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The 5th Sadegh Hedayat Literary Award

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran


Sadegh Hedayat is in my opinion the most important modern Iranian writer, an author who is read by both old and young, and by past, present and future generations.

Hedayat Award

It was an absolute delight, therefore, to be invited to the Fifth Annual Sadegh Hedayat Award at the Khaneh Honarmandan (Artists Forum) which has been organized by the relentless and continuous efforts of Mr. Jahangir Hedayat, the nephew of Sadegh Hedayat, who as the head of the Hedayat Office in Tehran has made an enormous contribution to promoting Sadegh Hedayat’s work, both inside and outside Iran.  He has personally helped many scholars around the world, in person or via correspondence, with his great knowledge and library of Sadegh Hedayat’s literary works.


Mr. Jahangir Hedayat


We should all be grateful to Mr. Jahangir Hedayat since it was through his immense and tireless efforts five years ago, to mark the centenary of Hedayat’s birth, he helped to publish a collection of paintings, portraits and photos from the family collection for the public at large, as well as setting up this award.  Mr. Jahangir Hedayat is a good citizen who does great good for all and may people and historians remember this tireless kind gentleman.



Each year the Sadegh Hedayat Literary Award is organized by the Hedayat Office and Sokhan internet website.  The competition for the award is now very well known and very well respected.  The aim of this award is to encourage young writers to write and to have the chance to take part in a respected literary contest.


The competition is for all Persian-speaking people. So writers of Persian from other countries such as Tajikistan and Afghanistan can take part in the competition as well.  A writer can submit one unpublished short story which should be not less than 1,000 or more than 4,000 words.  The story must not have been published in any book, journal or internet site or have been submitted for another award. 



The award ceremony this year was held on 22nd February, as usual around the week of Sadegh Hedayat’s birthday (28th Bahman - 17th Feb).  This year the judges were the well known literary figures, Mr. Media Kashigar, Mr Kaveh Mirabassi and Mr Hossein Ghadimi who was also the chair.  The award this year attracted 650 entries.


Mr. Masoud Hedayat


Mrs Shideh Hedayat (wife of Jahangir Hedayatand son Sadegh Hedayat


The master of ceremonies was the well known TV presenter Mrs Ehteram Borouman who welcomed all with a few lines of Hedayat’s works.  Among the audience were Mrs Simin Behbahani, Mr and Mrs Jahangir Hedayat and their son Sadegh, other Hedayat family members and  the head of the Hedayat family Mr Masoud Hedayat, Mr and Mrs Cheltan, Mrs Nahid Tavasoli  and many other well known names in literature and lovers of it and some of those who had part taken in the competition.



Simin Behbahani




The first speaker was Dr Kashef who spoke on the subject of the Blind Owl and Modernism.  I found his speech most enlightening and there were many interesting points.  Dr Kashef stated that Hedayat reached the end of the line twice in his literary life.  The first time, in his work the Blind Owl (1937), no doubt his masterpiece, in which the narrator has a deep need to speak out and express himself,  Hedayat reaches an end of  a personal ordeal and through this work he manages to unload what had been built up within him for many years.  But in his work Haj Agha (1945), another masterpiece, he observes the fast changes that the world is going through, and the steps between the old and the new world that must be taken and the pain of the struggle that change brings.  In his Haj Agha, the fight between the tradition and modernity, he manages to depict a new renaissance by the struggle he creates between the inner demon and modernity which is free thinking.  Here the beast within suppresses the need to think and analyze and the narrator wants to know why and how.  Here he reaches another finale where the walls of all old beliefs are broken for a generation with no return.  It is this point where Iranian modern literature is divided into pre-Hedayat and post-Hedayat eras.


The next speaker was Mr Khosrow Sinai who in 2005 made the well known film about Sadegh Hedayat’s life, called “Conversation with the Shadow”, based on the research done by Habib Ahmadzadeh, which was recently shown at the Artists Forum followed by a discussion panel.  Mr Sinai told the audience about many positive and negative comments he had received.  Mr Sinai told us how Hedayat was influenced by the films that he had seen in Paris, which was a point made in his film.  I saw the film last year and liked it but did not agree with the ending.  Mr. Sinai went on to say that he also believes that Sadegh was also influenced by the music he must have heard during his trip and then he delighted the audience with his accordion and played a few of the old melodies that Hedayat must have enjoyed during his trips to Paris.



Mr. Sinaie playing acardion



Then we enjoyed the evocative and, powerful and unforgettable voice of Mr Keykavous Yekideh who read Tarikkhaneh (“The darkroom”), one of the most excellent of Hedayat’s short stories.  Mr Yekideh’s voice is well known to many in cinema and radio and now he has written a book of poetry, to add to his many other talents.  After that Mr Mehrdad Pazouli came on stage and played piano while singing a song which he had composed based on the poem Jadeh Namnak (damp road) by Mehdi Akhavan Saless especially for the ceremony.



Simin Behbahani and Nahid tavassoli, writer and pubisher
of Nafeh (a literary magazine)



Mr Hossein Ghadimi, the chairman of the judges read the judges statement and gave the following information.  This year 650 stories were received, which 103 of them were qualified and accepted and sent to the judges.  Only 27 entries reached the second stage, the majority of which were men and then 10 reached the final.  65% of the participants were male, and, this year, in general many of the stories had an erotic theme; overall 85% of the stories were about unfulfillment, misery, depression, unhappiness, gloom and death, 10% were about social issues and only about 5% were to do with joy and happiness.


Mr. Jahngir Hedayat and MC Mrs Boroumand



Mr. and Mrs. Cheltan



Mr Jahangir Hedayat, the head of Hedayat Office in Tehran was the final speaker, and gave a brief and astute report of the office’s activities throughout the year.  He said that this is the fifth year that they are celebrating Hedayat’s heritage with all other Persian speaking people and nations around the world.  The Hedayat Office in Tehran encourages attempts to get as many of Sadegh Hedayat’s books published in new forms.  The Darkroom has been published in one volume but in five languages, and other works have been reprinted and republished in Iran and abroad.  They do all that they can to assist scholars with their work.  He informed the audience that about 40 of the best short stories entered for the competition are collected and published in one book each year under the title Yad-e Hedayat (in memory of Hedayat) and they have now published the books for 2003 and 2004 but the book for 2005 has not yet been given publishing permission.  



Simin Behbahani and her son Ali


One of the major works that the Tehran office has done was to collect together all the events and works that were done for Hedayat’s centenary in 2002 from across the globe and it has been published by Donyay-e Daneh, even though some 40 pages had to be censored, still it is a book full of interesting information and scholarly works on Hedayat and his works.  The office in the past five years has received more than 3000 short stories by young writers from Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Iranians residing outside Iran.  He said that what matters is not to win but to take part in such an event.  He said that once a writer finishes a story it becomes his baby and he wants to show it to others and hear their comments.  This was why they decided to set up this award. 



Mr Hedayat went on to thank all those who helped this event to take place, including the Artists Forum itself, Mrs Borouman, Dr Kashef, Mr Khosrow Sinai, Mr Keykavous Yakideh, and the Sokhan website.



Then Mr Hedayat read the list of ten finalists and the names of their stories and finally the winners received their awards from Iran’s distinguished man of letters, the writer and scholar Mr Amir-Hassan Cheltan.  


The runners-up were:

Ms Marzieh Jokarr  - Vasvaseh Ham-e Jangalha  (Temptation of all the forests)

Araz Barseghuiyan  -  Gharibeh  (Stranger)


They each received a Loheh Taghdir (certificate of merit) and a parcel of books.



Nasrin Madani


This year the Sadegh Hedayat award went to Miss Nasrin Madani for her story Mordeh Shour [The Corpse Washer] - she was presented with a bust of Hedayat and a number of books.


See   for further information



... Payvand News - 3/1/07 ... --

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