Sadeq Hedayat traveled to India in 1936 and stayed for less than two years while hoping to reside there permanently. In Bombay he began studying Middle Persian and some Pāzand with the Parsi scholar Bahramgor Tahmuras Anklesaria. Hedayat’s impression of this Parsi scholar is generally positive, considering him to be much more knowledgeable than some of his European colleagues (Bahārlu, p. 716). Hedayat attended Anklesaria’s classes for two or three days a week (Bahārlu, in Hedayat, 1993, p. 708). Meanwhile, Anklesaria asked Hedayat to aid him in transcribing some Middle Persian texts into New Persian and to prepare a Middle Persian dictionary (Bahārlu, in Hedayat, 1993, p. 713; letter written by Hedayat to Minovi). This collaboration resulted in the translation of several Middle Persian texts into Persian. It should be noted, however, that most of these texts had already been translated by Anklesaria into English. They include Gizistag Abālīš (see ABĀLĪŠ), an account of a debate between a Zandig and the leader of the Zoroastrian community Ādurfarnrbag ī Farroxzādān; Šahrestānīhā ī Ērānšahr, the longest surviving geographical text in Middle Persian; the apocalyptic text Ayādgār ī jāmāspig; Škand gumānīg-wīzār, a polemic against the doctrines and tenets of the Dahris, Manichaeism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; Kār-nāmag ī Ardašīr ī Pābagān, a historical romance describing the career and life of the founder of the Sasanian dynasty; Zand ī Wahman Yasn, another apocalyptic text; and Abar Madan ī Wahrām ī Warzāwand, on the coming of the Zoroastrian Savior at the end of time.

Hedayat was the first Persian to translate these Middle Persian texts into New Persian. The quality of the translations is good for its time, and he also suggested some new readings. He consulted all the previous monographs on each Middle Persian text and critiqued them as well. For example, in his translation of the Šahrestānihā ī Erānšahr (passage 25), he rightly questions the translation of Markwart, who equated the war ī tāzigān with the Persian Gulf. His footnotes to the Giziastag Abāliš are important, sometimes surpassing those made by Chacha. However, all of his translations are based on previous works of B. T. Ankelsaria on Abr Madan ī Wahrām ī Warzāwand, Kārnāmag ī Ardašir ī Pābagān, Zand ī Wahman Yasn; H. Chacha on Gizistag Abāliš; J. Markwart on Šahrestānihā ī Erānšahr; G. Messina on Ayādgār ī Zarērān; and E. W. West on Škand gumānig-wizār.

Hedayat also wrote an article on the Middle Persian script (“Ḵaṭṭ-e Pahlavi wa alefbāye ṣawti,” Soḵan 2/8-9, 1945) and another one on the Sasanian art (“Honar-e Sāsāni dar ḡorfa-ye medālhā,” Soḵan 3/5, 1946), as well as a French article entitled “La magie en Perse,” Le Voile d’Isis, no. 79, January 1926 (Majmuʾe-ye neveštehā-ye parākanda-ye Ṣādeq Hedāyat, 1344; Amir Kabir Publishers, 2nd ed.) In an obituary of Anklesaria (Soḵan 2/5, 1945), Ebrāhim Pur Dāwud lauded Hedayat for his translations of Middle Persian, which made the texts accessible to Persian readers.It is clear that these Middle Persian texts were written by the Zoroastrian community for the most part in the early Islamic period, a fact which had a deep impact on Hedayat’s views on the Arabs and Islam in general. His preoccupation with these texts exacerbated the nationalist sentiments which are apparent in some of his novels. It is also possible to see parallel elements between the Zoroastrian apocalyptic vision of the end of the world and Hedayat’s end.


Bibliography: See v., below, under: Hedayat’s translations from Pahlavi.

(Touraj Daryaee)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 20, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XII, Fasc. 2, pp. 130-131