing during his school years, his first short story, "On the Road," did not appear until 1967. Since then he has written a number of books, novellas, and short stories dealing with the life of his contemporaries. The collective farmers and workers of Tajikistan populate Tursun's stories.

Ulughzoda Sotim

Top of the page

Home | Courses