New Lecture Theatre, St. Antony's College, Middle East Centre, 68 Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6JF.  

28-29 March 2003.

Conference Convenor
Homa Katouzian.

Organised by
The Iran Heritage Foundation ,
Oxford University Oriental Institute, and
St. Antony’s College, Oxford University.

Supported by
British Academy,
Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, and
Awards for All.

Sadeq Hedayat was born in February 1903 in Tehran and committed suicide in Paris in 1951.  He is the author of The Blind Owl, the most famous Persian novel both in Iran and in Europe and America. Many of his short stories are in a critical realist style and are regarded as amongst some of the best written in 20th century Iran.  But his most original contribution was the use of modernist, more often surrealist, techniques in Persian fiction. Thus, he was not only a great writer, but also the founder of modernism in Persian fiction as well.

Yet both Hedayat’s life and his death came to symbolise much more than leading writers would normally claim. His personality and psychological moods, his intellectual flare, his cultural values, his social rebelliousness towards virtually every established order in society including that of the opposition, and, ultimately, his sense of alienation from existence itself, placed him in a unique position among modern Iranian intellectuals. He emerged as an embodiment of the most sophisticated – but also the least patient and most radical – social and cultural Europeanism of his time. He still towers over modern Persian fiction. And he will remain a highly controversial figure so long as the clash of the modern and the traditional, the Persian and the European, and the religious and the secular, has not led to a synthesis and a consensus.

The centenary conference will serve several purposes, the most obvious being to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Hedayat’s birth.  It will bring together leading critics and scholars of Persian literature from Iran, Europe and the United States to discuss different aspects of Hedayat’s life, work and legacy: The social and literary environment in which he grew up, the turbulent years after the Constitutional Revolution, which at the same time saw the blossoming of modern and later modernist Persian literature both in prose and poetry, followed by the lull of the 1930s and war and disruption in the 40s; his important contribution to the development of the modern Persian short story; his realist fiction about the lives of the traditional urban classes; his verbal and dramatic satire; his introduction of modernist fiction to Persian literature, and his role in the establishment of the simple and unblemished prose in fictional as well as formal writing.  Thus, the conference will incidentally discuss the social, political, cultural as well as literary developments in Iran in the first half of the 20th century, a process which, in terms of Hedayat’s life, began with the Constitutional Revolution and ended with the nationalisation of Iranian oil, started with Dehkhoda and Jamalzadeh and ended with Hedayat’s own life.


A selection of the papers presented at the conference will be published subsequently in a volume to be edited by Homa Katouzian.

Registration Fee
25 Pounds, 15 Pounds concessions.

Enquiries, 020 7493 4766.




Copyright © 2003 Iran Heritage Foundation. All rights reserved.
Charity Number 1001785.