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The Blind Owl

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3.99  ·  Rating details ·  20,552 ratings  ·  1,825 reviews
Considered the most important work of modern Iranian literature, The Blind Owl is a haunting tale of loss and spiritual degradation. Replete with potent symbolism and terrifying surrealistic imagery, Sadegh Hedayat's masterpice details a young man's despair after losing a mysterious lover. And as the author gradually drifts into frenzy and madness, the reader becomes caugh ...more
Paperback, 148 pages
Published January 11th 1994 by Grove Press (first published 1936)
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Marc Adler I'm reading (and have read) the Costello translation. I've skimmed the Bashiri one, and it was too mechanical and dry. This translation is the one the…moreI'm reading (and have read) the Costello translation. I've skimmed the Bashiri one, and it was too mechanical and dry. This translation is the one the book's deserved reputation is based on. You won't go wrong with it. (less)

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Glenn Russell
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing



A friend once told me Sadegh Hedayat wanted the book itself to be the experience and not a book about an experience. I couldn’t agree more. So what was my Blind Owl experience? With every page I felt as if I was spiraling down through my subconscious and unconscious until I plunged into the collective unconscious. A female figure in a black cloak and a meeting of eyes, shinny, alluring, sensuous eyes – the anima? Another turn and there's an ancient old man with white hair and long white beard wi
...more
Bill Kerwin
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This classic Iranian novella, darkly romantic and surrealist at its core, is flecked with unsettling realistic detail and structured in a fashion which heralds postmodernism, calling into question the meaning of its own narrative, and—by implication—the function of narrative itself. It is also the source of a folk belief: people are routinely warned against reading it because doing so may cause suicide. Taken together, what an extraordinary weight for this little book to carry!

Its author Sadegh
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Ahmad Sharabiani
بوف کور = Boof-e koor = The Blind Owl, Sadegh Hedayat

The Blind Owl (1936) is Sadegh Hedayat's magnum opus and a major literary work of 20th century Iran. Written in Persian, it tells the story of an unnamed pen case painter, the narrator, who sees in his macabre, feverish nightmares that "the presence of death annihilates all that is imaginary. We are the offspring of death and death delivers us from the tantalizing, fraudulent attractions of life; it is death that beckons us from the depths of
...more
Vit Babenco
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Blind Owl boasts the surreal aura of The Arabian Nights and possesses the chilling atmosphere of macabre Gothic tales.
A lonely reclusive man envisions some mystical girl and he becomes enthralled…
Her air of mingled gaiety and sadness set her apart from ordinary mankind. Her beauty was extraordinary. She reminded me of a vision seen in an opium sleep. She aroused in me a heat of passion like that which is kindled by the mandrake root. It seemed to me as I gazed at her long, slender form,
...more
Gregsamsa
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nightmare lovers
Shelves: favorites

Is it just me, or does this look like something to be buried in?

A melancholic decorator of Persian pen cases (see above) experiences strange visions, dissolved boundaries between his art and reality, inexplicable longing, mysterious midnight visitors, gory hallucinatory chores, and horse-drawn hearse rides through gloomy star-lit mists, all embroidered with multiple threads of déjà vu and a dreamy sense of such enveloping accursedness that it would prompt Edgar Allen Poe himself to say "Whoa, du
...more
Mala
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mala by: Gregsamsa
"In Iran of the 1950's, at school, and at home, young people were advised to stay away from the works of Sadeq Hedayat, epecially his Blind Owl. A few young people had strayed from this rule and, reportedly, had committed suicide."*

A nightmare from beginning to end – and that's cause the cosmic drama of death & rebirth, the allegory of desire and its renunciation that Hedayat so masterfully crafts in the brief pages of a novella, are a nightmare in themselves.
If you thought that Invention of Mor
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
This book is dark, sad, funereal yet ethereal in its beautiful lyrical prose. Self-published in 1937 in Bombay, this "psycho-fiction" got published only in 1941 in Tehran, Iran by its author, Sadegh Hedayat (1903-1951) but it was subsequently banned. The reason: it caused many suicides in Iran after it came out. And well, if you must know, Hedayat also committed suicide 10 years after this book's Tehran publication. While in his apartment in France, Hedayat, at 48, gassed himself to his death.

So
...more
knig
Apr 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Owls, particularly screech owls, which is what the Blind Owl refers to, are harbingers of death the world over: no less so in Persian folklore. Considering the morose obsession with death within the novel, following which Hedayat committed suicide, it reads like a last will and testament with hindsight.

In its entirety, this is one spectacular hallucogenic trip triggered by opium, tempered with brief moments of withdrawal when the nameless narrator (none of the characters within are named, btw) e
...more
Manuel Antão
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1981
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.



Growing Inward: "The Blind Owl" by by Sadegh Hedayat




(Original Review, 1981-04-20)


“I was growing inward incessantly; like an animal that hibernates during the wintertime, I could hear other peoples' voices with my ears; my own voice, however, I could hear only in my throat. The loneliness and the solitude that lurked behind me were like a condensed, thick, eternal night, like one of those nights with a dense, persistent, sticky darkness
...more
Forrest
Dec 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What started out to be a slow book found its pace and took off about a quarter of the way in. Normally this sluggish start would knock a star off my rating for the book, but the remainder was so fantastic it made up for the beginning. At first, I found the narration fairly clean and clear, somewhat akin to Calvino's prose, but with too much treacle and self-absorbed whining. Before long, however, I learned that Hedayat was merely setting a baseline that led into the narrator's more winding, abst ...more
Sue
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Where to begin to describe this tale of love, madness, possibly hallucinogenic ramblings that circle back and forth and in and out upon themselves. oddly repeating certain phrases until you may be able to quote them without the page in front of you. This is a tale mostly of musings on death, with occasion side thoughts of murder and hatred. The author later committed suicide.

Some of the images presented in the book, especially the oddly geometric houses in which people can not live, seem almost
...more
Brian
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Brian by: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

The fact of dying is a fearful thing in itself but the consciousness that one is dead would be far worse.

It doesn't really matter if Hedayat's protagonist in this story is drug-addled, woman-crazy or just plain insane; as the reader we are forced to inhabit this space alongside him, for the length of the story, come what may. The repitition of madness - and the seeing of the same demons, the same themes of death, in every person and at every turn - creates a haunting claustrophobic experience. W
...more
Matt
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A book that, sadly, missed the mark— told by an unnamed and highly unreliable narrator, who appears, at first, as some sort of a crossover of Kafka and Poe to me in all their surrealistic glory, but in the progress develops traits that are, frankly spoken, too much for me too swallow or even digest— Insanity, Passion, Love, perhaps, but also a strange kind of death wish— that of himself but also of others— that made me cringe. Furthermore about two thirds of the text, a narration within a narrat ...more
Francisco
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the most beautiful things about this book is how difficult it is to "categorize" it. Where in that mental shelf that I strive so hard to keep orderly can I place this? When I read it, it was like floating devoid of solid references, falling through literary space unable to hold on to anything I read before. The Blind Owl: this not knowing what peg to hang this book. It's scary while reading not knowing exactly what you are reading but only if you resist the urge to let go and let the book ...more
Szplug
Sep 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Morphantasy, seeped in a maddened, weary bile for the ponderous chains of life set to a skipping needle. It's definitely an avenue of oscillated measure, rich with aromatic Middle Eastern fusions of sensual stringency exploding with surrealistic buzz-bombs crafted with twentieth-century precision. Lean and yet plush, engrossing, disturbing, but all without harming any actual human beings. Regrets abound at murdering the void in this way—anger out of place, anguish too primed for such a space; pe ...more
Nate D
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dream-myths of addiction and escape
Recommended to Nate D by: Knig-o-lass and the coughs of abattoir horses
Obsession, delerium, disintegration. Repetition and narrative instability. Empty temples, tombs, secret poisons. Desire tuned towards death and vice versa. Basically, somehow, the entire template for 70s-Robbe-Grillet, and by extension, some of Dennis Cooper's The Marbled Swarm, spontaneously arisen from 1930s Iran. If the narrator (narrators?) has a desperately problematic relationship to the women in his life -- exalting or loathing without any human middle ground, only tending towards complet ...more
Lela
I think I'm going to leave this unrated. I can't say I liked it, but, eventually I had to keep reading to see how it could possibly conclude - and it didn't conclude, really. It just stopped. A surreal tale of obsession, madness, opium induced perceptions, the strangeness of old relationships, dancing, poisoned wine, cobras, abandonment, old age, futility, love, hate and many, many other ideas and things. There are a few ideas about this book that arise from its being banned in Iran. One being i ...more
Orsolya
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Due to my obsession with owls and having previously dated a Persian man; I am familiar with the connotation of owls in Iranian culture. Hearing that Sadegh Hedayat, the author of “The Blind Owl”, lived in Iran and then committed suicide at age 48, was enough to draw me in.

“The Blind Owl” has a magnetic draw starting with the first word. Following a stream of consciousness style (don’t expect dialogue, character names, etc); Hedayat pulls the reader in full-force with heavy literary, symbolical,
...more
Niloo Inalouei
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this book for at least ten times. I can say with certainty that it’s absolutely the best I’ve ever read and I’m still far away from understanding it. Saying that it’s really hard to write it a review. There are no words that can truly describe the depth and the meaning behind every single sentence of this book.
Ina Cawl
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
fallowing mentally ill pen decorator with opium hallucination as he falls to abyss
this was book was linked to many suicide cases in Iran
longer review to come
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
A tortured psyche disintegrating in a self-created maze of mirrors. A devious novel full of sinister doubles and disorienting narrative multiples. A complex kaleidoscopic image is probably the best analogy, as the same half-dozen or so elements are shifted and reflected into successive patterns that are diverse but all variations on the same theme. Powerful and unsettling stuff. I don't buy the intricate Eastern mysticism interpretation provided on one website; it is what it is. A masterful port ...more
Edita
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sadegh-hedayat
My one fear is that tomorrow I may die without having come to know myself. In the course of my life I have discovered that a fearful abyss lies between me and other people and have realised that my best course is to remain silent and keep my thoughts to myself for as long as I can. If I have now made up my mind to write it is only in order to reveal myself to my shadow, that shadow which at this moment is stretched across the wall in the attitude of one devouring with insatiable appetite each wo ...more
[P]
Nov 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bitch-please
[1] Picked up The Blind Owl

[2] Read a few pages of overcooked waffle about a woman with 'magic eyes'*

[3] Threw the book away from myself in disgust

---
*I opened the book at random just now. On one page:

'magic eyes',
'shining eyes'
'Turkoman eyes'

oh, and...

'vague smile'
'harmonious grace'
'inconceivable force'
'pale as the moon'
'ethereal'
'intoxicating radiance'

And a fucking mono-brow.
...more
Joseph Schreiber
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to rate this between 3 and 4 stars. Typically my ratings rise with time and if I write about the book and I feel it will inch toward 4. So be it. Reading this tale of madness is an experience, I was often reminded of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, but with an opium drenched Persian setting. But that is a horror film, one that ends in an asylum, the horror here is much more intensely real and surreal. This book triggered suicides, and the author himself took his own life. Thus it sits much ...more
Bhaskar
Solitude, Opium and the cankerous soul of an artist


There are sores which slowly erode the mind in solitude like a kind of canker.

What a magical experience! A slow rhythmic whirlpool of nightmarish and horrifying anguish which kept sucking me in. At the same time, it soared with beauty lifting me up on expansive velvety fantastical wings. Imagine headbanging on ambient music!

Two authors whose name kept popping in my mind (stupid, restless mind) while reading this hot-balloon ride to hell wer
...more
S̶e̶a̶n̶
Mar 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Well, I wish I'd read this before having read so much Robbe-Grillet, especially since it preceded him. Similar sense of vague menace, the reconfiguring of cinematic scenes, the uncertain symbolism of recurring elements, lust mingled with flashes of misogyny. I also wonder about the translation, which appears to be a point of possible concern. Library had the Costello translation but the language felt lacking to me. Hard to describe what it lacked...precision, perhaps, like there was a caul over ...more
Belhor Crowley
Sep 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
I didn't 'love' this novel, I didn't 'enjoy' it either. To be honest I can't find a word to explain how I feel about this book! I'm not even quite sure how to rate this book. I just know that 'the blind owl' is a book I will remember forever. ...more
Alan
Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I think I was baffled by some of this but carried away by its visionary madness.
Chrissie
Sep 09, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Christi
Shelves: iran, kindle, disliked
NO SPOILERS!!!

"The Blind Owl” is considered a modern Persian classic. a masterpiece of Iranian literature. So I was intrigued. It was first self-published in Bombay and written in Farsi. It was not available in Iran in 1937, then under Reza Shah’s oppressive control. It wasn’t until 1941 that it came out in Iran, as a serial in the daily Iran. It is said that much was written earlier while the author, Sadegh Hedayat, was living in Paris. It is to be noted that he was raised both under the influe
...more
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Iranian author who introduced modernist techniques into Persian fiction. He is considered one of the greatest Iranian writers of the 20th century.

هدایت از پیشگامان داستان‌نویسی نوین ایران و یک روشنفکر برجسته بود. برترین اثر وی رمان بوف کور است که آن را مشهورترین و درخشان‌ترین اثر ادبیات داستانی معاصر ایران دانسته‌اند. حجم آثار و مقالات نوشته شده درباره نوشته‌ها، نوع زندگی و خودکشی صادق هدایت بیانگ
...more

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Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
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“زندگی من مثل یک شمع آب می شود، نه اشتباه می کنم-مثل یک کنده ی هیزم تر است که گوشه ی دیگدان افتاده و به آتش هیزم های دیگر برشته و زغال شده، ولی نه سوخته و نه تر و تازه مانده، فقط از دود و دم دیگران خفه شده” 70 likes
“I write only for my shadow which is cast on the wall in front of the light. I must introduce myself to it.” 58 likes
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