A Brief Note on the Life of Parviz Natel Khanlari

By Iraj Bashiri

Copyright Iraj Bashiri, 2004

Parviz Natel Khanlari was born in Tehran in 1914. He was the son of a government official from the Natel Nur region of Mazandaran. Khanlari graduated from the University of Tehran with a doctorate degree in Persian literature and, for a time thereafter, he taught in the schools of Gilan and later at the University of Tehran. In 1949, while keeping his position at Tehran University, he attended Paris University and studied linguistics. He also traveled to Tajikistan (1956) and India (1978).

Khanlari's contributions fall into several categories. First and foremost, he held some of the highest positions in the Iranian government in the 1960's through the late 1970's. Early in his career, he was the Governor of Azerbaijan Province. Later on, he served first as the Deputy Prime Minister and later as the Minister of Education of Iran. He served as the representative of Mazandaran in four sessions of the Iranian Parliament. He was also the Director of the Shahname Foundation and of the Iranian Cultural Foundation. His efforts were instrumental in the establishment and operation of the Iran Academy of Arts and Literature of Iran, the Franklin Institute, and other similar institutions.

Khanlari's early works consisted of both prose and poetry. His first contribution appeared in Iqdam in 1931. This was followed by research in major studies in Persian poetics, linguistics, and the history of Iran both before and after the Islamic invasion. In 1932, he translated Dukhtari Sarvan from French. Like his study of poetics and linguistics, this too led to a series of wonderful and needed translations of European works into Persian. These include translations from the works of Pushkin, Rilke, Arthur A. Pope, and others.

Probably the most unique and lasting contribution of Khanlari is his editorship of Sukhan, a monthly to which many major figures of Iranian culture and literature of his time contributed. His editorship, which lasted, with some interruption, for some 35 years (1944-1979) has provided the scholars in Iranian studies a most useful tool for the study of aspects of the Iranian scene. The publication of the monthly came to an end in 1979.

Natel Khanlari is distinguished for the simplicity of his style. He did not follow the traditionalists nor did he advocate the new. Indeed, his approach accommodated the entire spectrum of creativity and expression in Persian literature. His Oqob (eagle), reproduced below with a translation by this author, is an example of his achievements in this vein.

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Khanlari was identified with the Pahlavi regime. Labeled a plunderer of Iran's wealth and an accomplice of Satan, he was imprisoned for four months. Sick and poor, he died in the same year that he was released from prison, 1991. He was 77 years old.

The Eagle
Parviz Natel Khanlari
Translated by
Iraj Bashiri
Copyright, Bashiri 2000

 Click here for the Farsi text

Dedicated to the memory of Sadeq Hedayat

"It is related that the crow lives three hundred
years and more...while the eagle's life span is
but thirty years."
                             From Khavas al-Haivan
Sadness filled the eagle's soul and heart,
When his youthful days began to depart.

The end was approaching fast, he saw,
With only sunsets remaining to draw.

Leaving this world full of desire,
To another world he must retire.

The incurable demanded quick cure,
A medicine at once fresh and pure.

Early one morn he took to flight,
To end, for good, the mortals' plight.

Alarmed, the flock avoiding capture,
Ran here and yon, devoid of rapture.

Fearful of the enemy, the shepherd,
Sought safety for the lamb and the herd,

Among the brush, the partridge hid,
Into a deep hole, the snake slid.

Stopped in his track the deer, then ran,
Leaving a line of dust, thin and tan.

The hunter though, elsewhere bound,
Allowed the game to roam the ground.

Mortals are destined to one day perish,
Sweetness of life to no longer cherish.
A black crow, a filthy, ill-formed pest,
On that vast plane had made his nest.

A survivor of kids, the rocks they throw,
He lived the monotonous life of a crow.

Beyond reckoning his number of years,
Dead matter and carrion his daily fares.
Spotting the crow, down flew the mighty king,
His complaint to the pesky bird to bring.

"Much maligned fellow, respectfully I seek,
Your wise counsel, do not be meek.

A solution true if offered for my pain,
My regal reach would determine your gain."

"We are but slaves," said the crow, "of old,
To carry your orders, with honors untold.

Ready at your command to play my role,
Sacrifice for you, my self, body, and soul.

Life sacrificed for you, I have been taught.
Is all there is, no more exists to be sought."
Outwardly this but, within he thought,
'In the eagle's claws, I must not be caught.

Need has made the mighty meek and tame,
Am I not to him but a feckless game?

If suddenly riled or slightly scuffed,
Like a candle, my life will be snuffed.

Ill-founded friendship begets ill-founded love,
Ill-placed discretion turns me into a dove.'

Having made his decision, the cautious crow,
sought distance from the eagle, a stone’s throw.

Thus said the eagle, depressed and torn,
My life's but a tiny bubble, air borne.

Swift on my wings I am, for sure,
But unlike Time, I do not endure.

While I traverse about hill and dale,
Time keeps me snug on its scale.

To keep alive, we foster an iron will,
Death's arrives and our options are nil.

Being magnificent, of noble birth, and great,
Why has my life such a poor rate;

While you, ugly, ill-shaped, and rife,
Should be blessed with a lengthy life?

My late father heard his father say,
About an ugly crow, living down his way.

That using all the tricks in the book,
Had escaped his sharp claws, the crook.

My father, too, pursued the hunt and lost,
Unsuccessful though, he paid a heavy cost.

On his death bed, he did me address,
As you perched on the bough sans finesse,

With regret he intoned, in a trembling voice,
There it goes, that dirty bird of my choice.

My life, too, is over, like the evening sun,
You, however, flourish, starting a new run.

What capital do you draw on, what is the rub?
Let me in on your secret! Help me join your club!"

"Pledge," said the crow, "that you will,
Follow my example, seeking no frill.

Your life is brief by other design,
Longevity, too, by design is mine.

You roam the heights, never reach below,
What has gained you, that upward flow?

My father, over three hundred, when he passed,
A great deal of earthly knowledge had amassed.

He imagined the winds differently than do you,
And oft discussed them with feelings true.

The winds that roam the earth, he used to say,
Are harmless, as harmless as the sun's ray.

Beyond the clouds, the harmful winds dwell
Lethal winds, sounding a bird's death knell.

The winds that reside at the highest place,
Eliminate life, without leaving a trace.

Our longevity, father said, is basically due,
To the low levels, the unique life we pursue.

We incline towards the base for a long life,
Away from the heights, the abode of strife.

Carrion has a special benefit, I should add,
It elongates life, and I don't mean by a tad.

Dead and putrid matter, be absolutely sure,
Are for your malady, the most effective cure.

Abandon flight to your normal height,
Forget capturing birds left and right.

Perch on the gutter, a delightful place,
Occupy corners of yards or such space.

This neighborhood I know well, to and fro
I am, after all, a well-known, local crow.

There is a garden, behind it my house,
Therein lies, if you will, cheese for the mouse.

A tablecloth brimming with food and drink,
Repasts from every clime that you can think."

The place about which the crow eloquently talked,
Was a carrion pit, of dead matter over stocked.

Its stench spread over the plane, far and wide,
Infested with flies and bees away from the tide.

A detestation that caused the soul to cringe,
An atmosphere that made the eyes sear and singe.

Together they arrived at the destined place,
The crow deemed it a feast worthy of grace.

'This feast so delicious,' thought the proud crow,
'Fills my guest with utmost warmth and glow.

Thank God that I was not born poor,
An outcast, as it were, a destitute moor.'

Encouraged thus, he picked a carcass and ate,
Teaching the eagle the manner and the rate.

With a lifetime spent in flight, free from care,
In the firmament, hunting heavenly fare.

Viewing the clouds spread majestically below,
Ruling the animal kingdom, the fast and the slow.

The splendid bird of many a victorious trip,
The eagle with the world in his mighty grip.

The hunter of partridge, lark, and pheasant,
Permanent resident of the air most pleasant.

Had now fallen so deeply into disgrace,
That a filthy crow must set for him the pace.

His heart and soul were no longer at bliss,
Like a dying patient approaching the abyss.

He felt faint, his head began to swim,
He closed his eyes as his world went dim.

Recalling the grandeur that the heights command,
The glory, the beauty, and the love of kind.

The charisma, the liberty, and the victorious ways,
Offered him by heights on his glorious days.

He opened his eyes wide only to see,
Such magnificence thereabouts not to be.

There was baseness, misery, and woe,
With fear and hatred going toe in toe.

Flapping his wings, he rose above the scene,
"Forgive me, friend, for being so keen.

Live long, eat well, and grow, if you wish,
On carrion and dead matter and putrid fish.

This delicious-looking fare I’d rather pass,
As I have passed to the animals the grass.

Death, immediate, in the firmament today,
Is worth a hundred lives enmeshed in decay."
He then rose into the air, gained altitude, on and on,
With the crow watching in amazement, there upon.

He reached his own abode, passed even that,
To the abode of light, where the firmament's at.

He became a point that had existed a while,
Then turned into a dot that was not servile.

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