FAZEL, Javad (Moḥammad-Javād Fāżel Lārijāni; b. Lārijān, 1914; d. Tehran, 19 August 1961), noted serial writer, and a pioneering figure in simplifying and popularizing religious texts. His father, Mirza Abu’l Ḥasan Fāżel Lārijāni, was an eminent preacher in Āmol (q.v.), in northern Iran, and died when Javad was nine years old. Javad was brought up in a religious environment. He was introduced by his father to religious studies while still attending Pahlavi Primary School in Āmol.
In 1932, after completing secondary education in Tehran, Fazel continued his religious studies at Islamic seminaries under the tutelage of Sheikh Moḥammad Aštiāni (Āžand, p. 159). In 1938, he was employed by the Ministry of Education and taught literature and educational psychology at the Teachers’ Training School in Āmol for a year. He graduated from Tehran University’s Faculty of Theology and Jurisprudence (Maʿqul o manqul) in 1945 (Āžand, pp. 159-60; Šāyān, p. 169), and was employed as a translator by the Ministry of Agriculture, where he worked until his untimely death at the age of 47. (M. Fāżel, p. 21). He also taught Persian literature in a number of secondary schools (M. Fāżel, p. 98).
In 1942, he joined Eṭṭelāʿāt-e Haftegi, a weekly journal affiliated with Eṭṭelāʿāt (q.v.), the oldest running Tehran daily newspaper founded in 1923 by ʿAbbās Masʿudi (1901-1974), where he published most of his serialized stories. His stories were also published in Badiʿ, a popular weekly magazine founded by Jamāl-al-Din Badiʿzāda in March 1943 (Elwell-Sutton, p. 269). In the same year, Fazel joined the central committee of the pro-German Paykār Party, founded by Ḵosrow Eqbāl in 1942. He contributed serial stories to Nabard (Battle), the Party’s official organ, edited by Jahāngir Tafażżoli (M. Fāżel, p. 19). His affiliation with Paykār, however, did not last for longer than four months.
The years immediately following the occupation of Iran by the Allied Forces and the abdication of Reza Shah in 1941, witnessed a noticeable surge in the demand for weekly and monthly magazines. They often relied on serialized romantic tales to enhance their circulation. Fazel’s sentimental stories, usually on the subject of forbidden love, or brutalized stepchildren, were instrumental in increasing the readership of Eṭṭelāʿāt-e haftegi. Most of his stories ended in tragedy and delivered a moral message. Following in the footsteps of Ḥosayn-Qoli Mostaʿān (1904-1983; q.v.), another noted serial writer of the period, Fazel’s stories were given alluring titles such as, Nāzanin, Setāra, Žilā, and Shoʿla, after their eponymous protagonists. Many Iranian urbanites were quick to name their daughters after Fazel’s heroines, whose names completed the mawkish content of his stories. His simple prose, which seldom challenged prevalent moral codes and religious (Behzādi, 1993, p. 46), employed emotional vocabulary as a source of aesthetic experience. Although many serial writers in Iran have experimented with overly dramatized romantic themes and motifs, none has rivalled Fazel as the shining star of this literary subgenre (Elāhi, 1999, p. 105).
Interest in serial writing from the Arab world was also evident in this period of Iranian history, and several were translated into Persian, by Moḥamad-ʿAli Širāzi, Javad Fazel, and ʿAli-Akbar Kasmāʾi (1920- 1983), among others (Elāhi, 1998, p. 728). Among the most popular Arab serial writers whose works were translated in this period were the Lebanese Jurji Zaydan (1861-1914), noted for his scrupulously studied and accurately described historical novels, and Taha Hussein (1889-1973), one of Egypt’s most prominent intellectuals. Fazel’s interest in Arab culture was at play in one of his novels, Sargoḏašt-e Badri (The tale of Badri, 1952), which is set in Damascus and Beirut, and offers a sizable amount of information on the geography, history and cultural characteristics of the Arab world.
Fazel relied on serial writing to make a living. His first work, Nokta (Point), appeared in 1947. From 1947 to 1961, arguably the golden period of serial writing in Iran, he published more than seventy novels and four collections of short stories (For a partial list of his stories see: Dāstān-e yek zendegi (The story of a life), Mozayyan Fazel, Tehran, 1964). Noted among his works are: ʿEšq o ašk (Love and tears, 1948) and Qalbi dar mowj-e ḵun (A heart in blood, 1958). Salma, doḵtar-e ʿArab (Salmeh, the Arab girl), his last work, was posthumously published as a book in 1968.
Although Fazel is primarily noted as a serial writer, the translation of religious books also occupies a significant place in his literary output. In 1942, still a university student, he serialized his translation of Nahj-al-balāḡa, the anthology of dissertations, letters and testimonials, traditionally attributed to ¿Ali b. Abi T≥˝leb (q.v.), the first Shi’i Imam, in the newspaper “Irān-e mā” (M. Fazel, p. 19). It was published as a book, in five volumes, in Tehran in 1954, and went through seven reprints in the same year (Sa’id-Elāhi, p. 76). Mention should also be made of Ṣaiḥfa-ye kāmela-ye sajjādiya (Tehran, 1954), Soḵanān-e Ḥosayn b. ʿAli, alayh-i al-salām (Tehran, 1955), and Ḵoṭbahā-ye Moḥammad (Moḥammad’s sermons; Tehran, 1958). Doḵtarān-e payāmbar soḵan miguyand (Daughters of the Prophet speak), a compilation of religious stories, and Payāmbarān (Prophets), selected stories from the Koran in two volumes, were published in Tehran in 1948 and 1960, respectively. Mention should also be made of Farzandān-e Abu-Ṭāleb (The children of Abu-Taleb. 1960) in three volumes, and Maʿşumin-e čahārdahgāna (Fourteen infallibles, 1956-1958) in nine volumes, which have been credited as “important sources on Islamic history in Persian language.” (Saʿid-Elāhi, p. 76)
Fazel’s unadorned literary style landed him a wide following. Apart from his works of fiction, his accessible translations of religious texts were cited by politically active theologians and religious laymen of the next generation, including Mortażā Moṭahari and ʿAli Šariʿati, who sought to politicize Iranians by offering modern interpretations of Islamic dogma in simple language (Saʿid-Elāhi, p. 75). Accessible though they may have been, Fazel’s ‘free’ translations were found wanting in accuracy and were criticized for being too removed from the original texts (Šahidi, p. 5).
While with the advent of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Fazel’s romantic stories were no longer in demand, his religious texts gained vastly in popularity, and were reprinted several times. Even his scattered articles were collected and published in quick succession, notable among them Zendegi-e por-mājarā-ye Moḵtār (Mokhtar’s adventurous life, 2000), and Qeṣaṣ-al anbiāʾ (Stories of the prophets, 2001).
In addition to religious texts, Fazel also translated several European novels into Persian, notable among them, Ḵun o Šaraf (Blood and Honour, 1949), by Maurice Dekobra (1885-1973), Yek qalb-e āšofta (A Broken Heart, 1956), by Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), and Jāsusa (Spy, 1958) by Paul Bourget (1852-1935).
Fazel married in 1950. His wife, Mozayyan Fazel, depicted the story of their life together in Dāstān-e yek zendegi (A life story, 1964), which includes several of Fazel’s love letters to her. They had two sons: ʿAlaʾ-al-Din and Abu’l-Ḥasan. Javad Fazel died of cerebral thrombosis on August 19, 1961, and was buried in the Ebn Bābawayh (q.v.) cemetery, near Tehran.
Yaʿqub Āžand, “Javād Fāżel,” Adabiyyāt-e dāstāni, No. 52, Tehran, summer 1999.
Ali Behzādi: Seyri dar pāvaraqi-nevisi-e Iran, Gardun, Nos. 25 and 26,
Idem, Šebh-e ḵāṭerāt (Pseudo-memoir), vol. 1, Tehran, 1996.
Ṣadr-al-Din Elāhi, “Darāmadi bar maqula-ye pāvaraqi-nevisi dar Iran,” Irāšenasi, 10/4, winter 1999.
Idem, “Darāmadi bar maqula-ye pāvaraqi-nevisi dar Iran,” Irāšenasi, 11/1, spring 2000.
L. P. Elwell-Sutton, “Maṭbuʿāt-e Iran az sāl-e 1320 tā 1326”, Adabiyāt-e
novin-e Iran (Modern Persian literature), tr., Yaʿqub Āžand, Tehran, 1984.
Mozayyan Fāżel: Dāstān-e yek zendegi (A life story), Tehran, 1964.
Vera Kubičkova, “Negareši bar adabiyāt-e novin-e Iran,” Adabiyāt-e
novin-e Iran (Modern Persian literature), tr., Yaʿqub Āžand, Tehran, 1984.
Amir Saʿid-Elāhi, “Javād-e Fāżel va tāriḵ-negarihā-ye maṯhabi-e u,”
Ketāb-e māh-e tāriḵ o joḡrāfiā, 5/12, October 2002.
Sayyed Jaʿfar Šahidi: Moqaddama-ye Nahj-al-balāḡa, Tehran, 1991.
ʿAli Šāyān, Māzandarān II, Tehran, Bahman 1327/February 1949.
Originally Published: January 28, 2011
Last Updated: January 28, 2011