I stumbled on the Blind Owl while researching great Iranian literature. It was constantly touted as one of the best, so I found a copy and promptly devoured it in an afternoon. Presumably, the book was a lot like a really bad opium trip, but something about it made it inherently lovely.
Written by Iranian author Sadegh Hedayat in 1936 it follows an unnamed pen case painter. That wasn’t a typo. The dude paints pen cases for a living. In an opium haze our pen case painter confesses his life to an owl shaped shadow on his wall. What exactly does he confess?
Well, there was the time he found a beautiful dead woman in his bed with bugs coming out of her nose so he decides to chop her into bits put her into a suitcase. When he goes outside he finds, quite possibly, the most terrifying creature in all of literature who takes him and his dead lady friend out into the sticks so he can toss her in a perfectly sized grave.
Or there’s the time he married his adoptive mother’s daughter because the daughter kissed him at the laying out of his adoptive mother and her husband walked in and made them marry. The pen case painter and the daughter… not the corpse mother. With this book I feel the need to be very specific. The daughter refuses to have sex with him, and the narrator becomes convinced she is instead sleeping with the knick-nac seller down the street and he’s fathering her baby.
Or there’s the time he murders his “whore wife” (his words, not mine).
The entire story reminds us that death follows us wherever we go. It is perhaps for this reason, as well as the poetry, I found it utterly intriguing. Make no mistake, it is as poetic as it is macabre and weird. Even translated into English, I felt I had to read each and every word more than once to really absorb the music of the words.
I won’t lie to you, it’s weird and it isn’t for everybody. But if you can handle a non-linear story told by an opium addict who has a talent for finding dead women littered around his house it’s worth the trip into a new world and a new mind.
Buy it here on Amazon.
Read It If:
- You like great world literature
- You have a thing for macabre literature
- You can handle non-linear stories with no real answers or understanding
Skip It If:
- The term “whore wife” bothers you, it triggered me a bit
- You need a story line, there’s no real story here just drug fueled ramblings
What to Read Next
If You Want an American Version: Give Edgar Allan Poe a try. Hedayat was heavily influenced by Poe and you can see it throughout the story. It has the same tripy, surreal feel to it.
If You Want a Modern Version: Give Damned by Chuck Palahniuk a try. Palahniuk the infamous author of Fight Club is messed up. Damned is the story of a 13 year old girl who wakes up in hell with a motley crew of teenagers. Part Breakfast Club, part Dante’s Inferno it’s funny, weird, and dark.
If You Want More Weird Classic Literature Death Stuff: Give A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner a try. Emily is an old, gross lady who smells absolutely disgusting. The story of Emily’s childhood and life unfold bit by bit until the horrifying truth is revealed. There was something about Hedayat’s work that made me think again and again of this bizarre story I read in high school.