BEHRANGĪ, ṢAMAD, teacher, social critic, folklorist, translator, and short story writer. Born in mid-1939 into a lower-class Turkish-speaking family in Tabrīz, Behrangī completed elementary school and three years of secondary school and then attended the local teacher training school for grade schools, from which he received a certificate in 1957. Later, in the course of eleven years of teaching Persian in village and town schools in Azerbaijan, he obtained a B.A. degree in English from Tabrīz University.
Behrangī began writing short stories and translating from Turkish into Persian in the late 1950s. He published his first story, “Talḵūn,” in the spring of 1964. In the spring of 1965, he and Behrūz Dehqānī published the first volume of Afsānahā-ye Āḏarbāyjān (Tales of Azerbaijan). The second volume of these Persian versions of Turkish tales appeared in the spring of 1968.
The appearance in the summer of 1965 of Behrangī’s severe critique of educational methods and textbooks called Kand o kāv dar masāʾel-e tarbīatī-e Īrān established the author as a social critic and brought his name to the attention of Jalāl Āl-e Aḥmad (1923-69), a leading literary figure of the day among anti-establishment writers. Āl-e Aḥmad subsequently endeavored without success to arrange for the publication by the Ministry of Education of Behrangī’s Alefbā barā-ye kūdakān-e Āḏarbāyjān (Alphabet for the children of Azerbaijan).
In 1966 Behrangī’s “Ūldūz wa kalāḡhā” (Ūldūz and the crows), his first published children’s story, was discussed in the popular weekly Ferdowsī, which brought the young author’s name to the attention of readers of Persian fiction. During the next two years, numerous stories by Behrangī appeared in pamphlet form, some of them distributed surreptitiously as he developed a reputation as a dissident writer. In the summer of 1968 his best known work appeared, the folktale called Māhī-e sīāh-e kūčūlū (The little black fish), which many readers have construed as an anti-establishment allegory.
In early September of 1968, on one of his wonted field trips to gather folklore and stories, this time to the Ḵodā Āfarīn area near the Iran-USSR border, Behrangī, who could not swim, reportedly went wading in the Aras river and drowned. This bizarre death in a faraway region combined with his growing reputation as a social critic and the presumed concern on the part of government authorities with his writing convinced some like-minded people that his death was not accidental. The Association of Writers of Iran (Kānūn-e nevīsandagān-e Īrān) immediately compiled a commemorative issue of Āraš magazine in Behrangī’s memory. In the spring of 1969 twelve of his children’s stories were published in a volume called Qeṣṣahā-ye Behrang. That summer all of Behrangī’s articles, including several previously unpublished pieces, were compiled by Dehqānī in Majmūʿahā-ye maqālahā. Dehqānī (who was later executed during the Pahlavi regime as a terrorist) published another compilation of Behrangī stories and fables in 1970 called Talḵūn wa qeṣṣahā-ye dīgar. The appearance in 1978 of Nāmahā-ye Ṣamad Behrangī, compiled by the author’s brother Asad, practically completes the corpus of Behrangī’s writings.
During the 1970s, Behrangī became a hero and martyr figure for anti-Pahlavī groups, and during the 1979 Revolution he received considerable attention. A dedicated and indefatigable advocate of radical reforms, Behrangī is said to have been a model teacher. His antipatriarchal and anticlerical encouragement of the youth of Azerbaijan to educate themselves into equality with Persian-speaking Iranians, his passionate criticism of the wholesale adoption of American educational ideas and values, and his courageous willingness to confront the governmental power structure through his writing and teaching guarantee Behrangī a place in Iranian intellectual and social history, despite the fact that his fiction is not likely to endure for its literary merits.
Other than Behrangī’s works, which are given in the text, see ʿA. Ārām, Kand o kāv dar āṯār-e Ṣamad Behrangī, Tehran, 1358 Š./1979.
Āraš 18, 1347 Š./1968.
Ṣ. Behrangī, The Little Black Fish and Other Modern Persian Stories, tr. M. and E. Hooglund, Washington, D.C., 1976.
B. Hanson, “The "Westoxication" of Iran, Depictions and Reactions of Behrangī, Āl-e Aḥmad, and Sharīʿatī,” IJMES 15, 1983, pp. 1-23.
M. C. Hillmann, “Ṣamad Behrangī,” Literature East and West 20, 1980, pp. 196-98.
E. Jamšīdī, Zendagī o marg-e Ṣamad Behrangī, Tehran, 1357 Š./1978.
G. R. Ṣabrī-Tabrīzī, “Human Values in the Works of Two Persian Writers,” Correspondence d’Orient 11, 1970, pp. 411-18.
G. J. J. de Vries, review, “The Little Black Fish and Other Modern Persian Stories,” Edebiyat 2, 1977, pp. 121-28.
“Yād-nāma-ye Ṣamad,” Ketāb-ejomʿa 1/6, 1358 Š./1979, pp. 2-29.
(Michael C. Hillmann)
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 1, pp. 110-111