The Virtuous Complaint:
Iranian Short Fiction of the 1960s—1970s
The nature of Persian prose was altered forever with the appearance of the short story in Iran in the 1920s. In the same decade the world of poetry too was on its way to lasting change with a poem that broke the traditional rules and led to what in Persian letters is termed she'r-e no (new verse).1 The [new poets] minimized the all-important basics of classical poetry: the conventions of form, language, meter, and rhyme, regarding them simply as [tools] for the primary purpose of expressing the poet's feelings.
The first generation of short-story writers delighted in the freedom afforded to them by the new genre. They concentrated on the telling of amusing tales, satirizing states of mind, highlighting human foibles, particularly of members of social groups who, for better or for worse, played a significant role in a changing society. However, the look of the new short story was recast in its infancy by a poet, Nima Yushij (1895–1959), who is accorded preeminence among the progressive elements of second-generation Iranian storytellers and poets. Nima Yushij introduced the startling notion of [my pain] as [the basic, underlying, source of my poetry.… I write poetry for my pain and the pain of others.]2 The innovative ideas and techniques of Nima Yushij and his dynamic inheritor, the poet Ahmad Shamlu (1925–2000), dominated the literary achievements of fellow poets, and the second generation of short-story writers as well. Many, if not the majority of the stories of the 1960s-1970s exhibit a haunting poetic sensibility. Furthermore, a tone of grievance dominates the expression and unfolding of the tale.
The [new poets] (and the [new] short-story writers) were the inheritors of a classical literary tradition that assumed an intimate knowledge of every item in the classical [literary cupboard.] The poetic innovators insisted that