Bookmark and Share

Mehdi Sahabi (1943-2009): A Translator and an Artist


By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

Mehdi Sahabi

Mehdi Sahabi was born in 1943 in Ghazvin and died last week in Paris.  He was buried last Thursday at the artists plot in Beheshte Zahra. Many well known art and literary figures were present for his funeral.  He was one of Iran's best known and respected translators and usually translated from French but also from Italian and English.  His most well known work is Marcel Proust's 7 volume 'À la recherche du temps perdu' but he also translated Gustave Flaubert, Italo Calvino and Louis-Ferdinand Céline and introduced many great European writers to Iranian book lovers and readers.  He started translation in the 1980's when he went to Italy to study directing but he did not complete this and went to Paris where he met his wife.

I met him more than 15 years ago when he first exhibited his wooden statues at the Aria gallery and soon we became friends and he came to many dinner parties at our house.  Besides his works, what I liked about him most was his good sense of humor, his friendly yet sharp wit and his courteous interaction, most friendly and down to earth towards others.  He collected driftwood from the shore and using his unique talent was the first one in Iran who made these worn out and useless wood pieces into very colorful, wonderful to look at and meaningful art pieces.  One can easily say that he gave them a new life.  

Some of the artwork by Sahabi

Mehdi Sahabi, as well as a being a great translator and sculptor painted and wrote poems too.  He worked for 8 years at the Keyhan newspaper and later continued his commentating on Payyam Emruz, writing a column called 'An Outsider's Look'.   He also experimented with photography.  He had a great zest for life and enjoying outings yet he was an extremely private man.

Contrary to what many believed, Mehdi lived in a housing block in the west of Tehran near Satarkhan Avenue where his brother Majid also lived.  The funeral procession to Beheshte Zahra started off from here.  Many spoke in his memory about his achievements, including Mrs Lili Golestan, Mr Doulatabadi, Mr Babak Ahmadi, Mr Moojabi, his sister and his brother Hadi who came with the coffin from Paris.  At Beheshte Zahra Mr Seyrous Alinejad spoke.  Mehdi had been in Paris to see his grandchild, who friends told me he was very excited about.  He used to travel to Blois in France to see his family and that was where he did most of his translations, the right atmosphere for such painstaking and hard work.  No wonder his translations were so good.  Mehdi leaves his French wife and three sons Kaveh (34), Sohrab (30), and Keiyoumarth known as Toto (22).

Sahabi's Khatam (3rd day of burial) was held in Tehran on Friday and was attended by hundreds of his readers, fellow artists and general public.

© Copyright 2009 (All Rights Reserved)