ČARAND PARAND (commonly pronounced Čarand o parand), literally “fiddle-faddle,” the title of satirical pieces of social and political criticism in the form of short narratives, brief announcements, telegrams, news reports, etc., by ʿAlī-Akbar Dehḵodā (b. 1297/1879, d. 1334 Š./1956) published in the weekly paper Ṣūr-e Esrāfīl (q.v.; Tehran) from 17 Rabīʿ II 1325 to 20 Jomādā I 1326 (30 May 1907-20 June 1908) in 32 issues and again from 1 Moḥarram 1327 to 15 Ṣafar 1327 (23 January 1909-8 March 1909) in 3 issues of the paper’s new edition prepared by Dehḵodā in Yverdon, Switzerland, and published in Paris, and in the newspaper Īrān-e konūnī from the fourth issue on. Some of those in Īrān-e konūnī had subtitles, for example,Yatīmšadkonak (orphan-pleasing, no. 5), and Majmaʿ al-amṯāl-e Daḵow (Daḵow’s compendium of proverbs), and were later reprinted in the newspaper Šafaq-e sork (nos. 1-5, 7-8, 2-21 Rajab 1340/30 February-21 March 1922).
In Ṣūr-e Esrāfīl Dehḵoda published his articles under the sarcastic pseudonyms of Daḵow, Ḵarmagas, Sag-e Ḥasan Dala, Ḡolām Gadā Āzādḵān ʿAlī-Allāhī, Rūznūmačī, Kamīna Asīr-al-Jawāl, Daḵow ʿAlīšāh, Ḵādem-al-Foqarāʾ, Daḵow-ʿAlī, Raʾīs-e Anjoman-e Lāt-o-Lūthā, Noḵod-e Hama-āš, Berahna-Ḵᵛošḥāl, Damdamī, Awyārqolī, Janāb-e Mollā Aynak-ʿAlī. A collection of Čarand parand was first published in 1330 Š./1051 by S. Nafīsī (Šāhkārhā I, pp. 20-115). Soon other editions followed, of which the one by Dabīrsīāqī (Maqālāt, 1358), published with notes and an introduction, is the most complete. It also contains a humorous piece (pp. 273-84), some sketches entitled Haḏayānhā-ye man (p. 285), and some notes on Persian proverbs (pp. 286-90), all found after Dehḵodā’s death.
Born in Tehran, Dehḵodā received ten years of traditional education and then enrolled in the School of Politics (Madrasa-ye Sīasī) to study French. After graduating he was employed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and accompanied Moʿāwen-al-Dawla Ḡaffārī, Persia’s ambassador to the Balkans, where he spent two years, mainly in Vienna. Dehḵodā returned to Persia (1323/1905) during the Constitutional movement. He joined the Constitutionalists and a short while later, together with Jahāngīr Khan Šīrāzī and Mīrzā Qāsem Khan Tabrīzī, began publishing the weekly political paper Ṣūr-e Esrāfīl, whose satirical articles and biting social criticism were very effective in making people conscious of the problems of the Persian society.
As the editor of the paper Dehḵodā wrote editorials, as well as a series of articles, which earned it its wide popularity. In these articles, known as Čarand parand, he sharply attacked the corrupt elements of the society. Daḵow, Dehḵodā’s favorite pseudonym, is a dialect form of Dehḵodā (village headman) and in folk literature the name of a rather stupid village headman (like Mollā Naṣr-al-Dīn) from Qazvīn, about whom many silly and funny anecdotes are told.
Before the Constitutional Revolution satire was used in Persian prose and poetry mainly to settle personal scores or to vent feelings of frustration, and it was hardly considered a respectable literary genre. It owes its rise as a literary medium and, at the same time, an effective political weapon to the ingeniousness of poets and writers like Ašraf Gīlānī and Dehḵodā, as well as to the relative freedom of speech created by the Constitutional Revolution. In Čarand parand Dehḵodā is at his best as a satirist. He shows remarkable talent for discovering the contradictions and ludicrous and funny aspects of the society and then using them to drive his points home in a beautifully made satirical piece. His strong sense of humor, also found in his poetry, was already expressed in the reports he sent to Ḥājj Ḥosayn Āqā Amīn-al-Żarb in 1324/1906, when he was working for the company Amīn-al-Żarb had established for building a paved road in Khorasan (Nāmahā-ye sīasī, p. 87). Even in his daily conversation he reportedly often resorted to witty remarks concerning the social conditions of the country (Ādaraḵšī, p. 11; Dehḵodā, Maqālāt, p. XXV).
Dehḵodā’s interest and involvement in contemporary social issues and his deep insight into the mentality of his countrymen, his keen understanding of their aspirations, problems and frustrations, and his sympathy with them provided him with a wide variety of material for his powerful social satires, in which he analyzed events and aspects of social and political life in Persia and relentlessly attacked any social phenomena that he thought contributed to the country’s backwardness: corruption and inefficiency in the government and the Majles, incompetent officials, the government vis-à-vis the people, foreign influence, prevalent injustice and oppression, the threats to freedom of expression, the people’s ignorance and their susceptibility to deceit, hypocrisy, corrupt journalists, the deplorable conditions of roads, the chasm between the rich and the poor, superstitions, the lack of education for women, inadequate educational facilities for children, and so on.
Preferring the modes of the spoken language, he shunned the pretentious convoluted style of contemporary men of letters. Using popular idioms he created, 14 years before the publication of Jamālzāda’s Yak-ī būd o yak-ī nabūd (1340/1920), a lively, intimate, and powerful language that makes him a pioneer of modern Persian prose. His style, although it depends heavily on popular vocabulary and manner of expression, is refined, eloquent, and completely free from vulgarisms. Its sentences are short, simple in grammar and syntax, sincere and appealing in tone, and very effective in getting the author’s point across. They reflect Dehḵodā’s profound knowledge of Persian literature, as well as his extensive familiarity with the popular folklore, epitomized in his Amṯāl o ḥekam (4 vols., Tehran, 1308 Š./1939, repr. 1339 Š./1960).
It has been suggested that Dehḵodā imitated the format of Mollā Naṣr-al-Dīn, a satirical Turkish newspaper published in Caucasia (founded in Tbilisi in 1324/1906) in Ṣūr-e Esrāfīl and that his satirical prose was influenced by the style of the founder and editor of that newspaper, Jalīl Moḥammadqolīzāda Naḵjavānī (1869-1932), a Persian by descent. It is argued that the similarity between the two is not confined only to the use of similar topics but is evident also “in the creation of types and characters, the choice of suitable background and environment, the embellishment of the structure of the stories, the development of the content and the arriving at conclusions.” Both writers have almost the same style and “in discussing social issues, both of them start with minor and insignificant topics that seem to have no bearing on the point under discussion,” or focus on a given issue indirectly through the narration of stories, allegories, or anecdotes or by making humorous and satirical comparisons (Āryanpūr, II, pp. 86-92; Balay, pp. 60-61). The influence of the humorous and satirical Turkish poet ʿAlī-Akbar Ṭāherzāda Ṣāber Šervānī (1279-1329/1862-1911), the liberal poet of Caucasia and the author of Hophop-nāma (1912), has also been detected in Dehḵodā’s poetry (Āryanpūr, II, pp. 92-97). In view of the fact that Dehḵodā knew Turkish and a close relationship and cooperation existed between the two newspapers Mollā Naṣr-al-Dīn and Ṣūr-e Esrāfīl (Āryanpūr, II, p. 86; Dehḵodā, Dīvān, pp. 203-08; idem, Maqālāt, pp. 265, 267-68), a certain degree of similarity between some of Dehḵodā’s prose and poems published in Mollā Naṣr-al-Dīn is to be expected. However, Dehḵodā did not merely imitate, and whatever he borrowed had been completely integrated and recast in the innovative originality of Čarand parand, which is so distinctly Persian in letter and spirit. Dehḵodā, through his unique talent and ingeniousness, blended into a solid unity the criticism and satire, popular idioms and proverbs and literary modes of expression, always finding the proper terminology for his subject. When he coined new, eloquent expressions in order to voice his satire they were in perfect compliance with the spirit of the spoken language.
Dehḵodā is probably at his best in Čarand parand when it comes to the choice of the kind of subject matter that would most aptly suit his ideas and witticisms, for example the two articles in the form of letters from the town (“Maktūb-e šahrī”): One of the articles is on the biography of Āzād Khan Kerendī and the other on the titles of the nobility (Maqālāt, pp. 7-11, 23-26). Other examples are the observations of Awyārqolī the peasant in the town; “Maktūb-e yak-ī az moḵaddarāt” (A letter from a lady and its reply); the translation of a letter from Arabic; “ʿAmala-ye ḵalwat” (The household servants); “Dorūs al-ašyāʾ” (Lessons about objects); “Maktūb,” a letter criticizing Majles deputies; The Plan for Building a Railroad in Persia (ibid., pp. 32-40, 44-47, 82-86, 92-98, 131-35, 153-58, 181-86). Every character in his stories talks and acts in keeping with the status and disposition suggested by his name. Many points are made by the use of oblique, subtle hints that are often much more eloquent and biting than direct criticism. While seemingly pursuing a line of argument, Dehḵodā manages to draw the reader’s attention to subtle points not directly connected with the main line of his topic. His style is full of allusions and subplots, in such a way that in some of his pieces a number of different topics are intertwined (see, e.g., “Bešārat” Glad-tidings, “Aḵbār-e šahrī” (News from town), and a piece about the threats made against Daḵow and his fear of those threats; Maqālāt, pp. 29-30, 58-63, 69-72). Dehḵodā’s masterful manipulation of the subtleties of the language enables him to make biting remarks in countless new ways (e.g., Maqālāt, pp. 100-07). His tendency to expand his theme by using analogous stories leads him at times to the point of being verbose, however.
Giving sarcastic names to the characters of his stories—some of which have already been referred to—is another trademark of his shrewd wit.
It should be added, however, that all of Dehḵodā’s criticisms are not in the form of indirect allusions; sometimes they are very clear and direct, especially in the three new issues of Ṣūr-e Esrāfīl, published in Europe. No doubt living outside Persia and the publication of the newspaper in Switzerland gave him greater freedom. It may also be that the unsettled life in exile, frustrations, and the murder of his friend Mīrzā Jahāngīr Khan Ṣūr-e Esrāfīl also played a role in giving a more direct and vehement tone to his criticism and making his satirical pieces more incisive and even caustic.
The question of whether Dehḵodā’s Čarand parand is in the form of a story (récit), anecdote, or novelette, and also the purpose of the introductions (moqaddama), and the format and the construction of the stories, also the relationship between the introduction and the main themes of the story, play with words and phrases, which connects the various parts of a given piece and the variety of means he uses to effect this connection of side events with each other and with the main theme, the fast pace of the dialogues, the interaction of characters in some stories (e.g., Maqālāt, pp. 58-63), the dramatic forms of some of the narratives, the unraveling of the main points, and many other technical details have been discussed in detail in the valuable, critical study of Balay (pp. 51-l05). Balay has evaluated Čarand parand mainly by applying Western standards of criticism, and while stressing Dehḵodā’s originality he has also regarded the narrative style of Čarand parand as having been influenced by Dehḵodā’s exposure to Western literature, and as occupying a place halfway between traditional literature and the literature based on Western models (pp. 100-01, 105). This point is only partly valid, however.
In any case, Dehḵodā in Čarand parand is, undoubtedly, one of the ablest and cleverest satirists in the Persian language. The strong reaction of the opponents of the newspaper Ṣūr-e Esrāfīl, which eventually led to Dehḵodā’s banishment (Browne, Persian Revolution, p. 264; Maqālāt, pp. x-xi) show the effectiveness of his articles and their literary, political, and social significance (Ī. Afšār in Āyanda, p. 530). Despite their brevity and satirical tone, one can see in them, narrated in a most delightful style, the critical representation of many crucial social and political issues of Persia at the beginning of the l4th/20th century.
Āyanda 5/7-9, 1358 Š./1979 (an issue devoted to studies on Dehḵodā).
Āryanpūr, Az Ṣabā tā Nīmā II, pp. 77-107.
Ch. Balay and M. Cupers, Aux sources de la nouvelle persane, Paris, 1983.
R. Barāhenī, Qeṣṣa-nevīsī, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969, pp. 508-21.
E. G. Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia IV, pp. 469-82.
Idem, Press and Poetry, pp. 115-16.
ʿA. Dastḡayb, “ʿAlī-Akbar Dehḵodā,” Payām-e novīn 4/1, 1340 Š./1961, pp. 3-19.
ʿA. Dehḵodā, Nāmahā-ye sīāsī-e Dehḵodā, ed. Ī. Afšār, Tehran, 1358 Š./1979.
Idem, Maqālāt-e Dehḵodā I (including Čarand parand), ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1358 Š./1979.
Idem, Maqālāt-e Dehḵodā II, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985.
Idem, Dīvān-e Dehḵodā, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1360 Š./1981.
Idem, Ḵāṭerāt-e Dehḵodā, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1359 Š./1980.
W. Dorūdīān Dehḵodā-ye šāʿer, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1362 Š./1983.
M. Esteʿlāmī, Adabīyāt-e emrūz-e Īrān, Tehran, 2536 = 1356 Š./1977, pp. 88, 92-98.
H. Kamshad, Modern Persian Prose Literature, Cambridge, 1966, pp. 37-40, 161.
S. Nafīsī, Šāh-kārhā-ye naṯr-e fārsī-e moʿāṣer, 2 vols., Tehran, 1330-32 Š./ 1951-53.
ʿA. Qan-barzāda, Aḥwāl o afkār-e ostādʿAlī-Akbar Dehḵodā, Tehran, 1355 Š./1976.
Ḡ. Raʿdī Ādaraḵšī, “Šeʿr-e moʿāṣer-e Īrān,” Yaḡmā 22/1, 1348 Š./1969, pp. 9-13.
J. Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., pp. 364, 367, 377.
Gh-H. Yousofi (Ḡ.-H. Yūsofī), “Dehkhoda’s Place in the Iranian Constitutional Movement,” ZDMG 125/1, 1975, pp. 117-32.
Idem, “Daḵow,” Dīdār-ī bā ahl-e qalam, 2 vols., Mašhad, 1358 Š./1979, II, pp. 151-84.
Originally Published: December 15, 1990
Last Updated: December 15, 1990
This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 7, pp. 792-795