Who would have thought that a conference on Sadegh Hedayat could be enjoyable, interesting, informative and enlightening all at the same time. The finale of major world events for Hedayat's centenary took place in Oxford England last month. Scholars, speakers, Hedayat's relatives and friends as well as members of the public were present at the conference, from three continents. The two day conference took place at Oxford's St. Anthony College and was titled "The Wondrous World of Sadegh Hedayat" Iranian Writer, Critic, Intellectual. This conference was convened by Dr. Homa Katouzian (Oxford University Faculty of Oriental Studies) and was organized by Iran Heritage Foundation, St. Anthony's Middle East Center & Oriental Institute and University of Oxford.
The welcoming notes were presented by Eugene Rogen head of M.E. Center at St. Anthony's College, Farhad Hakimzadeh from IHF and Elahe Mir-Djalali of Roshan Cultural Heritage Foundation. This was followed by Dr. Katouzian's opening remarks on The Wondrous World of Sadegh Hedayat, a most interesting and informative speech.
One of the most interesting speeches that morning was by Mr. Behnam, former president of Farabi University on Modernity in Hedayat's work, in Persian.
I would like to add that each session was chaired by one of the guests at the conference and this in itself was quite interesting to observe . This became even more interesting after the speeches since there were about fifteen plus minutes discussion afterwards when the audience asked the panels, at times very interesting and mind mingling questions. These discussions were as informative and enlightening. Please note furthermore that the the speeches in Persian will be printed in a book which will be published in Iran and the English ones will be printed in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa & Middle East Journal later this year.
The afternoon session was divided into two. The first was addressed by Mashallah Ajoudani (Library of Iranian studies, London) on Hedayat's Nationalist Fiction in Persian and Prof. Mohammad Tavakoli-Targhi (Illinois State University) on Memory and Narrative Identify-Politics & Ideology in Hedayat's fiction, in English. Both speeches were addressed with great passion and emotion and almost everybody was stuck to their seat. the second session was addressed by Prof. Ali Asghar Hakabi (Azad University, Tehran) in English on Hedayat's Satire, Firoozeh Khazari (Princeton University) in Persian on Satire in Haji Agha, and finally by personal and family memories by Mr. Jahangir Hedayat (Hedayat Heritage, Tehran). The family anecdotes and memories were so engaging that nobody realized that the times had long passed. But then Mr. Shahidi the conference coordinator had to remind us that the guests were to attend the conference Reception where other guests from Oxford colleagues and residents of Oxford were to attend as well. This was very enjoyable and people mingled with each other and exchanged notes, views and ideas. there was a book stall where many books, posters and note-pad related to Hedayat, in Persian and English, were on display and could be purchased.
I must stop here and tell you all that the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Oxford is a lovely place to visit at any time but at this time the combination of tree blossoms and the lovely greenery all around under the golden sun had made the scenery almost breath-taking. Jayeh shoma hameh Khali.
The second day the morning was in two sessions. The first speaker of the first session was Ms. Freshet Sari (novelist, Tehran) in Persian on The blind Owl and individuality. This was followed by Shadab Vajdi (SOS, University Of London) in English on Hedayat as a scholar, and finally Prof. Nasrin Rahimieh (University Of Alberta) in English on Hedayat as a scholar which was most interesting and informative. The discussion after this session was one of the liveliest of the conference, although the speakers were rushed and their arranged time was cut by 10 minutes by the chair, without prior notice, in order to give more time for discussion purposes. However, this meant that two of the speakers were unable to finish their talk due to no fault of their own. The second session was opened by a speech by Prof. Micheal Beard (University of North Dakota) in English on Influence as debt- Western Influences in Hedayat's fiction which I found very informative and well presented. This was followed by Prof. Meghadai (Tehran University) in English on Blind Owl and the Sound and the Fury. Finally Ms. Marta Simidchieva (York University, Toronto) in English on The Blind Owl and the Persian Classics,. The final session that afternoon was opened by Prof. Sirous Shamisa (Allameh Tabatabaei University) in Persian on The Blind owl and Archetypes, and the final speech was by Dr. Houra Yavari (Columbia University) originally to be given in English but then Dr. Yavari was asked to present it in Persian almost at the last minutes which she did so with great effect. The speech was on Hedayat and Us-Split Selves in the Making. This was again for me one of the most informative and interesting of the speeches during the conference specially with the questions which were raised afterwards.
The Final and to me the Best part of the whole ceremony was the final Act in the late afternoon when we were delighted to enjoy the Piano Recital and Reading of Excerpts from Hedayat's work. The music was played by well known Iranian pianist Ms. Ariana Barkeshi (New York) and readers were Dr. Homa Katouzian, Mr. Hossein Shahidi (UNFEM, Afghanistan) and Ms. Roya Jahanbin (World University Services, London). Excerpts were read in Persian with great care and fantastic and professional- theatrical- performances by the three of them, and we heard several pieces including pieces from Bach and well known Iranian musician Mr. Mashayekhi. At the end everybody took pictures to add to the lovely memory of the conference. This was followed by a great dinner at Oxford new Persian restaurant- The Flame. the food was great and the husband & wife who run the place were very kind and friendly and he even sang a few songs for the guest. Well what can I say, except to only add again that jayeh shoma khalli khalli khali boud
Sadeq Hedayat: The Life and Legend of an Iranian Writer - by Homa Katouzian
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