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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars kubla khan, inside out
The Blind Owl is a short, very dense text, of just over a hundred pages. It's narrated by a lunatic, a lunatic possessed by a cold thread of reason. The first forty pages of the book contain some of the most brilliant, hallucinatory writing I've ever come across. The last sixty aren't bad either. Hedayat employs horror, humour, repetition and acute powers of description...
Published on 15 July 2011 by maldoror

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Blindly stumbling around in the dark
It's a awkward thing to pick up a novel by an author described as "the father of modern Persian short stories", read it and wonder what all the fuss was about. Rarely have I felt so underwhelmed by the epithet as I have here for Sadeq Hedayat's novella "The Blind Owl"

To say his novel lacks plot is a huge understatement. This is a surrealist, opium-fuelled,...
Published on 14 May 2010 by Sofia


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Blindly stumbling around in the dark, 14 May 2010
By 
Sofia (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
It's a awkward thing to pick up a novel by an author described as "the father of modern Persian short stories", read it and wonder what all the fuss was about. Rarely have I felt so underwhelmed by the epithet as I have here for Sadeq Hedayat's novella "The Blind Owl"

To say his novel lacks plot is a huge understatement. This is a surrealist, opium-fuelled, hallucinatory, nightmarish vision which could never fit within the constructs of a conventional novel. It's modernist experimentalism laughs in the face of plot or character or narrative reliability to give you a hypnotic meditation on love, death, mortification, horror and fear. Whilst it may tick all the boxes of "classic" in that it was clearly ground-breaking in Persian fiction, it is a seriously challenging read. It is full of murderous imagery and seemingly endless descriptive repetition ('the hollow, grating laugh, with a quality to make the hairs of one's body stand on end' becomes frankly irritating in its overuse) decorating a love-hate hallucination as it morphs between dream, apparent memory, madness and outright nightmare.

At 106 pages, this is not a long read, but what it lacks in physical weight it amply makes up for in cerebral depth. There is value in this book, it is totally different but it's not an enjoyable book, not by any means.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars kubla khan, inside out, 15 July 2011
The Blind Owl is a short, very dense text, of just over a hundred pages. It's narrated by a lunatic, a lunatic possessed by a cold thread of reason. The first forty pages of the book contain some of the most brilliant, hallucinatory writing I've ever come across. The last sixty aren't bad either. Hedayat employs horror, humour, repetition and acute powers of description to describe one man's madness as told by himself. You could say it emerges from a style of writing pioneered by Dostoyevski, specifically in works such as The Double, (so much in twentieth century literature seems to come from Dosteyevski) or, as mentioned in the forward, the French poets maudits, with their delirious introspection. From an Anglo-Saxon point of view, it feels like it might be the direct heir to Coleridge's Kubla Khan: this is what it's really like inside the pleasuredome, in a land where time drips off the walls and every bead of sweat contains a world refracted within.

What marks out Hedayat's text in particular is the remarkable use of repetition. Which serves as both a source of stability in a world where events seem to obey no temporal logic and also the source of a kind of comic damnation. It's all going to come around again, it's never going to change. Trapped as we are in the same old patterns (script after script; flaw after flaw; fight and flight, etc) the simplicity of Hedayat's device works to remind us that the narrator, for all his opium habits and exotic strangeness, is one of us, human, obedient to the inescapability of fate.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Persian Haunted Tale, 7 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This is a strange, affecting, poetic book. The author killed himself after he wrote it, so it reeks of death worship, but there are moments of solid poetic beauty in the text. The Blind Owl is unlike anything else you will ever read, and defies linear interpretation. Existential Persian magic fatalism; interesting stuff all round.
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5.0 out of 5 stars far beyond my expectation !, 11 Jun 2014
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absolutely amazing , vomiting all types of beliefs and loathing the triviality of life , extremely gloomy.spoken from the heart rather than just writing any kind of literature. Hedayat took me into a vivid psychological ride. and i enjoyed it !
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and quite depressive, but the language and style bring pleasure, 10 Jun 2014
By 
Natalia Kozyakova "Talya" (Colchester, VT USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Blind Owl (Paperback)
I liked reading the book although I cannot say that it was my best read. It is quite dark and depressive, at some parts I was even disgusted by the events: though it can say that the writer completed his task in reaching the reader's emotions. No explanation nor hints on what happened and why always keeps you wondering, wanting to read and find and answer. I guess I will need to read it again to completely comprehend the beauty of this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Its almost a story that wasn't told., 17 July 2013
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This book is a wonderful example of literature. It is moving, it is immersive, its moving, and all the time it pulls you along with this cyclic need to understand. You almost become an extension of the main character. Absolutely incredible and a classic forever.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Recommended to people who like weird, depressing books with no plot, 24 Nov 2009
This review is from: Blind Owl (Paperback)
At only 108 pages it was a very quick read, but I'm not sure that I fully understood what was happening.

The author, Sadegh Hedayat, was born in Iran in 1903, but dedicated his life to the study of Western literature. His books are are now banned in Iran and are coming under increased attack from political Islamists in Europe. He suffered from drug addiction and alcohol problems and committed suicide in 1951.

I think that an understanding of the author's situation is key to realising the importance of this novella. It is a dark book, filled with thoughts on violence and death. It has a hallucinatory feel, so I found it difficult to grasp what was happening at all times. The book seemed to float from one scene to another, with no real plot.

The writing was poetic, and there were some beautiful descriptions hidden amongst the dark thoughts:

"The sun, sucking with a thousand mouths, was drawing the sweat of my body. The desert plants looked, under the great, blazing sun, like so many patches of turmeric. The sun was like a feverish eye. It poured its burning rays from the depth of the sky over the silent, lifeless landscape."

I also loved discovering some of the Persian traditions and it has inspired me to find out more about Iranian culture, but I'm afraid that the negatives of this book far outweighed the positives. It was dark, gruesome and impossible to follow. I felt that some of the scenes were there just to cause outrage and controversy, but perhaps they were just an indication of the authors depressive state. Either way this wasn't an enjoyable read.

Recommended to people who like weird, depressing books with no plot!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Persian/Iranian modern literary classic of madness, betrayal & murder, 26 Aug 2011
First published in Farsi in 1937 by Sadiq Hidayat (also referred to as Sadegh Hedayat), the famous Persian/Iranian writer, it took another 20 years before this amazing novella was made available in English.

The story is hallucinatory, sinister, troubling and strange: all these emotions in a compelling, positive way, if that makes sense. There is a pervading eeriness to it that has echoes of Poe's story, The Best Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Tales), Henry James' The Turn of the Screw (Dover Thrift) and Kafka's claustrophobic environments and strange experiences in The Castle (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature) and in the city of Joseph K.'s The Trial (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature). It strikes me that the author has consciously accounted for these influences, though there may be many others from Persian literature, his own culture.

How could you not be drawn in and find it compelling, irrespective - or because of?! - the subject matter and its distinctive writing style? After all, this is a story of madness, obsession and horrific murder, even - perhaps - necrophilia, of the main character laying down in bed with his wife as her body decomposes. (I say perhaps, because you're not certain that this is a deranged fantasy of his, or whether it has actually happened; this sort of uncertainty permeates the entire novella). What I've just described may understandably make it sound like some sort of gross-out horror story, but I assure you it's not; it's much more sophisticated than that, albeit that it remains disturbing, as any tale of madness should be and certainly more haunting than shlock gorish horror fiction!

While the language of the English translation by D. P. Costello is simple, accessible - and poetic - you soon become aware that its simplicity and style is part of the duplicity/tricksiness of the text; it is, itself, a part of a trap the author has set you, the reader. You innocently read on, turning the pages, uncertain of the future you are about to imbibe, and almost immediatley you are trapped, taken in, feeling helpless yet with eyes wide open, on a journey within the narrator's mind.

The man appears to be a straightforward, simple guy, making his living as an artist creating designs on the lids of pen-cases (but the design is always the same image - `in the grip of a mad obsession' (p.86), unconsciously referring to himself, the design of an `a Cypress tree at the foot of which is squatting a bent old man bent like a fakir (. ) and a woman `holding a flower of morning glory in her hand. Between them runs a stream' (p.86))). This is one of many phrases he repeats throughout the telling of his tale.

By page 24, you are being told of murder, of the narrator severing his wife's head, then proceeding to amputate her limbs and the disposal of her body is grotesque and surreal. Or has done these things, really? Are they delusions? Either way, whether he's `only' deranged and has fantasised his killing of his wife, or he actually has, you can't help but read on, `look' at what is happening to him, in the same unhealthily curious way drivers/passers-by often look at a traffic accident, wanting, yet not wanting to, see the gory details, the blood and terror of it in stark reality. Yet we look. It is like that here; it is genuinely disturbing.

The narrator seems to be having a complete nervous breakdown/break from reality, and you sense the world he describes is that of a socio/psychopath, though he never sees himself as such. He has no real sense of time, admitting that an event of a thousand years ago may seem to him more real than something that occurred yesterday. On top of which, he is addicted to opium - in ever-increasing daily doses, and consumes wine: he is absolutley conflicted - he wants - is compelled - to tell you his story, yet at the same time he tells you he smokes opium because he wants to forget; and that he's not even sure what really happened `life is a fiction', he says', `a story'.

He doesn't seem to sleep, he hardly eats or if he's eating it makes no positive difference. He is becoming a shadow, wasting away: `A sensation which had long been familiar to me was this, that I was slowly decomposing while I yet lived' (p.59); he is alienated, an outsider, he despises others and has no value for his own life: `For some reason all activity, all happiness onthe part of other people made me feel like vomiting. I was aware that my own life was finished and was slowly and painfully guttering out' (p.68); he has nightmares of beheadings, of butchering; his eye is drawn to the butcher's opposite when he works away with his knife into the flesh his dead animals just delivered to him.

Such a breakdown doesn't exclude his own sane insights into his self and circumstances and events, yet these are threaded through as a pattern in a cloth of a different colour overall (for example, just two pages into the story, while admitting his one `fear is that tomorrow I may die without having come to know myself', he immediately goes on to say `In the course of my life I have discovered that a fearful abyss lies between me and other people'); these and other such reflections are moments of genuine self-awareness/insight, but you know they're not the threads holding the entire cloth together anymore; his sanity is in that sense a sort of echo, one of many operating levels both psychological as well as in verbal/narrative telling of his story. So from the outset, in the very brief chapter one, which is in effect a prologue, he tells you he is trying to make sense of it all .

You know for certain that he utterly loathes his wife, and he obsesses and returns time and again to key phrases and expressions, just like someone with a serious psychological fissure/crack in their worldview. Yet even his hatred for his wife - he only ever refers to her as `the bitch' `because no other name would suit her so well' (p.60) and he belives her to have had countless affairs; not even affairs, as such, but animalistic s#exual betrayals, sleeping with anyone she chooses. None the less his hatred appears to be based upon love and lust turned dark and sadistic and vengeful, as a consequence of his own feelings for her being unreciprocated (as we know, this perennial theme of revenge/murder occurs as much in life as it is reflected in fiction). He believes she never truly cared for him, even though it seems he loved her from when he was a child and they played happily together on the outskirts of their city, where they lived.

You're never quite sure what is part of his own inner world and temptations and perceptions based on manifestations of rage and frustration, and to what degree he has truly acted out what he refers to: the killing of his wife. You know that he is morbidly consumed by her, and wants to consume her, that he feels humiliated and ridiculed and belittled by her behaviour (sleeping with whomever she chooses, it seems, and that everyone else knows this to be the case).

At first his relentless use of certain stock phrases may irritate - at first you think, `is this just bad writing'; `doesn't Hidayat/Hedayat KNOW he's repeating himself?!' But of course, HE'S not repeating himself obsessively, rewinding and spiralling down and up and back and forth like a distressed mouse in a maze: you are in his CHARACTER'S world. These stock phrases are typically eerie and haunting and remote from our real world, and include `I am writing only for my shadow', `I saw a bent old man sitting at the foot of a cypress tree with a young girl [... ] The old man was biting the nail of the index finger of his left hand'. He often hears a `mocking laugh, of a quality to make the hairs on one's body stand on end' (p.98); the laugh issues from his mouth - sometimes he's aware of this, sometimes not and attributes to others, the darkness, another. And there are many other memories/recollected phrases, besides. They're hugely effective; you go from thinking what the hell?! - to god, this is bloody great!; this guy REALLY is deranged; so you feel for him, yet he could well be a sadistic murderer of his own wife, so you also feel disgusted, appalled; yes, horribly conflicted. The narrative, then, contains real power.

It ends as it begins, the character with his psychosis, his derangement, his endless circling, repeating thoughts and memories and hallucinatory memories; his guilt weighing down on him . or is that weight he feels on his chest bearing down on him actually the body/remains of his wife? You decide.

This story is well worth the read, despite its cover price (after all, it's only 108 pages in length!). It also deserves a wider reputation, along with the publication and promotion of some of his other works into English; I understand that the author during his lifetime was regarded as the foremost writer of fiction in Iran, and English reviewers alone raved about it - from Tom Stoppard, The Guardian, Ted Hughes, The Times Literary Supplement to Alan Warner. Once read, you will never forget it. Highly recommended. Now I can't wait to read a collection of his short stories: Three Drops of Blood (Oneworld Modern Classics) (Oneworld Classics).
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars quite remarkable, 15 Aug 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Blind Owl (Paperback)
This is how H P Lovecraft would have liked to have written, just as mad but with a poetry and flow that Lovecraft tended to lack. It's very short which makes it certainly a worthwhile read even if it would not normally be your sort of thing at all.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dark, 21 July 2013
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This book is a strange one. It seems to be written from the view of an opium addict. It's dark.
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Blind Owl
Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat (Paperback - 17 Jan 2002)
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