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The Contemporary Era

This period began with the rise of Mohammad Rezā Pahlavi in the year 1941.

Poetry: In this period poetry was composed in two styles. The first was the style of Bahār, Rashid Yāsamin, Parvin E’tesāmi, Lotf ‘Ali Suratgar, and Mahdi Hamidi Shirāzi who had presented their innovative thoughts in traditional forms, which was in fact in continuation of the “revival period”. The second was the style of ‘Ali Esfandyāri, famous as “Nima Yushij”, as well as his followers who had joined into the trend that brought about a change in the style of Persian poetry. Interestingly, their style – that came to be known as the “She’r-e Nau” (lit. “new poetry”) - challenged not only the style of the first group of poets but also the literary heritage of Iran, that hereafter came to be referred to as “traditional literature”. Nimā’s contribution to Persian poetry reflected itself through a change in the rhyme and meter of the compositions. As per Nimā’s style, poems came to be composed with a prosodic meter and rhyme. However, the number of prosodic elements in each of the verses of his poems varied while the structuring of the rhymes was also random.

Besides a difference in the external structure, the “traditional” as well as the “new” styles of poetry, also vary in their composition themes in the sense that in the new style of poetry, the poet focuses on describing the nature and the application of the subject while in the traditional style of poetry, the poet concentrates on the attributes or the obvious characteristics of the subject. During this period, Nimā Yushij, with the introduction of the “new” style of poetry, and Sādeq Hedāyat, with the introduction of new elements in the arena of story-writing - which resulted in the trend of realism in the works of the writers that followed him – laid the foundation for the contemporary literature. Nimā’s style of poetry gained fame as the “She’r-e Āzād” (lit. “free style poetry) style and his followers gradually brought in innovations in some unfamiliar areas of Persian poetry. For instance, the “She’r-e Sepid” (lit. “White Poetry”) is a form of contemporary poetry whose rhythm and meter are not of a prosodic nature while its rhymes are random. The most famous poet of this style is Ahmad Shāmlu.

The “She’r-e Mauj-e Nau” (lit. the “New Wave Poetry”), which is a style of poetry without meter, is considered to fall into the category of contemporary poetry. The difference between this style of poetry and prose-writing is in the mode of expression and poetic imagery and the “Mauj-e Nau” style of poetry is intermingled with intricacy and ambiguity. From among the poets of this style, mention can be made of Ahmad Rezā Ahmadi. The “She’r-e Nau” or the “She’r-e Āzād” became the most popular of the three aforementioned styles. In the composition of the “Sepid” style of poetry, some people mistook the prose literary works for poetry while in the case of the “Mauj-e Nau” style some people mistook the complex and ambiguous prose works for poetry. The pace at which the “She’r-e Nau” became widespread encouraged even some inexperienced people - who had not even decided in what style of poetry to express themselves – to venture into publishing their immature poems, thereby tarnishing the image of the “new” style of poetry.

In the recent years, the influence of the “traditional” and “new” styles of poetry on each other resulted in the emergence of “Ghazal-e Nau” (lit. the “New Style in Ghazals”). Mohammad Husayn Shahriyār is one of the contemporary ghazal poets who also has a background in composing the “She’r-e Nau”.

Prose: Following the days of Sādeq Hedāyat, contemporary prose was freed from the final vestiges of its ancient heritage, intricate and cumbersome imagery, and unnecessary prolixity. Moreover, during the contemporary period, philosophical and social studies came to exist alongside literary and historical works. Like the previous period, the subject-matter of contemporary prose is quite varied in this period. Sādeq Hedāyat is considered to be the pioneer of realistic writing and in the field of story-writing the works produced by him during the final years of his life are considered to be from among the most outstanding prose works of the contemporary period.

After Hedāyat, it was Sādeq Chubak who followed in his footsteps albeit with a more cynical outlook, creating a collection of rather repulsive, lewd, and undignified stories.

Bozorg Alavi was yet another outstanding writer of the contemporary period who had made some successful attempts in the fields of short-story and novel writing that took their inspiration from the Iranian spirit. His most prominent works included the “Chamedān” (lit. “The Suitcase”), the “Nāmehā” (lit. Letters), “Mirzā”, and “Chashmhāyash” (His Eyes).

Jalāl Āle Ahmad was another contemporary writer who impacted the style of prose in the contemporary period and brought about changes in it. Āle Ahmad adopted a simple style of prose-writing - quite close to everyday conversation - that was replete with common terms, phrases, idioms, and proverbs. The novel, “Modir-e Madreseh” (lit. “The School Principal”), as well as his books like the “Did va Bāzdid” (lit. Mutual Visits), the “Zan-e Ziyādi” (lit. Too Much of a Woman), “Goldastehā” (lit. “The Minarets”), and “Falak” (lit. “The Cosmos”) are some of his outstanding works.

In the field of short-story writing, the contemporary period has also produced writers like Ebrāhim Golestān, Mahmud E’temādzādeh, Simin Dāneshvar, Bahrām Sādeqi, and Gholām Husayn Sā’edi, each one of whom has left behind outstanding works in his/her own field.

Play-writing is included among the legacy of the contemporary period which, in fact, can be said to have emerged as the fruits of the labor of the Constitutional Movement period. With the advent of the current Iranian century and following the Constitutional Movement, the patriotic sentiments of the masses grew stronger and, therefore, themes like glorification of the past and the need for the emergence of a national savior became the main focus of the play-works of that period. With the onset of the contemporary period, discussions on the revival of the national identity reached a stalemate and the younger generations preferred to focus on the daily realities of life in their plays. Some instances of this claim can be seen in writers like Hasan Moqaddam, with his work entitled, “Ja’far Khān az Farang Āmadeh” (lit. “Ja’far Khān Returns From Europe”); Zabih Behruz with his play “Jijak ‘Ali Shāh”; and Sa’id Nafisi with “Ākharin Yādegār-e Nāder Shāh” (lit. “The Final Legacy of Nāder Shāh”), each of which works had been written in protest against the loss of culture, superficiality, and the extravagance of the “Pharaoh of the day”.

From the year 1958 onwards, the National Art Group of Iran began its activities in collaboration with Shāhin Sarkisiyān. This group focused mainly on local issues, stories, and national aspirations and gradually progressed to work in various other areas. From among the playwrights of this period, mention can be made of ‘Ali Nasiriyān, Gholām Husayn Sā’edi, Parviz Kārdān, and Bahrām Beyzā’i.

Literary criticism in its present form is a characteristic phenomenon of this period which cannot be traced anywhere in the works of the previous writers. The main principles of the contemporary critics are focus upon the purpose behind the works, their relationship with the society, and the mutual impact between literary works and the society. It was Nimā Yushij who was the first writer to criticize the critique works of his times, considering them to be devoid of producing a scientific insight on the causes behind the emergence of the various literary styles and works in contemporary literature.

Critique works belonging to the contemporary period have often been published in the forms of articles in national periodicals. From among the first prominent critics of the contemporary period, mention can be made of Taqi Raf’at, Fātemeh Sayyāh, and Ehsān Tabari. Owing to the efforts on the parts of these pioneers in the field of critique writing, literary criticism turned into one of the most popular topics in the press from the year 1961 onwards. During these years and following the translation of a number of Western critical works the Iranian critics began to adopt Western standards in their own works. ‘Ali Shariati, in the field of Islamic research, Rezā Barāhani and Mohammad Hoquqi in the theoretical analysis of poetical themes; Yadollāh Ro’yā’i, Esmā’il Nuri Alā, and Shamim Bahār in the introduction of new literary thoughts, and Parviz Davā’i, in the area of film criticism have produced valuable critical works.


* source: Ghamar, Aryan "Iran Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 ,pp.574 – 576

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