Pre-Islamic Persian literature consists of religious texts, the most notable of which is the Avesta, a collection of liturgic fragments, and the later Pahlavi writing of the Sassanid period. The Islamic conquest of Iran in the 7th cent. was accompanied by a linguistic infusion: one century later, approximately 50% of the Persian literary lexicon consisted of Arabic terms. As Islam became the dominant theme, Arabic became the literary language, until the emergence of local dynasties in the 10th cent. (see Arabic literature). The first extant Islamic Persian poetry dates to the Samanid state (874-999); the first famous representative of this literature was the poet Rudaki (d. 940 or 944). To Rudaki are attributed a lost mathnawi (epic poem with rhyming couplets) version of the fables of the kalila wa dimna as well as a few qasidahs (panegyrics). Other major figures of this period are Abu Shukur of Balkh, who is credited with the introduction of rubaiyyat, Persian poetic quatrains; Daqiqi, a Samanid court poet and a precursor of Firdawsi; and Baba Tahir Uryan, author of rubaiyyat expressive of pain.
The first group of major Persian poets gathered in the court of Mahmud of Ghazna and included Unsuri (d. 1040 or 1049), Farrukhi (d. 1038), Minuchihri (d. 1041), Asadi (d. c.1030/1041), and Firdausi. The first four wrote Diwans (collections of poetry that included qasidas, long poems dealing with pre-established themes, such as spring, or long-lost loves). Asadi was a pioneer of the munazara genre—staged disputations between opposing characters or concepts. The major Persian national epic, the Shah-nama, the Book of Kings, was written by Firdawsi to celebrate the mythic pre-Islamic history of Iran, in a style that attempted to exclude usages and expressions of Arabic origin.
This formative period of Persian literature also witnessed the modest beginnings of Persian prose and the establishment of rubaiyyat and mathnawi as classical literary genres. The travelogue of Nasir-i Khusraw (d. 1088), Safar-nama, in which he relates his pilgrimage to Mecca and his travels in Syria, Egypt, and Arabia, represents the maturation of Persian prose. One of the masters of rubaiyyat was Omar Khayyam, whose reputation in the West is largely due to Edward FitzGerald's nonliteral adaptation of his quatrains. Khayyam's poetry belongs to the mystical and didactic genres that were developed by Sanai in his Hadiqat al-Haqiqa, Garden of the Truth, and that found their culmination in the work of Farid ad-Din Attar. The 11th cent. also witnessed the blossoming of the great romantic epics in Persian under masters such as Nizami (d. c.1209), who is famous for his Khamseh or quintet.
Panegyric poetry developed in the Ghaznavid court with Masud bin Sad (d. 1131), and in the Seljuq court with Azraqi (d. c.1130) and Amir Muizzi (d. 1147). The most prominent of panegyric poets were, however, Anwari (d. c.1190), court poet of prince Sanjar of Balkh, and Khaqani (d. 1199), whose poetry is reputed for its complexity. Both the political treatise Siyasat-nama of Nizam al-Mulk (d. 1092), and the ethical didactic work Qabus-nama of the Ziyarid prince Kay Kaus are representative of the more colorful style of rejuvenated Persian prose. A most important work in prose was the Chahar Maqala, Four Treatises, by Nizami Arudi (d. 1174) of Samarkand, which discusses the crafts of scribes, poets, astrologers, and astronomers.
At the heart of the Golden Age of Persian literature were the mystic and didactic works of Sadi and Jalal ad-Din Rumi. Also worth noting are Iraqi (d. c.1288), author of the Lamaat, a mystic compendium of prose and poetry with pantheistic inclinations, and Amir Khusraw (1253-1324), a Persian-speaking Indian poet. The culmination of the Golden Age comes with the work of the poet Hafiz. While mysticism was the dominant strain of Persian poetry, Persian learning was emerging in philosophical, historical, and scientific writings. Persian also began to be used as a scholarly and court language in India, which subsequently attracted many immigrant Persian poets. The prominent scholars of the era include Nasir ad-Din Tusi (d. 1274), Juwayni (d. 1283), Rashid ad-Din fadl Allah (d. 1318), and Mustawfi (d. 1349).
The 15th cent. period of the second Turko-Tartar invasion and the establishment of the Timurid dynasty is considered the Silver Age, or the last episode, of classical Persian literature. This period is characterized by imitations of and commentaries on the works of the Golden Age. Among the notable literary figures were Jami, Saib of Tabriz (d. 1677), Mirza Bedil (d. 1720), an Indian writer who achieved great renown in Afghanistan and central Asia, and Ali Hazin (d. 1766), who was exiled to India. The religious and political turmoil of the 19th cent., together with the model set by European literature, led to substantial changes in form and content. Nationalist and social themes were introduced, while classical genres were reformed and challenged. Modern poets include Iradj, Abid e-Pishawari, Parwin, and Nima. Recent Persian experimentation in fiction includes that of S. Hedayet and M. M. Hejazi.
See A. J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature (1958); E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia (4 vol., 1928-30; repr. 1956-59); J. Rypka, History of Iranian Literature (1968); R. Levy, An Introduction to Persian Literature (1969); A. Schimmel, A Two-Colored Brocade: The Imagery of Persian Poetry (1992).
Persian literature spans two and a half millennia, though much of the pre-Islamic material has been lost. Its sources often come from far-flung regions beyond the borders of present-day Iran, as the Persian language flourished and survives across wide swaths of Central Asia. For instance, Rumi, one of Persia's best-loved poets, wrote in Persian but lived in Konya, now in Turkey and then the capital of the Seljuks. The Ghaznavids conquered large territories in Central and South Asia and adopted Persian as their court language. There is thus Persian literature from areas that are now part of Afghanistan and other parts of Central Asia. Not all this literature is written in Persian, as some consider works written by ethnic Persians in other languages, such as Greek and Arabic, to be included.
Surviving works in Persian languages (such as Old Persian or Middle Persian) date back as far as 650 BCE, the date of the earliest surviving Achaemenid inscriptions. The bulk of the surviving Persian literature, however, comes from the times following the Islamic conquest of Persia circa 650 CE. After the Abbasids came to power (750 CE), the Persians became the scribes and bureaucrats of the Islamic empire and, increasingly, also its writers and poets. Persians wrote both in Arabic and Persian; Persian predominated in later literary circles. Persian poets such as Sa'di, Hafiz, Rumi and Omar Khayyam are well known in the world and have influenced the literature of many countries.
Very few literary works remain from ancient Persia. Most of these consist of the royal inscriptions of Achaemenid kings, particularly Darius I (522–486 BC) and his son Xerxes. Zoroastrian writings mainly were destroyed in the Islamic conquest of Persia. The Parsis who fled to India, however, took with them some of the books of the Zoroastrian canon, including some of the Avesta and ancient commentaries (Zend) thereof. Some works of Sassanid geography and travel also survived albeit in Arabic translations.
No single text devoted to literary criticism has survived from pre-Islamic Persia. However, some essays in Pahlavi such as "Ayin-e name nebeshtan" (Principles of Writing Book) and "Bab-e edteda’I-ye" (Kalileh o Demneh) have been considered as literary criticism (Zarrinkoub, 1959).
Some researchers have quoted the Sho'ubiyye as asserting that the pre-Islamic Persians had books on eloquence, such as 'Karvand'. No trace remains of such books. There are some indications that some among the Persian elite were familiar with Greek rhetoric and literary criticism (Zarrinkoub, 1947).
While initially overshadowed by Arabic during the Umayyad and early Abbasid caliphates, New Persian soon became a literary language again of the Central Asian lands. The rebirth of the language in its new form is often accredited to Ferdowsi, Unsuri, Daqiqi, Rudaki, and their generation, as they used pre-Islamic nationalism as a conduit to revive the language and customs of ancient Persia.
بسی رنج بردم در این سال سی
عجم زنده کردم بدین پارسی
"For thirty years, I endured much pain and strife,
with Persian I gave the Ajam verve and life".
So strong is the Persian aptitude for versifying everyday expressions that one can encounter poetry in almost every classical work, whether from Persian literature, science, or metaphysics. In short, the ability to write in verse form was a pre-requisite for any scholar. For example, almost half of Avicenna's medical writings are in verse.
Works of the early era of Persian poetry are characterized by strong court patronage, an extravagance of panegyrics, and what is known as سبک فاخر "exalted in style". The tradition of royal patronage began perhaps under the Sassanid era and carried over through the Abbasid and Samanid courts into every major Persian dynasty. The Qasida was perhaps the most famous form of panegyric used, though quatrains such as those in Omar Khayyam's Ruba'iyyat are also widely popular.
Khorasani style, whose followers mostly were associated with Greater Khorasan, is characterized by its supercilious diction, dignified tone, and relatively literate language. The chief representatives of this lyricism are Asjadi, Farrukhi Sistani, Unsuri, and Manuchehri. Panegyric masters such as Rudaki were known for their love of nature, their verse abounding with evocative descriptions.
Through these courts and system of patronage emerged the epic style of poetry, with Ferdowsi's Shahnama at the apex. By glorifying the Iranian historical past in heroic and elevated verses, he and other notables such as Daqiqi and Asadi Tusi presented the "Ajam" with a source of pride and inspiration that has helped preserve a sense of identity for the Iranian peoples over the ages. Ferdowsi set a model to be followed by a host of other poets later on.
The thirteenth century marks the ascendancy of lyric poetry with the consequent development of the ghazal into a major verse form, as well as the rise of mystical and Sufi poetry. This style is often called "Araqi style", (western provinces of Iran were known as Araq-e-Ajam or Persian Iraq) and is known by its emotional lyric qualities, rich meters, and the relative simplicity of its language. Emotional romantic poetry was not something new however, as works such as Vis o Ramin by Asad Gorgani, and Yusof o Zoleikha by Am'aq Bokharai exemplify. Poets such as Sana'i and Attar (who ostensibly have inspired Rumi), Khaqani Shirvani, Anvari, and Nezami, were highly respected ghazal writers. However, the elite of this school are Rumi, Sadi, and Hafez.
Regarding the tradition of Persian love poetry during the Safavid era, Persian historian Ehsan Yarshater notes, "As a rule, the beloved is not a woman, but a young man. In the early centuries of Islam, the raids into Central Asia produced many young slaves. Slaves were also bought or received as gifts. They were made to serve as pages at court or in the households of the affluent, or as soldiers and bodyguards. Young men, slaves or not, also, served wine at banquets and receptions, and the more gifted among them could play music and maintain a cultivated conversation. It was love toward young pages, soldiers, or novices in trades and professions which was the subject of lyrical introductions to panegyrics from the beginning of Persian poetry, and of the ghazal.
In the didactic genre one can mention Sanai's Hadiqat-ul-Haqiqah (Garden of Truth) as well as Nezami's Makhzan-ul-Asrār (Treasury of Secrets). Some of Attar's works also belong to this genre as do the major works of Rumi, although some tend to classify these in the lyrical type due to their mystical and emotional qualities. In addition, some tend to group Naser Khosrow's works in this style as well; however the true gem of this genre is Sadi's Bustan, a heavyweight of Persian literature.
After the fifteenth century, the Indian style of Persian poetry (sometimes also called Isfahani or Safavi styles) took over. This style has its roots in the Timurid era and produced the likes of Amir Khosrow Dehlavi, and Bhai Nand Lal Goya
The oldest surviving work of Persian literary criticism after the Islamic conquest of Persia is Muqaddame-ye Shahname-ye Abu Mansuri, which was written in the Samanid period. The work deals with the myths and legends of Shahname and is considered the oldest surviving example of Persian prose. It also shows an attempt by the authors to evaluate literary works critically.
One Thousand and One Nights (هزار و یک شب) is a medieval Persian literary epic which tells the story of Scheherazade (in Persian: Šahrzād شهرزاد), a Sassanid queen who must relate a series of stories to her malevolent husband, King Shahryar (Šahryār), to delay her execution. The stories are told over a period of one thousand and one nights, and every night she ends the story with a suspenseful situation, forcing the King to keep her alive for another day. The individual stories were created over many centuries, by many people and in many styles, and many have become famous in their own right. Notable examples include Aladdin, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor.
The nucleus of the stories is formed by a Pahlavi Sassanid Persian book called Hazār Afsānah (Thousand Myths, in هزار افسانه), a collection of ancient Indian and Persian folk tales. During the reign of the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid in the eighth century, Baghdad had become an important cosmopolitan city. Merchants from Persia, China, India, Africa, and Europe were all found in Baghdad. During this time, many of the stories that were originally folk stories were thought to have been collected orally over many years and later compiled into a single book. The compiler and ninth-century translator into Arabic is reputedly the storyteller Abu Abd-Allah Muhammad el-Gahshigar. The frame story of Shahrzad seems to have been added in the fourteenth century.
Also highly regarded in the contemporary Persian literature lexical corpus are the works of Dr. Mohammad Moin. The first volume of Moin Dictionary was published in 1963.
In 1645, Ravius and Lugduni completed a Persian-Latin dictionary. This was followed by J. Richardson's two-volume Oxford edition (1777) and Gladwin-Malda's (1770) Persian-English Dictionaries, Scharif and S. Peters' Persian-Russian Dictionary (1869), and 30 other Persian lexicographical translations through the 1950s.
In 2002, Professor Hassan Anvari published his Persian-to-Persian dictionary, Farhang-e Bozorg-e Sokhan, in eight volumes by Sokhan Publications.
Under the Moghul Empire of India during the sixteenth century, the official language of India became Persian. Only in 1832 did the British army force the Indian subcontinent to begin conducting business in English. (Clawson, p.6) Persian poetry in fact flourished in these regions while post-Safavid Iranian literature stagnated. Dehkhoda and other scholars of the 20th century, for example, largely based their works on the detailed lexicography produced in India, using compilations such as Ghazi khan Badr Muhammad Dehlavi's Adat al-Fudhala (اداه الفضلا), Ibrahim Ghavamuddin Farughi's Farhang-i Ibrahimi ( فرهنگ ابراهیمی), and particularly Muhammad Padshah's Farhang-i Anandraj (فرهنگ آناندراج). Famous South Asian poets and scholars such as Amir Khosrow Dehlavi and Muhammad Iqbal of Lahore found many admirers in Iran itself.
Perhaps the most popular Persian poet of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was Omar Khayyam (1048–1123), whose Rubaiyat was freely translated by Edward Fitzgerald in 1859. Khayyam is esteemed more as a scientist than a poet in his native Persia, but in Fitzgerald's rendering, he became one of the most quoted poets in English. Khayyam's line, "A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou", is known to many who could not say who wrote it, or where.
The Persian poet and mystic Rumi (1207–1273) (known as Molana in Iran) has attracted a large following in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Popularizing translations by Coleman Barks have presented Rumi as a New Age sage. There are also a number of more literary translations by scholars such as A.J. Arberry.
The classical poets (Hafiz, Sa'di, Khayyam, Rumi, Nezami and Ferdowsi) are now widely known in English and can be read in various translations. Other works of Persian literature are untranslated and little known.
During the last century, numerous works of classical Persian literature have been translated into Swedish by baron Eric Hermelin. He translated works by, among others, Farid al-Din Attar, Rumi, Ferdowsi, Omar Khayyam, Sa'adi and Sana'i. Influenced by the writings of the Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, he was especially attracted to the religious or Sufi aspects of classical Persian poetry.
In the nineteenth century, Persian literature experienced dramatic change and entered a new era. The beginning of this change was exemplified by an incident in the mid-nineteenth century at the court of Nasereddin Shah, when the reform-minded prime minister, Amir Kabir, chastised the poet Habibollah Qa'ani for "lying" in a panegyric qasida written in Kabir's honor. Kabir saw poetry in general and the type of poetry that had developed during the Qajar period as detrimental to "progress" and "modernization" in Iranian society, which he believed was in dire need of change. Such concerns were also expressed by others such as Fath-'Ali Akhundzadeh, Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani, and Mirza Malkom Khan. Khan also addressed a need for a change in Persian poetry in literary terms as well, always linking it to social concerns.
The new Persian literary movement cannot be understood without an understanding of the intellectual movements among Iranian philosophical circles. Given the social and political climate of Persia (Iran) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which led to the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1906–1911, the idea that change in poetry was necessary became widespread. Many argued that Persian poetry should reflect the realities of a country in transition. This idea was propagated by notable literary figures such as Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda and Abolqasem Aref, who challenged the traditional system of Persian poetry in terms of introducing new content and experimentation with rhetoric, lexico-semantics, and structure. Dehkhoda, for instance, used a lesser-known traditional form, the mosammat, to elegize the execution of a revolutionary journalist. 'Aref employed the ghazal, "the most central genre within the lyrical tradition" (p. 88), to write his "Payam-e Azadi" (Message of Freedom).
Some researchers argue that the notion of "sociopolitical ramifications of esthetic changes" led to the idea of poets "as social leaders trying the limits and possibilities of social change."
An important movement in modern Persian literature centered on the question of modernization and Westernization and whether these terms are synonymous when describing the evolution of Iranian society. It can be argued that almost all advocates of modernism in Persian literature, from Akhundzadeh, Kermani, and Malkom Khan to Dehkhoda, 'Aref, Bahar, and Rafat, were inspired by developments and changes that had occurred in Western, particularly European, literatures. Such inspirations did not mean blindly copying Western models but, rather, adapting aspects of Western literature and changing them to fit the needs of Iranian culture.
Following the pioneering works of Ahmad Kasravi, Sadeq Hedayat and many others, the Iranian wave of comparative literature and literary criticism reached a symbolic crest with the emergence of Abdolhossein Zarrinkoub, Shahrokh Meskoob, Houshang Golshiri and Ebrahim Golestan.
In 1930 (1309 AH), after months of cultural stagnation, a group of writers founded the Herat Literary Circle. A year later, another group calling itself the Kabul Literary Circle was founded in the capital. Both groups published regular magazines dedicated to culture and Persian literature. Both, especially the Kabul publication, had little success in becoming venues for modern Persian poetry and writing. In time, the Kabul publication turned into a stronghold for traditional writers and poets, and modernism in Dari literature was pushed to the fringes of social and cultural life.
Three of the most prominent classical poets in Afghanistan at the time were Qari Abdullah, Abdul Haq Betab and Khalil Ullah Khalili. The first two received the honorary title Malek ul Shoara (King of Poets). Khalili, the third and youngest, was drawn toward the Khorasan style of poetry instead of the usual Hendi style. He was also interested in modern poetry and wrote a few poems in a more modern style with new aspects of thought and meaning. In 1318 (AH), after two poems by Nima Youshij titled "Gharab" and "Ghaghnus" were published, Khalili wrote a poem under the name "Sorude Kuhestan" or "The Song of the Mountain" in the same rhyming pattern as Nima and sent it to the Kabul Literary Circle. The traditionalists in Kabul refused to publish it because it was not written in the traditional rhyme. They criticized Khalili for modernizing his style.
Very gradually new styles found their way into literature and literary circles despite the efforts of traditionalists. The first book of new poems was published in the year 1957 (1336 AG), and in 1962 (1341 AH), a collection of modern Persian poetry was published in Kabul. The first group to write poems in the new style consisted of Mahmud Farani, Baregh Shafi’i, Solayman Layeq, Sohail, Ayeneh and a few others. Later, Vasef Bakhtari, Asadullah Habib and Latif Nazemi, and others joined the group. Each had his own share in modernizing Persian poetry in Afghanistan. Other notable figures include Leila Sarahat Roshani, Sayed Elan Bahar and Parwin Pazwak. Poets like Mayakovsky, Yase Nien and Lahouti (an Iranian poet living in exile in Russia) exerted a special influence on the Persian poets in Afghanistan. The influence of Iranians (e.g. Farrokhi Yazdi and Ahmad Shamlou) on modern Afghan prose and poetry, especially in the second half of the twentieth century, must also be taken into consideration.
Well-known novelists include:
see also Persian Novel
Prominent twentieth century critics include:
Saeed Nafisi analyzed and edited several critical works. He is well known for his works on Rudaki and Sufi literature. Parviz Natel-Khanlari and Gholamhossein Yousefi, who belong to Nafisi's generation, were also involved in modern literature and critical writings. Natel-Khanlari is distinguished by the simplicity of his style. He did not follow the traditionalists, nor did he advocate the new. Instead, his approach accommodated the entire spectrum of creativity and expression in Persian literature. Another critic, Ahmad Kasravi, an experienced authority on literature, attacked the writers and poets whose works served despotism.
Contemporary Persian literary criticism reached its maturity after Sadeq Hedayat, Ebrahim Golestan, Houshang Golshiri, Abdolhossein Zarrinkoub and Shahrokh Meskoob. Among these figures, Zarrinkoub held academic positions and had a reputation not only among the intelligentsia but also in academia. Besides his significant contribution to the maturity of Persian language and literature, Zarrinkoub boosted comparative literature and Persian literary criticism. Zarrinkoub's Serr e Ney is a critical and comparative analysis of Rumi's Masnavi. In turn, Shahrokh Meskoob worked on Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, using the principles of modern literary criticism.
Mohammad Taghi Bahar's main contribution to this field is his book called Sabk Shenasi (Stylistics). It is a pioneering work on the practice of Persian literary historiography and the emergence and development of Persian literature as a distinct institution in the early part of the twentieth century. It contends that the exemplary status of Sabk-shinasi rests on the recognition of its disciplinary or institutional achievements. It further contends that, rather than a text on Persian ‘stylistics’, Sabk-shinasi is a vast history of Persian literary prose, and, as such, is a significant intervention in Persian literary historiography.
Critical analysis of Jami's works has been carried out by Ala Khan Afsahzad. His classic book won the prestigious award of Iran's Year Best book in the year 2000.
Sadeq Chubak was one of the first authors to break the taboo. Following the example of William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Erskine Caldwell, and Ernest Hemingway, his blunt approach appears in the early short story collections Khayma Shab-bazi (The Puppet Show, 1945) and Antar-i ke Luti-ash Morda Bud (1949; tr. P. Avery as "The Baboon Whose Buffoon was Dead", New World Writing 11, 1957, pp. 14-24), Later stories like "Zir-e Cheragh-e Ghermez", "Pirahan-e Zereski", and "Chera Darya Tufani Shoda Bud" describe the naked bestiality and moral degradation of the personages with no trace of squeamishness. His short stories mirror rotting society, populated by the crushed and the defeated. Chubak picks marginal characters—vagrants, pigeon-racers, corpse-washers, prostitutes, and opium addicts—who rarely appear in the fiction of his predecessors, and whom he portrays with vividness and force. His readers come face to face with grim realities and incidents that they have often witnessed for themselves in everyday life but have shunned out of their mind through complacency.
A distinctive trait of post-war Persian fiction in all the three stages of development is the attention devoted to narrative styles and techniques. In matters of style two main trends prevail. Some authors, like Chubak and Al-e Ahmad, follow colloquial speech patterns; others, such as Ebrahim Golestan (b. 1922) and Mohammad Etemadzadeh "Behazin" (b. 1915), have adopted a more literary and lyrical tone. Although the work of all four writers stretch into later periods, some brief remarks about their differing techniques, which delineated future paths, need mentioning at the outset. Golestan experimented with different narrative styles, and it was only in two late collections of stories, Juy o Divar o Teshna (The Stream and the Wall and the Parched, 1967) and Madd o Meh (The Tide and the Mist, 1969) that he managed to find a style and voice of his own. His poetic language draws inspiration both from syntactical forms of classical Persian prose and the experiments of modernist writers, most notably Gertrude Stein. The influence of modernism is evident also in the structure of Golestan's short stories, in which the traditional linear plot line is abandoned in favor of disrupted chronology and free association of ideas. Contrary to most other modern Persian authors, Golestan pays little heed to the state of the poor and the dispossessed. Instead, his short stories are devoted to the world of Persian intellectuals, their concerns, anxieties and private obsessions. His short stories resemble well-made decorative objects d'art, pleasing perhaps to the cognoscenti but leaving the majority of readers unmoved. Golestan's brand of modernism has influenced the later generation of writers like Bahman Forsi (b. 1933) and Hooshang Golshiri (b. 1937). Although the stories of Behazin show similar indebtedness to classical Persian models, he does not follow Golestan's modernist experiments with syntax. Behazin is an author whose stories, delivered in a lucid literary style, express his leftist social beliefs. In some of his later works like the short story collection Mohra-ye Mar (The Snake Charm, 1955), he turns to literary allegory, imbuing ancient tales with a new message, a technique, which allows him to express his critical views obliquely. Behazin's predecessors in the sub-genre of the allegorical tale were Hedayat (in Ab-e Zendegi, 1931) and Chubak ("Esa'a-ye Adab" in the collection Khayma-Shab-Bazi).
Jalal Al-e Ahmad is among the proponents of new political and cultural ideas whose influence and impact straddle the first and the second periods in the history of modern Persian fiction. His writings show an awareness of the works of Franz Fanon and the new generation of third-world writers concerned with the problems of cultural domination by colonial powers. Al-e Ahmad, Behazin, Tonekaboni, and Behrangi can all be described as engaged writers because most of their stories are built around a central ideological tenet or thesis and illustrate the authors' political views and leanings. Among poets of this period, Forough Farrokhzad (1935–1967) has a special place as the first female poet of the Persian language acclaimed by her contemporaries and who left a lasting legacy despite her short life. Her legacy and influence is not primarily (or uniquely) political; however, she was among the first women able to set a personal and original mark. In this sense she is elevated to iconic status.
Another notable author from this period is Simin Daneshvar (b. 1921), the first woman writer of note in contemporary Persian literature. Her reputation rests largely on her popular novel Savusun ("The Mourners of Siyāvosh," 1969). Simin Daneshvar's short stories deserve mention because they focus on the plight and social exclusion of women in Persian society and address topical issues from a woman's point of view.
Gholam Hossein Saedi's (1935–85) short stories, which he called ghessa, often transcend the boundaries of realism and attain a symbolic significance. His allegorical stories, which occasionally resemble folkloric tales and fables, are inhabited by displaced persons, trapped in dead ends (Sepanlu, p. 117). They emphasize the anxieties and the psychological perturbations of his deeply troubled characters. Sadeghi (1936–84) was yet another author who focused on the anxieties and secret mental agonies of his characters.
Hooshang Golshiri (1937-2000) and Asghar Elahi (b. 1944) created memorable psychological portraits through interim monologue and stream of consciousness techniques. Golshiri, the author of the long story "Shazda Ehtejab" (Prince Ehtejab, 1968), is particularly noted for his successful experiments with extended interior monologues. A bold, innovative writer eager to explore modern methods and styles, Golshiri uses stream of consciousness narrative to reassess familiar theories and events.
Of the hundreds of contemporary Persian poets (classical and modern), notable figures include Mehdi Akhavan-Sales, Simin Behbahani, Forough Farrokhzad, Bijan Jalali, Siavash Kasraie, Fereydoon Moshiri, Nader Naderpour, Sohrab Sepehri, Mohammad-Reza Shafiei-Kadkani, Ahmad Shamlou, Nima Yushij, Manouchehr Atashi, Houshang Ebtehaj, Mirzadeh Eshghi (classical), Mohammad Taghi Bahar (classical), Aref (classical), Parvin Etesami (classical), and Shahriar (classical).
The transformation brought about by Nima Youshij, who freed Persian poetry from the fetters of prosodic measures, was a turning point in a long literary tradition. It broadened the perception and thinking of the poets that came after him. Nima offered a different understanding of the principles of classical poetry. His artistry was not confined to removing the need for a fixed-length hemistich and dispensing with the tradition of rhyming but focused on a broader structure and function based on a contemporary understanding of human and social existence. His aim in renovating poetry was to commit it to a "natural identity" and to achieve a modern discipline in the mind and linguistic performance of the poet.
Nima held that the formal technique dominating classical poetry interfered with its vitality, vigor and progress. Although he accepted some of its aesthetic properties and extended them in his poetry, he never ceased to widen his poetic experience by emphasizing the "natural order" of this art. What Nima Youshij founded in contemporary poetry, his successor Ahmad Shamlou continued.
The Sepid poem (which translates to white poem), which draws its sources from this poet, avoided the compulsory rules which had entered the Nimai’ school of poetry and adopted a freer structure. This allowed a more direct relationship between the poet and his or her emotional roots. In previous poetry, the qualities of the poet’s vision as well as the span of the subject could only be expressed in general terms and were subsumed by the formal limitations imposed on poetic expression.
Nima’s poetry transgressed these limitations. It relied on the natural function inherent within poetry itself to portray the poet’s solidarity with life and the wide world surrounding him or her in specific and unambiguous details and scenes. Sepid poetry continues the poetic vision as Nima expressed it and avoids the contrived rules imposed on its creation. However, its most distinct difference with Nimai’ poetry is to move away from the rhythms it employed. Nima Yioushij paid attention to an overall harmonious rhyming and created many experimental examples to achieve this end.
Ahmad Shamlu discovered the inner characteristics of poetry and its manifestation in the literary creations of classical masters as well as the Nimai’ experience. He offered an individual approach. By distancing himself from the obligations imposed by older poetry and some of the limitations that had entered the Nimai’ poem, he recognized the role of prose and music hidden in the language. In the structure of Sepid poetry, in contrast to the prosodic and Nimai’ rules, the poem is written in more "natural" words and incorporates a prose-like process without losing its poetic distinction. Sepid poetry is a developing branch of Nimai’ poetry built upon Nima Youshij's innovations. Nima thought that any change in the construction and the tools of a poet’s expression is conditional on his/her knowledge of the world and a revolutionized outlook. Sepid poetry could not take root outside this teaching and its application.
According to Simin Behbahani, Sepid poetry did not received general acceptance before Bijan Jalali's works. He is considered the founder of Sepid poetry according to Behbahani. Behbahani herself used the "Char Pareh" style of Nima, and subsequently turned to ghazal, a free-flowing poetry style similar to the Western sonnet. Simin Behbahani contributed to a historic development in the form of the ghazal, as she added theatrical subjects, and daily events and conversations into her poetry. She has expanded the range of traditional Persian verse forms and produced some of the most significant works of Persian literature in the twentieth century.
A reluctant follower of Nima Yushij, Mehdi Akhavan-Sales published his Organ (1951) to support contentions against Nima Yushij's groundbreaking endeavors. But before long he realized that Nima and the modernists emulating him had more to offer than a just a change in rhythm, rhyme, and the general application of the classical Arabic meters. In Persian poetry, Mehdi Akhavan Sales has established a bridge between the Khorassani and Nima Schools. The critics consider Mehdi Akhavan Sales as one of the best contemporary Persian poets. He is one of the pioneers of free verse (new style poetry) in Persian literature, particularly of modern style epics. It was his ambition, for a long time, to introduce a fresh style to Persian poetry.
Forough Farrokhzad is important in the literary history of Iran for three reasons. First, she was among the first generation to embrace the new style of poetry, pioneered by Nima Yushij during the 1920s, which demanded that poets experiment with rhyme, imagery, and the individual voice. Second, she was the first modern Iranian woman to graphically articulate private sexual landscapes from a woman's perspective. Finally, she transcended her own literary role and experimented with acting, painting, and documentary film-making.
Fereydoon Moshiri is best known as conciliator of classical Persian poetry with the New Poetry initiated by Nima Yooshij. One of the major contributions of Moshiri's poetry, according to some observers, is the broadening of the social and geographical scope of modern Persian literature.
A poet of the last generation before the Islamic Revolution worthy of mention is Mohammad-Reza Shafiei-Kadkani (M. Sereshk). Though he is from Khorassan and sways between allegiance to Nima Youshij and Akhavan Saless, in his poetry he shows the influences of Hafez and Mowlavi. He uses simple, lyrical language and is mostly inspired by the political atmosphere. He is the most successful of those poets who in the past four decades have tried hard to find a synthesis between the two models of Ahmad Shamloo and Nima Youshij.
Among the prominent Persian poets of the younger generation is Mana Aghaee and Ziba Karbasi. Mana Aghaee is a female poet who combines the form of the previous generation (especially Farrokhzad and Sepehri) with new topics and metaphors relevant to the 21st century.