Fereidoon Tavallali


TAVALLALI, Fereydun (b. Shiraz, 1919; d. Shiraz, 30 May 1985), noted poet and writer.

Tavallali’s father, Jalāl Khan, was a descendant of the Tavallali clan from the ʿAmala branch of Qašqāʾi tribe whose family had migrated to Shiraz. He lost his mother when he was six years old. He attended Namāzi Primary School and Solṭāni Secondary School in Shiraz. Bahāʾ al-Din Pāzārgād, Moḥammad Javād Torbati, and Mehdi Ḥamidi, were among his teachers; while Rasul Parvizi, Moḥammad Bahmanbeygi , Moḥammad Bāheri, Mehdi Parhām, were among his friends and classmates. He graduated from Tehran University with a degree in archaeology in 1941, and was subsequently employed in the Notary Public Office of Shiraz. In 1943, he married a novice writer, Mahindoḵt Farbod (b.1930), the author of a collection of short stories, entitled Sanjāq-e morvārid (The Pearl Pin, 1959). They had three children: Nimā, Faribā and Rahā.

Tavallali started writing poetry and prose at a young age, and was involved with the period’s politics of dissent from early on. Much of his early work displays the hallmarks of left-leaning thought, which had gained ground among the youth and intellectual communities of the period (see COMMUNISM ii, iii). During the initial decade that followed the occupation of Iran by the Allied forces in 1941, and the subsequent abdication of Reza Shah Pahlavi (r. 1925-1941), the Iranians enjoyed a rare and short-lived period of freedom of expression, which proved to be a strong stimulus to the world of arts and letters (Yarshater, 1984, p. 45), and had a powerful and lasting effect on Iran’s intelligentsia. In 1943, Tavallali and a group of his friends, including Ḥamidi Širāzi, Jaʿfar Abṭaḥi, Rasul Parvizi, Mehdi Parhām and Moḥammad Bāheri, established Anjoman-e āzādegān-e Fārs. It was dissolved, however, when the Tudeh (Tuda) Party opened its first branch in Shiraz in April 1944, and all its founding members (aside from Ḥamidi Širāzi) joined the Party (Abrahimian, p. 301; Emdād, 1985, p. 487).

It was during this period that Tavallali began experimenting with satirical pieces that were known and later published under the title of al-Tafāṣil. In these pieces, he criticized the traditional social values and ridiculed such well-established political figures as Aḥmad Qavām and Sayyed Ziāʾ al-Din Ṭabāṭabāʾi. Al-Tafāṣil, reminiscent of the maqāma genre in classical Persian literature, was composed in a mixture of poetry and prose. The eloquent language of these satirical pieces, which were inspired by social discontent, found an eager audience and earned the praise of many, including Qavām and Ṭabāṭabāʾi, who were subjected to Tavallali’s poignant critiques, to the extent that they even helped to shield him against state censorship (Parhām, 1985, pp. 765-6). Moḥammad-Taqi Bahār (Malek-al-šoʿarāʾ, 1886-1951), the prominent poet and scholar, praised the skill exhibited in these pieces and commended Tavallali as a rising star in Iran’s literary scene (Bahār, p. 869). In 1945 Bahār was appointed as the Minister of Culture and helped Tavallali secure a job in the archaeology department of the Ministry’s office in Fars (Parhām, 2004, p. 35). A year later, Tavallali was assigned to oversee the excavations carried out in the Šuš region by Roman Ghirshman (1895-1979), the French archeologist and one of the pioneers of archeological research in Iran (Eskandari, pp. 52-66).

Tavallali was amongst the poets who participated in the First Iranian Writers Congress, a gathering with predominantly leftist sympathies, sponsored by the Perso-Soviet Society of Cultural Relations (Anjoman-e ravābeṭ-e farhangi-e Iran va Etteḥād-e Jamāhir-e Šowravi) in 1946. The Congress provided a forum for airing various opposing views and contributed significantly to the development of engagé literature in Iran, which attracted a large group of writers in later years (Ricks, pp. 8-25). The poem Tavallali recited in the Congress was entitled “Fardā-ye enqelāb” (“The Day After the Revolution”). It earned him immediate fame as a leftist poet.

In 1947, as the conflicting interests within the Tudeh Party’s leadership unfolded, Ḵalil Maleki and a number of other staunch dissenters resigned from the Party. The separatists (enšeʿābiyun), as they were labeled (Maleki, p. 122), included nine prominent figures, four of whom—Jalāl Āl-e Aḥmad, Rasul Parvizi, Nāder Nāderpur, and Fereydun Tavallali— were poets or writers of eminence (Abrahimian, p. 311).

After leaving the Tudeh Party, Tavallali, became increasingly involved in the political movements that culminated in the nationalization of Iran’s oil industry, led by Moḥammad Moṣaddeq, who later became prime minister. After the fall of Moṣaddeq in 1953, Tavallali, whose residence was looted by his political opponents, was forced into a period of hiding, and subsequently fled to Tehran. Several years later in 1959, however, with the gradual ebbing of political turbulences he assumed the directorship of the Department of Archeology of Fars.

Despite his education and career, it was always literature that most fascinated Tavallali (Sāmi, p. 845; Negahbān, pp. 243-6). Beginning his literary career in a time in which the nature and pace of change in Persian poetry were the subject of a heated debate, Tavallali joined a number of his contemporaries who tried to articulate a middle position between the traditionalists, who adhered to age-old rules of meter and rhyme of Persian poetry (see ʿARUZ), and the modernists, who “not only dispensed with the necessity of rhyme and consistent meter, but also rejected the imagery of traditional poetry and departed noticeably from its mode of expression” (Yarshater, 1998, p. 31).

Although varied from one another in the degree to which they departed from the Persian classics, most of these modern-traditionalists— notable among them Majd-al-Din Mirfaḵrāʾi (also known as Golčin Gilāni), Parviz Nātel Ḵānlari and later, Hušang Ebtehāj (known as Sāya), Fereydun Tavallali, Nāder Nāderpur and Fereydun Moširi— acknowledged the significance of Nimā Yušij as the founder of modern poetic discourse in Iran. Well versed, albeit to different degrees, in classical Persian literature, and familiar with Western literature and literary modernism, they strove to demonstrate the capacity of modern Persian poetry to maintain imperative and perceptible connections with the classical tradition, and at the same time, to enlarge its capacity to incorporate images perceived as belonging to the modern world (Ḵānlari, 1986, p.1035; Karimi Hakkak, pp. 101-21). Since all of these poets were affiliated with the journal Soḵan, founded and edited by Parviz Nātel Ḵānlari, they were later known as the poets of the Soḵan School; a term coined by Nāder Nāderpur. The poets of Soḵan School, with Nāder Nādepur as its most noted representative, were also known as the “New Romantics,” (Farzan, p. 342), or “New Classicists,” (Langerudi, p. 316; Nuriʿalā, p. 147). The Soḵan School of poetry was enthusiastically received by many and, at the same time, stirred harsh criticism. It was criticized as a reactionary movement that had impeded the fruition of modern Persian poetry (Barāhani, pp. 217-312; Ḥoquqi, p. 51), and was commended as a significant current in the history of Persian poetry (Dastḡeyb, pp. 85-6; Šafiʿi Kadkani, pp. 135-6).

At the first stage of his literary career, Tavallali was fascinated by some of Nimā’s early poems, in particular “Afsāna” (Myth, 1921) and “Ey šab” (O, Night, 1922). His acquaintance with Nimā, through Rasul Parvizi (Tavallali, Šegarf, pp. 17-8), developed into a short-lived period of friendship between the two poets. Tavallali named his first daughter after Nimā, who had dedicated his poem “Kār-e šab-pā” to Tavalloi (Jannati ʿAṭāʾi, p. 188). It should be noted, however, that Nimā’s dedicatory note “Be Tavallali-e ʿazizam” (“To my Dear Tavallali”; Jannati ʿAṭāʾi, p. 412) was omitted in his Collection of Poems, published in 1992.

Despite his early intimate association with Nimā, Tavallali soon distanced himself from the new literary movement brought on by such poems of Nimā as “Ḡorāb” (Raven), published for the first time in Majalla-ye musiqi (Journal of Music1939). In his introduction to his first collection of poetry, Rahā, Tavallali, though not explicitly mentioning Nimā’s name, comments negatively on his school of poetry.“[This group of modernists] have forgotten all about Persian grammar and, by using such erroneous phrases as ‘ruzān-aš zemestāni’ (his days wintry) instead of ‘ruzhā-ye zemestāni-aš’ (his wintry days), complicate their novel ideas so much that they could not be understood unless explained and clarified by the poet himself” (Tavallali, Šoʿla-ye kabud, p. 23).

In his elaboration on the essential characteristics of a good poem, Tavallali, although in favor of a studied breakaway from the traditional prosodic rules, emphasizes the harmony of rhythms and rhymes with the poem’s content and spirit; its innovative similes and metaphors; its being devoid of obsolete rhythms, rhymes and rhetorical devices; its being open to new melodious phrases and the extant but forgotten words; and its precise description of emotions, scenes and events (Tavallali, Šoʿla-ye kabud, pp. 23-30).

Tavallali’s early poems, mostly romantic depictions of human desires and needs, benefit from his studied choice of descriptive compound imageries and his awareness of the music of the words. Although at times he speaks of “the cry of the people,” “the uproar of the workers,” and “the cheers of the oppressed,” (Tavallali, Šoʿla-ye kabud, p. 51) in his more successful poems such concepts as love, nostalgia and death prevail. The smooth blend of Persian lyricism and European romanticism in most of these poems, that often follow a storyline, and by which his poetry is distinguished, influenced many modern-traditionalist poets throughout the 1940s and 1950s, most notable among them Fereydun Moširi, Nāder Nāderpur, Sohrāb Sepehri, Siāvaš Kasrāʾi, Noṣrat Raḥmāni, and Foruḡ Farroḵzād. The opening lines of four of his poems in šoʿla-ye kabud —“Maryam,” “Bāstān-šenās,” “Nā-āšenā-parast,” and “Kārun”— read as follows:

Dar nimahā-ye šāmgahān ān zamān ke māhzard o šekasta midamad az ṭarf-e ḵāvarānestāda dar siyāhi-e šab maryam-e sepidārām o sar gerān

(In the midst of dusk, when the moon yellow and broken, rises from the East Half way through nightfall is white Salvia quiet and pensive, p. 54)

Dar žarfnā-ye ḵāk-e siah bāstān-šenāsdar jost-o-ju-ye mašʿal-e tārik-e mordegāndar ārezu-ye mašʿal-e garmi, be gur-e sardḵākestar-e qorun-e kohan midahad be bād.

(Delving deep in the black soil, the archeologist in search of the dark torch of the dead Pining for a warm torch in the cold grave gives the ashes of ancient centuries to the wind, p. 67)

Balam ārām čon qu-yi sabokbālbe narmi bar sar-e Kārun hamiraftBe naḵalestān sāḥel qorṣ-e ḵorsid ze dāmān-e ofoq birun hamiraft.

(The boat, gently, like a graceful swan moved steadily on the Karun Into the palm grove on the shore the sun on the edge of the horizon sunk in, p. 85).

Although Tavallali, in this period of his literary career, often experiments with the classic forms of mostazād, a variant of the ghazal (ḡazal) or qasida, with an additional phrase repeating the same pattern as the main meter, and mosammaṭ, in which the couplet basis is abandoned and the stanza consists of a number of hemistiches with a rhyme that usually changes at a fixed point, most of his poems are in čahār pāra, a four line stanza. His polished and lyrical language in these poems earned the praise of many critics who commended him for achieving a distinct style in love poetry (Ḵānlari, p. 757;Yusofi, p. 613), and a poet whose relax experimentation with rhymes and rhythms spares his poems from the rigidity of Nimāic modern style (Zarrinkub, p. 242).

Moḥammad Bāheri and Rasul Parvizi, Tavallali’s old friends in the Tudeh Party, were also the close friends of Asad-Allāh ʿAlam, a confidant of Moḥammad Reżā Shah Pahlavi (r. 1941-1979), who occupied such key positions as minister of interior, prime minister, and later, Minister of Court for many years. The friendship earned them high positions in the government. Moḥammad Bāheri was appointed as the Minister of Justice, while Rasul Parvizi was first elected as a deputy in the parliament (majles), and then was appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister. In 1965, when Amir Asad-Allāh ʿAlam was appointed as the Dean of Pahlavi University in Shiraz, he assigned Tavallali to the advisory board of the university; a position he held till his retirement (Emdād, 1993, p. 487).

Tavallali’s poems in this period, while at times implicitly critical of the Shah’s policies and sprinkled with praise for those who fought against dictatorship (Tavallali, Šoʿla-ye kabud, pp. 345, 417-21), are, for the most part, marked by the sorrows and disappointments of a self who is entangled in harsh criticism. The indelible print of betrayed hopes, although visible in some poems of the cllecction Nāfa, appears as the central motif in the poems he composes throughout these years:

Boro ey mard boro čon sag-e āvāra bemirke ḥayāt-e to be joz laʿn-e ḵodāvand nabud.

(Go, O man, go and die like a stray dog for your life was naught but the curse of God; Šoʿla-ye kabud, p. 141)

Čon bum-e par šekasta dar in ʿeid-e bi omidbenšasta-am be daḵma-ye andouhbār-e ḵᵛiš.

(Like an owl with broken wings, in this hopeless feast I sit in my sorrowful cave; Šoʿla-ye kabud, p. 181).

The macabre overtone and the frequency of words and images that in Tavallali’s poetry revolve around death, soil, grave, and grave-digging, to mention a few among many, has led a critic to notice a profound relationship between his field of study and professional career as an archeologist, on the one hand, and his poetry, on the other (Yusofi, pp.608-14).

In this period of his life Tavallali shuns political engagements and turns to farming in a village he had inherited from his father (Ḵāʾefi, p. 802). Getting closer and closer to ʿAlam he praises him in such poetic appellations as the “Sire of Idols,” and addresses him as the “Great Man” and the “Emir,” in his third collection of poetry, entitled Puya (pp. 3-5, 26, 112-115; see also ʿAlam, vol. 4, pp. 48-53; idem, vol. 5, pp. 218-271). Tavallali’s shift from communism in his early adolescence to supporting the political movements that led to the nationalization of oil industries in 1950s, and on to enjoying close ties with the Pahlavi court dignitaries in the last decades of his life, subjected him to harsh verbal and, to a lesser extent, written criticism (Sāḥeb al-Zamāni, pp. 491).

However, Tavllali composed some of his most celebrated poems in this period. Drawing on his earlier experimentations with literary techniques, in particular compound imageries, he returns to the genre of ghazal, a traditionally apt mode for depiction of love, description of nature, and remembrance of the bygone joyful days of life:

Be bāḡ-e ḡamzada ātaš gereft barg-e čenārān

kalāḡ-e ḵasta ḵabar midahad ze rizeš-e bārān

ḡariv-e šivan-e zāḡān-e del-fesorda bar-āmad

be jā-ye naḡma-ye širin-e qomriān o hazārān

marā be dāman-e pāʾiz-e dāḡ-dida rahā kon

ke mast-e bāda-ye margam konad čo bāda gosārān

(In the sorrow-stricken garden, the maple leaf is on fire The tired crow heralds the coming rain. The cries of the down hearted ravens have mounted instead of the sweet song of doves and nightingales Release me to the lap of the mourning Fall so that it makes me drunk on the wine of death) (Šoʿla-ye kabud, pp. 245-7).

Tavallali develops an increasingly critical approach toward modernist poetry in these years (Tavallali, Šegarf, pp. 34, 73, 218; Idem, Šoʿla-ye kabud, pp. 425-8), and even describes the poetry of Nimā Yušij as a half-formed fetus (jenin-e nim-band, ibid., p. 320). In contrast to his earlier poems, this period of Tavallali’s poetry is characterized by his sensual expressionism and his description of physical love bordering on erotica. The sexual overtone of the Puya collection, described by a commentator with psychoanalytic bent as ‘Puyaesque sexual anarchism,’ (Sāḥeb al-Zamāni, pp. 499-506), earned Tavallali harsh criticism. In his later poems, however, sensuality and sexual aspirations gradually faded away, and were substituted by a fascination for opium.

Tavallali’ life and literary career have journeyed and changed shape in parallel with the dominant social, political, and literary trends of the mid decades of the 20th century Iran. His poetry, in which personal experiences are inseparably interwoven with political and historical events, exhibits the major characteristics of a period of transition in Iran’s modern literature. The most enthusiastic admirers of his poems, however, were the traditionalists and modern-traditionalists (Yusofi, p. 612-15). Little is known regarding his poems from 1980 until his death in 1985.

Tavallali was in poor health throughout the last decade of his life and died of a heart failure. He was buried next to his father in Hāfeẓiya (Šāhāni, p. 844). One year after his death, his wife established a literary center in their residence, calling it Anjoman-e Fereydun (Emdād, 1993). Tavallali was an amateur player of tārsetār, and piano (Parhām, 1985, p. 763).

His loss was widely reflected upon in the literary circles of the period. As commented by Ḵānlari, with the “silence of this great man of letters, modern Persian poetry has lost one of its pillars.” (Ḵānlari, 1986, p. 757).




Rahā, Shiraz, 1950.

Nāfa, Tehran, 1962.

Puya, Shiraz, 1966.

Šegarf , Tehran, 1974.

Bāzgašt, Shiraz, 1990.

Šoʿla-ye kabud, Tehran, 1997.


Al-Tafāṣil, Shiraz, 1945, with introductions by the writer himself, as well as Ja‘far Abṭāḥi, Moḥammad Taqi Bahār, and Sayyed Ja‘far Pišavari: Shiraz, 1945; rep. Shiraz,1969. The introductions are omitted in the second print.

Kārevān dar šiva-ye al-Tafāṣil, Tehran, 1952.

Tavallali’s other publications include a few short stories, several articles on Persian folklore, and a number of translations on socio-political issues (Faqiri, pp. 834-38).


Ervand Abrahamian, Iran between Two Revolutions, Princeton, N.J., 1982.

Asad-Allah ʿAlam, Yāddāsthā (Memoir), ed., ʿAli Naqi ʿĀliḵāni, vols. 4 and 5, USA, 1995.

Moḥammad Taqi Bahār (Malek al-šoʿarāʾ), “Laṭāyef va ṯawqiyāt-e Tavallali,” Āyanda, Tehran, Bahman-Esfand 1364 Š./ Feb.1986.

Moḥammad Bahmanbeygi, “Dāstān-e mā va Fereydun,” Kelk, no. 16, Tir 1370 Š./July1991.

Reżā Barahāni, Ṭalā dar mes (Gold in copper), Tehran, 1968.

ʿAbd-al-ʿAli Dastḡeyb, Sāya-rowšan-e šeʿr-e now-ye pārsi (The chiaroscuro of modern Persian poetry), Tehran, 1969.

Ḥasan Emdād, Anjomanhā-ye adabi-e Shirazaz avāḵer-e qarn-e dahom tā be emruz (Literary associations of Shiraz: from the late 10th century to the present), Tehran, 1993.

Idem, “Tavallali va ḥavādeṯ-e Fārs,” Āyanda, 11/12, Tehran, Bahman-Esfand 1364 Š. / Feb.1986.

Moḥammad Ḥosayn Eskandari, ed., Majmuʿa-ye maqālāt-e Čahāromin kongra-ye taḥqiqāt-e Irāni (Papers presented to the fourth congress of Iranian studies), vol. 2, Shiraz, 1974.

Moḥammad Ṣādeq Faqiri, “Maqālahā va ketābhā-ye Tavallali,” Āyanda, Tehran, Bahman-Esfand 1364 Š. / Feb.1986.

Massud Farzan, “Contemporary Poetry in Iran,” in Ehsan Yarshater, ed., Persian Literature, New York, 1988, pp. 336-66.

Moḥammad Hoquqi, Šeʿr-e now az āgāz tā emruz: 1301-1350 (Modern poetry from the beginning to the present: 1922-1972), Tehran, 1972.

Abu’l-Qāsem Jannati ʿAṭāʾi, Nimā Yušij: zendegi va āṯār-e u (Nimā Yušij: His Life and Work), Tehran, 1967.

Parviz Ḵāʾefi, “Yādhā-i az Tavallali,” Āyanda, Tehran, Bahman-Esfand 1364 Š. / Feb.1986.

Anvar Ḵāma-i, Ḵāṭerāt-e siyāsi (A Political Memoir), Tehran, 1993.

Ḵalil Maleki, “Ḵalil Maleki, Fereydun Tavallali, Nāder Nāderpur,” Sahand, 5/18, Paris 1990, pp. 121-5.

Parviz Nātel Ḵānlari, “Dargoḏašt-e šāʿer,” Āyanda, Tehran, Bahman-Esfand 1364 Š. / Feb.1986.

Idem, “Eṣṭelāḥ šeʿr-e now,” Soḵan, 7/11, Esfand 1335 Š./ February 1957.

Šams Langerudi, Tāriḵ-e tajhlili-e šeʿr-e now (Modern poetry: an analytical history), Tehran, 1991.

Ezzat-Allāh Negahbān, “Tavallali va bāstān šenāsi,” Āyanda, Tehran, 17/14, Farvardin-Tir 1370 Š. / March-July 1991.

Esmāʿil Nuriʿalā, Ṣovar va asbāb dar šeʿr-e emruz-e Iran (Imageries and techniques in contemporary Persian poetry), Tehran, 1969.

Mehdi Parhām, Omid dar nāomidi: taḥavvol-e ṭanẓ va šeʿr-e nowgarā-ye Tavallali (Hope in hopelessness: the development of Tavallali’s satire and modern poetry), Tehran, 2004.

Idem, “Fereydun mord vali dar tāriḵ zendegi rā āḡāz kard,” Āyanda, Tehran, Bahman-Esfand 1364 Š./ Feb.1986.

Iraj Pezeškzād, “ Yādi az Nimā Yušij,” (Daftar-e honar, 8/3, 2001.

Moḥammd Reżā Šafiʿi Kadkani, Advār-e šeʿr-e Farsi az mašruṭiyat tā soquṭ-e salṭanat (The history of Persian poetry from the constitutional revolution to the end of monarchy), Tehran, 1980.

Nāṣer al-Din Ṣāḥeb al-Zamāni Dibāča-i bar rahbari (An introduction to leadership), Tehran, 1968.

Ḵosrow Šāhāni, “ Be yād-e Tavallali,” Āyanda, Tehran, Bahman-Esfand 1364 Š. / Feb.1986.

ʿAli Sāmi, “Fereydun Tavallali va bāstān šenāsi,” Āyanda, Tehran, Bahman-Esfand 1364 Š. / Feb.1986.

Mahindoḵt Tavallali (Farbod), et al., Sanjāq-e morvārid: majmuʿa-ye dāstān (Pearl Pin: A Collection of Stories), Shiraz, 1959.

Moḥammad Reżā Tabrizi Širāzi, Naqš-e Fereydun Tavallali dar adabiyāt-e siāsi va ejtemāʿi (Fereydun Tavallali and socio-political literature), Tehran, 1997.

Ehsan Yarshater, “The Development of Persian Literature,” in Idem, ed., Persian Literature, New York, 1988, pp. 3-40.

Idem, “The Modern Literary Idiom (1920s-1960s),” in Thomas M. Ricks, ed., Critical Perspectives on Modern Persian Literature, 1984, pp. 42-62 (The article was originally published in Ehsan Yarshater, ed., Iran Faces the Seventies, New York, 1971, pp. 284-320).

Nimā Yušij, Majmuʿ-ye kāmel-e ašʿār (Complete collection of poems of Nima Yushij)ed., Sirus Ṭāhbāz, Tehran, 1985, rep. 1992.

Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Yusofi, Češma-ye rowšan: didār bā šāʿerān (The clear fountain: Visiting the Poets), 6th. ed., Tehran, 2005.

Idem, Nāmahā (Letters), ed., by Sirus Ṭāhbāz, Tehran, 1989.

ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Zarrinkub, Šeʿr-ebi doruḡ, šeʿr-ebi neqāb (Poetry without lies, poetry without masks), Tehran, 1993.)

(Kāmyār ʿĀbedi)

Originally Published: July 15, 2009

Last Updated: July 15, 2009

  • Birthday: 1919
  • Death: March 1985
  • Birthplace: Shiraz, East Fars, Iran

Poet, Political Activist and Archeologist

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