GOLČIN GILĀNI, pen name of the poet MAJD-AL-DIN MIR-FAḴRĀʾI (b. Rašt, 11 Dey 1288 Š./1 January 1910; d. London, 29 Āḏar 1351 Š./20 December 1972; Figure 1). His father, Sayyed Mahdi Mir-faḵrāʾi, was a state official originally from Tafreš in central Persia. He was the deputy head of the Department of Finance in Rašt when Golčin was born. Golčin received his elementary education in Rašt and then moved to Tehran at age fifteen, at least in part as a result of an unwanted early marriage arranged for him by his family (ʿĀbedi, ed., p. 21; Rowšan et al., p. 715). He had already published some juvenalia in Rašt, and his new teachers at Sirus and Dār al-Fonun high schools soon discovered his talent. His ḡazals, which he enthusiastically entrusted to his teacher and mentor Ḥasan Waḥid Dastgerdi, founder of the recently-established literary journal Armaḡān, were a regular feature of that journal between 1928 and 1933.
In 1930, Golčin entered Tehran’s Teachers Training College (Dār al-moʿallemin-e ʿāli; see EDUCATION xix), where he studied literature and philosophy. Three years later he received a government scholarship to study abroad, perhaps with the understanding that he would continue in the humanities. Nāder Nāderpur states that the young poet studied medicine for a few years at the American University of Beirut, and went to London only after World War II broke out (Nāderpur, p. 25). This is, however, contradicted by other sources, according to which Golčin was one of the last group of one hundred students that the Reżā Shah government sent to Europe annually on scholarship. The group went first to France and, after a while, to England (Ganji, p. 624; ʿĀbedi, ed., pp. 15, 53). In any event, within a year of his arrival in London, Golčin decided to study medicine, partly as a challenge to himself. In response, the Persian government cut his scholarship and he began to work at odd jobs to support himself. His scholarship was renewed a few months later, when the Persian government approved his decision to study medicine. All government-sponsored Persian students were called back when World War II broke out, but Golčin ignored the order to return and stayed on in London, working for a while as an ambulance driver for the Civil Defense under the London County Council (ʿĀbedi, ed., pp. 16-18; Arberry, p. 231).
In 1943 Golčin was hired by the British Movitone Film Company to write, translate, and record voice-over narration for its news and war propaganda films. He earned enough to resume his studies, while the newsreels, which typically began with the statement “Golčin reports from England,” spread his name all over Persia, as they were shown in Persian cinemas before feature films through the late 1940s (Eslāmi-Nadušan, p. 5; Arberry, p. 232). Around the same time, Golčin began to work for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), chiefly as a translator. The job put him in contact with prominent Persians residing in London, including Mojtabā Minovi, Masʿud Farzād (q.v.), and Abu’l-Qāsem Ṭāheri.
In 1945 he received his medical license from the Royal College of Surgeons and started his general practice; a year later, he received his doctoral degree, specializing in tropical diseases and hygiene (Arberry, p. 232; ʿĀbedi, ed., p. 20). Thereafter, in addition to practicing medicine in his private office, he also worked as a medical consultant with the Persian embassy in London, mainly referring Persian officials with medical needs to specialists in various fields (ʿĀbedi, ed., pp. 23-24; Foruḥi, p. 79). The work earned him the nickname Doktor-e Sefārat (the embassy doctor).
Throughout the 1940s, Golčin sent his compositions to Persia for publication; many appeared in the literary journals of the early 1940s such as Soḵan, Yaḡmā, Armaḡān, Foruḡ, Yādgār, and Jahān-e now. Judging by these compositions, as well as the slim volume of poetry he published in London, Nehofta (1948, 72 pp.), the old formulaic habits of his youthful compositions were steadily losing their grip on him, giving his work a more free-flowing style. Golčin also adopted a series of formal innovations which by then were practiced in Persia as well, most notably by poets like Parviz Nātel Ḵānlari and Fereydun Tavallali. Yet Golčin’s work features little of the sophisticated phraseology of the latter group; it certainly lacks the complex usages that distinguish Nimā Yušij’s poetic style from other mid-century Persian poets. In content, Golčin’s later compositions can be distinguished by two interrelated preoccupations, description of nature and expression of intense feelings. The two similar environments of his native city, Rašt, and his adopted city of London dominate these works. As Nāderpur states: “it seems as though he has carried the lush, green land and the humid weather of Gilān in his suitcase to England” (Nāderpur, 24). Several of Golčin’s compositions of the 1940s were translated into English by Arthur J. Arberry and published first in Ruzgār-e now, a London-based Persian journal published under the auspices of the British government, and later in his Persian Poems.
In the late 1940s, perhaps after the publication of Nehofta, Golčin began to study English poetry in general, and particularly the Romantics. His other two London collections, Farib and a verse story in the form of mosammaṭ titled Mehr o kin (Love and rancor), both printed and distributed privately and bearing no publisher or date, express romantic leitmotifs such as can be found in the poetry of William Wordsworth or John Keats. Certainly, Golčin comes far closer to expressing specific affinities with the English Romantics than any Persian poet of his or later generations; his depiction of nature as a living force and of human beings as creatures at once inspired and awed by its majesty suffice to demonstrate this affinity. He also portrays childlike personae revealing a sense of naturalness and naivete that is lost as they grow into adulthood.
Golčin’s poetic output declined noticeably in the 1950s, possibly due to his long absence from a Persian-speaking environment (cf. his letters to Pesyān in ʿĀbedi, ed., pp. 28, 32), an unhappy marital life, pressures of his professional occupation, or a combination thereof. Still, Golčin managed to publish one more collection of poems, Gol-i barā-ye to “A rose for you” (Tehran, 1969). This was the poet’s fourth and last collection and the only one of his works to be published in his native country. It also remains the only one readily available to Persian readers, and the one on which much of his reputation rests. In fact, many readers know Golčin through a single poem, “Bārān” (The rain), first published in the journal Soḵan in 1944. That single poem, with its simultaneous charm and simplicity, has been the basis of more discussion of the poet and his oeuvre than all his other works put together (Yusofi; Langarudi, pp. 255-56; Šafiʿi Kadkani, p. 556).
Golčin was married three times. The first marriage was to a youthful distant cousin named Jalil-al-Sādāt, reportedly arranged by his family when he was thirteen years old and still living in Rašt. His second marriage was to Irān-doḵt Meḡnāṭ in 1951 (?), and the third to Šahin Jasuri Tabrizi in the early 1960s; both wives were Persian women living in England. Many of the Persian literati who visited Golčin in London in the 1950s speak of his family life as rather unhappy and of his mental state as at times distraught. According to his long-time friend Ḥosayn-ʿAli Solṭānzāda Pesyān, Golčin would “from time to time sink into silence or display a peculiar impatience, such that for a few days it would be difficult to speak or converse with him. At such times, his complexion would grow dark, his glance would turn restless, and he would communicate by uttering brief and broken or inappropriate statements” (Pesyān, cited in ʿĀbedi, ed., p. 21). Golčin died of leukemia at the age of 61.
Kāmyār ʿĀbedi, ed., Bā tarāna-ye bārān: zendagi wa šeʿr-e Golčin Gilāni, Tehran, 1379 Š./2000 (includes the fullest account of Golčin’s life to date and a fairly representative sample of his poetic output, as well as a number of useful reference items).
Other noteworthy notices on Golčin’s life and works are: Iraj Afšār, “Dargoḏašt-e Golčin Gilāni,” Rāhnemā-ye ketāb 15, 1351 Š./1973, p. 882.
Arthur J. Arberry, “Gulchīn,” Islamic Culture 21, 1947, pp. 231-42.
Idem, Persian Poems: An Anthology, London, 1954, pp. 110-13.
Moḥammad-ʿAli Eslāmi Nadušan, “Yād-i az Golčin Gilāni,” in Kamyār ʿĀbedi, ed., Bā tarāna-ye bārān, Tehran, 1379 Š./2000, pp. 5-11.
ʿAli Foruḥi, “Doktor Majd-al-Din Mir-faḵrāʾi (Golčin Gilani),” in ʿAli Ḵalḵāli and ʿAziz-Allāh Rasuli, eds., Tonkā, bk. 2, Islamic Āzād University of Tonokābon, 1372 Š./1993.
Moḥammad-Ḥasan Ganji, “Yād-i az Golčin Gilāni,” Āyanda 15, pp. 624-25.
Parviz Nātel Ḵānlari, “Dargoḏašt-e yak šāʿer-e arjomand (Golčin Gilāni), Soḵan 22/5, 1351 Š./1972, pp. 560-61.
Nāder Nāderpur, “Ṭefl-e ṣad sāla,” Ruzgār-e now/Rouzegar-e-Now 11, no. 127, 1371 Š./1992, pp. 25-27.
Esmāʿil Nuri-ʿalā, “In Zendagi’st migoḏarad,” Ferdowsi 24, no. 1096, p. 20.
Moḥammad Rowšan et al., “Mašāhir-e Gilān,” in Ketāb-e Gilān, 3 vols., Tehran, 1374 Š./1995, II, pp. 623-725.
Moḥammad-Reżā Šafiʿi Kadkani, Musiqi-e šeʿr, Tehran, 1368 Š./1989.
Moḥammad Šams Langarudi, Tāriḵ-e taḥlili-e šeʿr-e now I: az Mašruṭiyat tā kudetā (1284-1332 Š.), Tehran, 1370 Š./1991, pp. 255-62, 293-98.
Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Yusofi, “Bārān,” in idem, Čašma-ye rowšan: didār-i bā šāʿerān, Tehran, 1369 Š./1990, pp. 534-45.
(Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak and Homa Katouzian)
Originally Published: December 15, 2001
Last Updated: February 14, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 1, pp. 65-67