The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat
This is an extremely important work of Iranian fiction, written in the 1930s. It was chosen by someone in one of the book clubs I participate in. According to the introduction, it is so shocking that there are rumors that it led to people dying by suicide.
The book tells two versions of the same story – both told from the main character’s perspective. He is an artist who is either solitary or lives with his wife (depending on the telling). One version is a bit more supernatural-feeling than the other, both heavily feature sadness, loneliness, and darkness.
I missed something in this book. I didn’t get it, and that is why I didn’t give it a ranking. I feel like it’s just not something I can wrap my head around, because I can’t wrap my head around the book. It obviously is full of symbolism that I don’t get because I don’t have the shared culture that might be necessary to truly pick up on the nuance of the storytelling. I’m not even entirely clear on the purpose of the book. Perhaps is an allegory of death? I don’t know.
The author’s style keeps me from really getting into the book – the writing is fine, but it’s also a translation to English, so it comes across as fairly plain and also repetitive. There is (according to Wikipedia, which I visited immediately upon completion) a reason for this, and an art to it, but again I think a whole lot has been lost in translation.
Mostly reading this book made me angry that I a) can’t read all the languages and b) don’t understand or even have a basic understanding of the vast majority of cultures in the world.
So yay for that?