Simin Daneshvar has died at the age of ninety. Stephen Kinzer calls her “the most potent surviving symbol of the vibrancy of 20th-century literature in Iran” in his NY Times obit:

Iran’s turbulent modern history, defined above all by foreign exploitation, framed Ms. Daneshvar’s life. During World War II she witnessed the Allied occupation of her country. It provided the backdrop for her masterpiece, the sprawling family saga “Savushun,” published in 1969. …
After obtaining her doctorate with a dissertation titled “Beauty as Treated in Persian Literature,” she married the leftist writer and social critic Jalal Al-e Ahmad. … In the 1950s and ’60s, Ms. Daneshvar became known as a translator of Chekhov, Shaw, Hawthorne, Schnitzler, Saroyan and other writers. She also published short stories, including several that focused on the oppression of Iranian women. Until the publication of “Savushun” in 1969, however, she was generally assumed to be living under her husband’s literary shadow. No one ever thought of her that way again.

I’m embarrassed to say that her name meant nothing to me when I saw the obituary, even though I was very familiar with that of her husband, Jalal Al-e-Ahmad, and further embarrassed that I eventually realized I actually owned a copy of her magnum opus (under the title A Persian Requiem), though of course I hadn’t gotten around to reading it. I intend to remedy the omission eventually. (Thanks, Eric!)


  1. Savushun is to me the greatest 20th-c. Persian novel, both because of its marvelous style, humanism and care for the details, and because its plot, set in Shiraz in the early 1940s, offers a key to the understanding of all Iranian history betwen “the two revolutions” (1906 and 1978).

  2. Thanks for the plug; you’ve moved it perceptibly upward on my mental “to be read” list.

  3. J.W. Brewer says

    Kremlinologists may enjoy trying to read between the lines in this account, where the reader is assured that the decedent’s character and writings did not reflect any noxious foreign ideas or threaten the legitimacy of the present government. We are also warned against trying to approach her from “languid intellectual viewpoints.”

  4. I thought this comment in the eulogy for her reported by IBNA was a fascinating idea about writers, (despite the somewhat mixed metaphors). The pharmacy idea really struck me:
    “She wanted to open up a windowpane to her people, as a good writer is a moving pharmacy that holds a remedy for every type of wound.”

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