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Remembering Iranologist Peter Avery: 1923-2008

Source: Iran Times

Peter Avery
          One of Britain's most famous scholars on Iran, Peter Avery, has died in the UK at the age of 85.

          Professor Avery, who passed away October 6, was honored by President Ahmadi-nejad as a literary figure in the First International Farabi Festival this year with an award for his devotion to Persian literature and history.

Avery died just 11 weeks after the passing of another famous British scholar of Iran of the post-war era.  Ann Katharine Swynford Lambton, who spent the majority of her life traveling through, living in and studying Iran, died July 19 at the age of 96.

          During a ceremony honoring Avery at the Iranian Embassy in London in May, the professor said his biggest happiness in life had been his experiences studying Persian culture and language.

          "I am happy to have connections with Iran and Iranians who enjoy a culture rich of civilization, kindness, truthfulness and understanding," he said in the ceremony, describing Iran as "my second homeland."

Iranian scholars visiting Britain came to regard his office at King's College in Cambridge University as a home away from home.

          When Avery first visited Esfahan in 1950, he reported feeling as though he already knew his way around the city despite having never even seen a map of the city.  Describing certain parts of Iran, Avery said he felt a strong sense of "knowing the place intimately; of returning as it were, home, to somewhere where I had once been 'at home.'"  Avery speculated these intense feelings and memories might have been formed in a previous life.

Instead of viewing Iran as a member of "the axis of evil," Avery viewed the country as a "wellspring of a civilizing grace and beauty that can afford cultural and spiritual nourishment to the whole world."

The Collected Lyrics of Hafiz of Shiraz
By Peter Avery (Translator)

          Avery's interest in the Persian language and history began when he was introduced to a translation of the poems of Omar Khayyam as a child.  His interest in Persian language and culture developed when he served in the Royal Indian Naval Volunteer Reserve in World War II.  After the war, he studied Arabic and Persian and received his bachelor's degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).  Upon graduation, in 1949, Avery worked as educational liaison officer with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

          In 1951, when the Iranian government nationalized the oil industry, Avery moved to Baghdad where he taught English, first at the Iraqi Staff and Military College and then at the Baghdad College of Arts and Sciences.  Four years later, Avery returned to Iran where he was employed by a company of civil engineers engaged in road construction.

          In 1958, he came to the University of Cambridge in England as a lecturer in Persian language, literature and history, and became a fellow of King's College six years later.  Avery remained at Cambridge until his 1990 retirement; but he continued with his research and writing as a fellow of King's University.

In 2001, Avery was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) "for the promotion of oriental studies."

          His translation work has included such pieces as the Hafez Book of Poems, Attar Neishabouri's "Manteq Al-Teir" (The Speech of Birds) and Omar Khayyam's Quatrains, first published in 1979.

          Professor Avery authored several books on the history of Iran including the "The Age of Expansion and Medieval Persia" and "Modern Iran," a classic work published in 1965.

During his career, he served as one of the members of the editorial board of the multi-volume "Cambridge History of Iran" and edited its final volume entitled "From Nader Shah to the Islamic Republic" published in 1991.  


About Iran Times: The Iran Times is an independent newspaper with no affiliation with any political party or faction The Iran Times corporation was founded in Washington D.C. in 1970, in accordance with U.S. federal and local regulations:

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