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Persian Literature

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Persian literature (Persian: ادبیات فارسی‎) is one of the world's oldest literatures. It spans two-and-a-half millennia, though much of the pre-Islamic material has been lost. Its sources have been within Greater Iran including present-day Iran, Irap and the Caucasus, as well as regions of Central Asia wherethe Persian Language has historically been the national language. For instance, Molana (Rumi), one of Iran's best-loved poets, born in Balkh or Vakhsh (in what is now Afganistan or Tajikistan), wrote in Persian, and lived in Konya, then the capital of the Seljuks. The Ghaznavids conquered large territories in Central and South asia and adopted Persian as their court language. There is thus Persian literature from Iran, Mesopotamia, Azerbaijan, the wider Caucasus,Turkey, western parts of Pakistan, Tajikistan and other parts of Central Asia. Not all this literature is written in Persian, as some consider works written by ethnic Persians in other languages, such as Greek and Arabic, to be included. At the same time, not all literature written in Persian is written by ethnic Persians or Iranians. Particularly, Turkic, Caucasian, and Indic poets and writers have also used the Persian language in the environment of Persianate cultures.
Described as one of the great literatures of mankind, Persian literature has its roots in surviving works of Middle Persian and Old Persian, the latter of which date back as far as 522 BCE (the date of the earliest surviving Achaemenid inscription, the Behistun Inscription). (Persian literature was considered by Goethe one of the four main bodies of world literature.) The bulk of surviving Persian literature, however, comes from the times following the Islamic conquest of Iran circa 650 CE. After the Abbasids came to power (750 CE), the Iranians became the scribes and bureaucrats of the Islamic empire and, increasingly, also its writers and poets. The New Persian literature arose and flourished in Khorasan and Transoxiana because of political reasons – the early Iranian dynasties such as Tahirids and Samanids were based in Khorasan.
Iranians wrote in both Persian and Arabic; Persian predominated in later literary circles. Persian poets such as Ferdowsi, Sa’di, Hafiz, Attar, Nezami, Rumi and Omar Khayyam are also known in the West and have influenced the literature of many countries.
History[edit]
In the 19th century, Persian literature experienced dramatic change and entered a new era. The beginning of this change was exemplified by an incident in the mid-19th century at the court of Nasereddin Shah, when the reform-minded prime minister, Amir Kabir, chastised the poet Habibollah Qa'ani for "lying" in a panegyric qasida written in Kabir's honor. Kabir saw poetry in general and the type of poetry that had developed during the Qajar period as detrimental to "progress" and "modernization" in Iranian society, which he believed was in dire need of change. Such concerns were also expressed by others such as Fath-'Ali Akhundzadeh, Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani, and Mirza Malkom Khan. Khan also addressed a need for a change in Persian poetry in literary terms as well, always linking it to social concerns.

"In life there are certain sores which slowly erode the mind in solitude like a kind of canker." The Blind Owl
The new Persian literary movement cannot be understood without an understanding of the intellectual movements among Iranian philosophical circles. Given the social and political climate of Persia (Iran) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which led to the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1906–1911, the idea that change in poetry was necessary became widespread. Many argued that Persian poetry should reflect the realities of a country in transition. This idea was propagated by notable literary figures such as Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda and Abolqasem Aref, who challenged the traditional system of Persian poetry in terms of introducing new content and experimentation with rhetoric, lexico-semantics, and structure. Dehkhoda, for instance, used a lesser-known traditional form, the mosammat, to elegize the execution of a revolutionary journalist. 'Aref employed the ghazal, "the most central genre within the lyrical tradition" (p. 88), to write his "Payam-e Azadi" (Message of Freedom).
Some researchers argue that the notion of "sociopolitical ramifications of esthetic changes" led to the idea of poets "as social leaders trying the limits and possibilities of social change."
An important movement in modern Persian literature centered on the question of modernization and Westernization and whether these terms are synonymous when describing the evolution of Iranian society. It can be argued that almost all advocates of modernism in Persian literature, from Akhundzadeh, Kermani, and Malkom Khan to Dehkhoda, Aref, Bahar, and Taqi Rafat, were inspired by developments and changes that had occurred in Western, particularly European, literatures. Such inspirations did not mean blindly copying Western models but, rather, adapting aspects of Western literature and changing them to fit the needs of Iranian culture.

Abdolhossein Zarrinkoub, prominent scholar of Persian literature and literary criticism
Following the pioneering works of Ahmad Kasravi, Sadeq Hedayat and many others, the Iranian wave of comparative literature and literary criticism reached a symbolic crest with the emergence of Abdolhossein Zarrinkoub, Shahrokh Meskoob, Houshang Golshiri and Ebrahim Golestan.
Persian literature in Afghanistan
Persian literature in Afghanistan has also experienced a dramatic change during the last century. At the beginning of the 20th century, Afghanistan was confronted with economic and social change, which sparked a new approach to literature. In 1911, Mahmud Tarzi, who came back to Afghanistan after years of exile in Turkey and was influential in government circles, started a fortnightly publication named Saraj’ul Akhbar. Saraj was not the first such publication in the country, but in the field of journalism and literature it launched a new period of change and modernization. Saraj not only played an important role in journalism, it also gave new life to literature as a whole and opened the way for poetry to explore new avenues of expression through which personal thoughts took on a more social colour.
In 1930 (1309 AH), after months of cultural stagnation, a group of writers founded the Herat Literary Circle. A year later, another group calling itself the Kabul Literary Circle was founded in the capital. Both groups published regular magazines dedicated to culture and Persian literature. Both, especially the Kabul publication, had little success in becoming venues for modern Persian poetry and writing. In time, the Kabul publication turned into a stronghold for traditional writers and poets, and modernism in Dari literature was pushed to the fringes of social and cultural life.
Three of the most prominent classical poets in Afghanistan at the time were Qari Abdullah, Abdul Haq Betab and Khalil Ullah Khalili. The first two received the honorary titleMalek ul Shoara (King of Poets). Khalili, the third and youngest, was drawn toward the Khorasan style of poetry instead of the usual Hendi style. He was also interested in modern poetry and wrote a few poems in a more modern style with new aspects of thought and meaning. In 1318 (AH), after two poems by Nima Youshij titled "Gharab" and "Ghoghnus" were published, Khalili wrote a poem under the name "Sorude Kuhestan" or "The Song of the Mountain" in the same rhyming pattern as Nima and sent it to the Kabul Literary Circle. The traditionalists in Kabul refused to publish it because it was not written in the traditional rhyme. They criticized Khalili for modernizing his style.
Very gradually new styles found their way into literature and literary circles despite the efforts of traditionalists. The first book of new poems was published in the year 1957 (1336 AH), and in 1962 (1341 AH), a collection of modern Persian (Dari) poetry was published in Kabul. The first group to write poems in the new style consisted of Mahmud Farani, Baregh Shafi’i, Solayman Layeq, Sohail,Ayeneh and a few others. Later, Vasef Bakhtari, Asadullah Habib and Latif Nazemi, and others joined the group. Each had his own share in modernizing Persian poetry in Afghanistan. Other notable figures include Leila Sarahat Roshani, Sayed Elan Bahar and Parwin Pazwak. Poets like Mayakovsky, Yase Nien and Lahouti (an Iranian poet living in exile in Russia) exerted a special influence on the Persian poets in Afghanistan. The influence of Iranians (e.g. Farrokhi Yazdi and Ahmad Shamlou) on the newly established Afghan prose and poetry, especially in the second half of the 20th century, must also be taken into consideration.[24]
Prominent writers from Afghanistan like Asef Soltanzadeh, Reza Ebrahimi, Ameneh Mohammadi, and Abbas Jafari grew up in Iran and were influenced by Iranian writers and teachers.
Persian literature in Tajikistan
The new poetry in Tajikistan is mostly concerned with the way of life of people and is revolutionary. From the 1950s until the advent of new poetry in France, Asia and Latin America, the impact of the modernization drive was strong. In the 1960s, modern Iranian poetry and that of Mohammad Iqbal Lahouri made a profound impression in Tajik poetry. This period is probably the richest and most prolific period for the development of themes and forms in Persian poetry in Tajikistan. Some Tajik poets were mere imitators, and one can easily see the traits of foreign poets in their work. Only two or three poets were able to digest the foreign poetry and compose original poetry. In Tajikistan, the format and pictorial aspects of short stories and novels were taken from Russian and other European literature. Some of Tajikistan's prominent names in Persian literature are Golrokhsar Safi Eva,[25] Mo'men Ghena'at,[26] Farzaneh Khojandi[27] and Layeq Shir-Ali.

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