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The Persian Girl Of Saint-Germain




Celebrated Author, Singer and filmmaker Shusha (Shamsi) Guppy (December 24, 1935 - March 21, 2008)



©view images & photocomposition ©DK


"Il n'y a plus d'apres
A Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Plus d'apres-demain
Plus d'apres-midi
Il n'y a qu'aujourd'hui
Quand je te reverrai
A Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Ce n'sera plus toi
Ce n'sera plus moi
Il n'y a plus d'autrefois...

- A Saint-Germain-des-Prés by Guy Béart -- Shushā (Shamsi) Guppy born Shamsi Assār (December 24, 1935, Tehran, Iran - March 21, 2008, London, United Kingdom), was a writer, editor and - under the name of "Shusha" - a singer of Persian and Western folk-songs. She had lived in London since the mid 1960s. She was also a talented amateur documentary filmmaker who was even nominated for an Oscar® (a First for an Iranian) back in 1976 for her feature documentary People of the Wind co-directed with Anthony Howarth which was narrated by British Hollywood Star James Mason. Her books were reminiscent of the very first generation of Iranian expatriates to study and live outside Iran and who redefined and enriched their Persian heritage within a cosmopolitan identity both by necessity and choice. Her illustrative, often amusing but always profoundly thoughtful outlook on herself and her compatriots as well as the Western cultural community which she encountered on friendly and professional levels was profoundly nostalgic of an era now long gone ...


The last two decades of her life were bitterly affected by controversies that surrounded her troublesome son's illegal financial activities. It did not however ebb the literary and artistic achievements and ambitions of the iconic Persian Girl of Saint Germain. Her autobiographical works were celebrated both in Great Britain and France where "Un Jardin" à Teheran aka "The Blind Fold Horse: Memoirs of a Persian Childhood" was to receive the much envied Grand Prix literary Award of ELLE Magazine.



A major literary figure in France ©Elle & Phébus


Her most recent book, The Secret of Laughter (2005), is a collection of Persian fairytales from Iran's oral tradition. Many had never previously been published in written form.

She promoted Persian culture and history, and was a commentator on relations between the West and the Islamic world. For twenty years until 2005, she was the London Editor of the American literary journal The Paris Review.


Her death at the age of 72 is a great loss for the Persian Community and the Literary and music World at Large.


May She Rest in Peace !


See Below Telegraph Article :

Shusha Guppy, who died on March 21 aged 72, was an Iranian-born writer, composer and singer, and a saloniere of literary, cosmopolitan London.

Trilingual in Persian, French and English, she wrote stylishly and succinctly in the last two and made a reputation as an interpreter of Persian love songs and French chanson. In exile from her native country, she became a passionate advocate of Sufi wisdom and the Persian classical literature on which she had been raised.

In 1961, after her marriage to the explorer and art dealer Nicholas Guppy, she moved to London, where her beauty, intelligence and gentle exoticism won her a wide circle of friends and admirers. Soirées at her Chelsea home attracted a diversity of talents, including such figures as AJ Ayer, Ted Hughes, Kathleen Raine, Alain de Botton, Frank Johnson and Bill Nighy.


The daughter of Mohammed Kazem Assar, a distinguished liberal-minded Shia theologian and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tehran, she was born Shamsi Assar on December 24 1935 and grew up in an atmosphere of poetry and mystical chants in the Persia of the Shahs. She movingly evoked her childhood and the civilized Tehran of her youth in The Blindfold Horse: memories of a Persian childhood (1998).


Shusha Guppy was the first Iranian to be nominated for an Oscar® in 1976 for Best Documentary. An account of the odyssey of the Bakhtiary Tribes Migration through the mountains of Iran narrated by James Mason. It was a tribute to the classic Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack ( The Creators of the original King Kong)  milestone film 70 years earlier entitled Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life.  


From Tehran's French lycée she won a scholarship, aged 16, to study French Literature and Philosophy at the Sorbonne. Arriving in Paris, she was soon swept up by the bohemian romance of Left-bank café culture; she trained as a singer and began performing in nightclubs and cabaret.

Encouraged by Jacques Prévert, she recorded Persian ballads, French chanson and traditional French songs, adopting the name Shusha - after the pre-classical capital of southern Iran.

In A Girl in Paris (1991) she recalled the heady atmosphere of post-war Parisian artistic and intellectual life, while exposing the morally dubious "anti-bourgeois" posturing of Leftist intellectuals such as Sartre and Louis Aragon. Her career really took off, however, in London, where she continued to sing professionally, expanding her repertoire to include English folk songs, works by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and others, and songs of her own composition.

As well as performing at concerts, she brought out 10 albums and published several books, while working as London editor of the American literary journal The Paris Review. In the 1970s she travelled with the nomadic Bakhtiari tribes of southern Persia and worked on two films, one of which, People of the Wind (A Persian Odyssey), won an Oscar nomination for best documentary.

Controversial Son. Guppy's son Darius (*) ( a close friend  from the Eton Years of Lady Diana's brother Earl Edward Spencer was at the center of a Financial Scandal during the early 1990s. Convicted of defrauding Lloyd's of London insurance market of £1.8 million, together with firearms offences relating to a robbery of gemstones in New York City. He was sentenced to prison for five years. He partly blamed the Spencer's for his predicament and the British establishment for using him as a scapegoat. (*) photocomposition©DK


By the 1980s she had turned away from political radicalism, finding comfort in Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam which emphasizes the unity of religious creeds and the centrality of love. Her inclusive beliefs were challenged by the rise of militant Islam and in later life she was much exercised by the worsening relations between the Islamic world and the West. Islam, in her view, was a religion of love which had been hijacked by the Wahhabism in the Sunni tradition and by the likes of Ayatollah Khomeini in Shia Islam.

After her marriage was dissolved in 1976 she lived modestly in a small flat in Chelsea, where she continued to dispense generous hospitality and wisdom to her friends. The three-year imprisonment of her elder son, Darius, on charges of fraud in the mid-1990s was a painful episode. She never made excuses for him, but always supported him, and she was sustained by her faith in the regenerative power of the human spirit.


The Persian Girl of Saint-Germain-des-Pres of the 1950's-1960's


Shusha Guppy's other books include Looking Back (1991), a series of interviews with living authors, and The Secret of Laughter (2006), a collection of Persian tales which showed her homeland to be less part of an "axis of evil" than a land of scented gardens and nomadic storytellers. She also wrote travel pieces and reviews for various publications, including The Sunday Telegraph.

She is survived by her two sons.



Authors Notes:


(*) Darius Guppy the turbulent son has made headlines in the British Press over his troublesome relationship with Edward Spencer (Daily Mail).

Recommended Viewing:


Scene from Bonjour Tristesse The Saint-Germain Generation: Juliette Greco sings Bonjour Tristesse in Otto Preminger's screen adaptation of French Novelist Françoise Sagan's famous novel: See Video


Existentialist French film Le Testament D'Orphée directed by Jean Cocteau and Starring Jean Marais. See Video


The Blood of the Poet: Poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau and Pygmalion Jean Marais. See Video1 and Video 2 . Jean Cocteau's classic film The Beauty and the Beast made in French Occupied France announces the genesis of the Existentialist Style and Utopia that would dominate the intellectual mindset of the Saint-Germain Years in the aftermath of WWII. See Video



Recommended Readings:


Iranian pioneers of French New Wave Cinema by Darius KADIVAR

Sultan of My Heart: Monika Jalili and Noorsaaz's remembrance of things past... by DK


British Iranians:


Winds of Change: Darius Danesh cast as Rhett Butler by Darius KADIVAR
Ramin Karimloo: A Persian Phantom Unmasked by Darius KADIVAR

In The Arena With Omid Djalili by Darius KADIVAR

KILLSHOT: Hossein Amini and Quentin Tarantino's New Pulp Movie by Darius KADIVAR

Tony Nourmand's Golden Eye by Darius KADIVAR 

Doris Lessing: A daughter of Kermanshah Nobelized by Darius KADIVAR

Howard Lee, author of bestseller children's novel Jamshid and the lost Mountain of Light by Darius KADIVAR


Other Obituaries:

Adieu Zarathustra ! by Darius KADIVAR

Adieu Casanova: Heath Ledger by Darius KADIVAR

Benazir's Foolish Death by Darius KADIVAR

Adieu Béjart by Darius KADIVAR

Remembering Princess Leila Pahlavi by Darius KADIVAR

EYES WIDE SHUT: The World of Cinema mourns for Antonioni and Bergman by Darius KADIVAR
Anicée (Alvina) Shahmanesh Sex Icon of the 1970's dies age 53 by Darius KADIVAR



About the Author: Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Media Consultant. He is international Correspondent for OCPC Magazine and contributes to the IC publications of The Middle East. and Persian Heritage.

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