Abolghasem Payandeh


PAYANDEH, Abu’l-Qasem (Abu’l-Qāsem Pāyanda, b. Jowzān, Najfābād, 1908 or 1911; d. Tehran, 8 September 1984), journalist, translator, and fiction writer.

Payandeh was taught reading and writing in a traditional elementary school (maktab; see EDUCATION iii) at his birthplace. In 1922 he went to Isfahan, where he received a traditional education in Arabic language and Islamic sciences and theology (Mošār, 1, column 232). In 1929, he began his cooperation with the newspaper ʿErfān , a socio-cultural magazine published in Isfahan by Aḥmad Marāḡ-i ʿErfān (1894-1951). In 1932, he moved to Tehran and began working with the journals Šafaq-e Sorḵ and Irān, edited by ʿAli Dašti (1894-1982), and Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin Rahnemā (1892-1993), respectively, and ran the magazine Taʿlim o Tarbiyat for a brief period of time. He was soon employed by the Ministry of Information, and was later transferred to the Ministry of Education. In 1947, he was appointed head of the Office of Publications and Information, and began a period of cooperation with the Iranian Academy of Letters (see FARHANGESTĀN), an organization which was established in 1935 to promote Persian culture and replace foreign loan words by words of Persian origin (Ḥosayni, p. 502).

From 1942 to 1951, Payandeh founded the weekly magazine Ṣabā, which enjoyed the cooperation of a host of noted writers and translators, including Ḥasan Farāmarzi, Šojāʿ al-Din Šafā, Iraj Mostaʿān, among others. Payandeh’s fiery editorials against the revolt of Jaʿfar Pišavari, the founder of the separatist Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (Ferqa-ye demokrāt-e Āḏarbāijān; see AZERBAIJAN v), and his criticism of the Prime Minister Qavām-al-Salṭana’s apparently pro-Soviet policies and wooing of the Tudeh Party (see COMMUNISM ii), earned Ṣabā popularity and a high circulation (Etteḥād, 9, p. 323). Introduced into the world of politicsPayandeh represented Najafābād in the second Constituent Assembly (Majles-e Moʿassesān), in May 1949. He was also elected as the deputy for Najafābād to the 21st and 22nd sessions of the Majles, which were inaugurated on September 1963, and September 1967, respectively.

In the highly charged political atmosphere of Iran in the early 1950s, and the sweeping popularity of Moḥammad Moṣaddeq, the architect of the nationalization of oil industries who later became prime minister, Payandeh published articles and caricatures, ridiculing Mosaddeq and his nationalistic policies. The ‘politically incorrect strategy,’ as he recalls it in the later stages of his life, soon took its tolls (Etteḥād, 9, p. 327). Ṣabā lost its enthusiastic readers almost overnight, and was eventually closed at 1951 (Behzādi, pp.134-35).

Payandeh had an early exposure to classical Arabic, and learnt French and English languages at the later stages of his life. He translated into Persian, from Arabic translation, The Pleasures of Life, and Quest for Happiness, both by John Lubbock, first Baron Avebury (1834-1913), as Dar āḡuš-e ḵᵛošbaḵti, and Dar jost-o-ju-y ḵᵛošbaḵti in 1932 and 1934, respectively. They went through several reprints within a few years (Green, pp. 188-89).

Yet another work by Payandeh was the publication of a compilation of short sermons and sayings, attributed to Prophet Moḥammad, in 1947. The book’s title, Nahj-al feṣāḥa: kalamāt-e qeṣār-e Ḥażrat-e Rasul (The way of eloquence: aphorisms of the Prophet), draws upon the Nahj al-balāḡa, the anthology of dissertations, letters and testimonials, traditionally attributed to ʿAli b. Abi Ṭāleb, the first Shi’i Imam, which was collected in the 10th century by Moḥammad b. Ḥosayn Rażi (930-977). Payandeh’s collected volume has been reprinted several times.

His translation of the Koran was the recipient of the annual royal award for the best work of translation in 1957. The translation, although rendered in a simple, fluent, and comprehensible language, and praised as a hitherto unrivalled translation of the Koran in Persian (Zarrinkub, pp. 202-03), suffered from a fairly large number of critical errors and omissions (Farzān, pp. 344-411). The revised editions of the book, however, enjoyed high critical acclaim (Mahdavi, p. 609). In his comprehensive introduction to the book, Payandeh provides the reader, in an adorned and eloquently crafted language (Behzādi, p. 139, Etteḥād, p. 320), with a brief history of Islam, as well as an account of the Prophet’s life. He also offers a glimpse into the numerous difficulties he had to grapple with in translating the text. He also translated Zendegāni-e Moḥammad (Life of Mohammad, 1958), by Muhammad Husayn Haykal (1888-1956), and Tāriḵ-e siāsi-e Eslām (The political history of Islam, 3 vols., Tehran, 1959-60) by Ḥasan Ebrāhim Ḥasan. Noted among Payandeh’s other translations are Tāriḵ-e ʿArab (History of the Arabs, 2 vols., Tabriz, 1965), by Phillip Khuri Hitti (1886 – 1978), the Christian Lebanese scholar and one of the founders of Arabic studies in the USA. His translation of Tāriḵ-e Ṭabari (The History of Tabari), the first complete rendition of Moḥammad b. Jarir Ṭabari’s magnum opus in Persian–after Abu-ʿAli Moḥammad Balʿami’s abridged translation in 352 AH (circa 962)–appeared in sixteen volumes in 1973Although Payandeh was praised for his single-handed translation of this lengthy book in a short period of time (Hedāyat, pp. 984-87), the book nevertheless, was not free from defects, and would have certainly benefited from a substantial editing. Payandeh was a prolific writer, with over 40 works of translation (For a comprehensive list of Payandeh’s works see John Green, Iranian Short Story Authors: A Bio-Bibliographic Survey, Costa Mesa, Calif. 1989).

While Payandeh came to be regarded primarily as a translator and journalist, he remained also active in writing fiction. His first short stories appeared in Afsāna, a journal of literary review published by Moḥammad Ramażāni, the founder of Kolāla-ye Ḵāvar Publishing House. Afsāna published, exclusively, works of fiction either by contemporary foreign writers in Persian translation, or by Persian writers, noted among them Sadeq Hedayat (1903-1951), Moḥammad Ḥejāzi (1901-1974), and Saʿid Nafisi (1896-1966; Ṭāhbāz, p.181; Elāhi, pp.301-05). His first novel, Qātel (Murderer), which first appeared in installments in ʿErfān, was published in 1934. Darsinemā-ye zendegi (In the cinema of life), a collection of nineteen short stories was published in 1957. It did not attract much critical notice until the renowned poet, Aḥmad Šāmlu (1925-2000), in a review article in Sepid o Siāh, a weekly magazine published by ʿAli Behzādi, praised the collection as a literary masterpiece and the best collection of short stories ever published in Persian (Behzadi, pp. 137-38). The revised edition of the collection, entitled Morda-kešān-e Jowzān (The Corpse-bearers of Jowzanwas published in 1967. In Jenāb-e āqā-ye doktor riš (His Excellency Dr. Beard, 1969), Payandeh throws a light on the barely visible aspects of medical malpractice in Iran. In 1968 he published Defaʿ az Mollā Naṣr-al-Din (In defense of Molla Nasreddin), a collection of twelve short stories. Ẓolamāt-e ʿedālat(The dark abyss of justice), a collection of fourteen short stories, in which fictional characters are subsumed by socio-cultural implications, appeared in 1975. His skillful adoption of an eloquent and yet an entertaining language in these collections, is reminiscent of Moḥammad-ʿAli Jamālzāda’s prose in his earlier works, particularly in Yeki bud yeki nabud (Once Upon a Time, Berlin, 1921; Mirʿābedini, 1, p. 198).

In general, as contended by a critic, Payandeh’s fictional works shun character delineation and elaborate plotting. Often replete with Arabic phrases, and infused by his poignant criticism of the country’s social and political institutions, his novels and short stories are characterized instead by a haphazard combination of memoirs, reports, and sermons (Mirabedini, I, p. 199)



Iraj Afšār, “Abu’l-Qāsem Pāyanda,” Rāhnemā-ye Ketāb, nos. 10-11, 1984, p. 758.

ʿAli Behzādi, Šebh-e Ḵāṭerāt (Anti-memoirs), Tehran, 1996.

Ṣadr al-Din Elāhi, “Tak-negāri-e yek majella-ye ruzāna,” Iranshenasi, 12/2, Summer 2000, pp. 297-315.

Hušang Etteḥād, Pažuhešgarān-e moʿ āṣer-e Iran (Contemporary Scholars of Iran), vol. V, Tehran, 2006, pp. 320-29.

Moḥammad Farzān, Maqālāt-e Farzān (The essays of Farzan), ed., Aḥmad Edārači-Gilāni Tehran, 1977.

John Green, Iranian Short Story Authors: A Bio-Bibliographic Survey, Costa Mesa, Calif. 1989.

Šahrām Hedāyat, Soḵan, 24/9, Ābān-Āḏar 1354.

Mālek Ḥosayni, Dānešnāma-ye Jahān-e Eslām, vol. 5, Tehran, 2000.

Sirus Mahdavi, Dāyerat-al-maʿāref-e Tašayyoʿ (Encyclopaedia of Shi’a), ed. A. Ṣadr, et al, Tehran, 1992, vol. III, p. 609.

Ḥassan Mirʿābedini, Ṣad sāl dāstān nevisi dar Iran (A hundred years of fiction writing in Iran), Tehran, 2005.

Ḵānbābā Mošār, Moʿallefin-e Kotob-e čāpi-e Fārsi va ʿArabi (Authors of printed books in Persian and Arabic), Tehran, 1961-1965.

Sirus Ṭāhbāz, Yādmān-e Nimā Yušij (In memory of Nima Yushij), 1989.

Idem, Nāma-hā (Letters), 1989.

ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Zarrinkub, Soḵan, 8/2, Ordibehešt 1336, pp. 202-03.


July 20, 2009

(Ṣafdar Taqizāda)

Originally Published: July 20, 2009

Last Updated: July 20, 2009

  • Birthday: 1908 or 1911
  • Death: 8 Sep 1984
  • Birthplace: Najafabad, Isfahan, Iran

Writer and Translator

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