Hooshang Golshiri was born into a working-class family in Isfahan in 1938. Soon after, he moved to Abādān with his family and returned to Isfahan in 1955. After finishing high school (1958), he started his teaching career in a village, passed the university entrance exam (1959) and studied Persian literature at the University of Isfahan alongside his teaching in primary schools at rural areas.

Meanwhile, he started attending a literary society and met some of the poets and writers of his time. Attending these meeting also drew him into the political campaign against the Shah; which led to his imprisonment in early 1962. This experience, and close observation of some of the members of the Tudeh Party (the pro-Soviet communist party of Iran) in prison, proved to be a shaping influence on his way of thought and his literary output later. Some of his short stories are directly based on this experience. Towards the end of 1962, he was released and managed to complete his bachelor's degree. He continued to teach at high schools in Isfahan.

The classical and academic atmosphere of the "Saeb Literary Society" led him and some other young intellectuals to start another society; they used to gather at the poet Saeb's graveside and read their works to each other. The practice of reading and listening to stories and discussing and criticizing them remained with him all through his life. The tradition of literary societies of his time was exclusively reciting and listening to poems.

By this time, he had published a few poems and short stories in various literary journals in Tehran. The young writers' society, under pressure from SAVAK (The secret police), was forced to continue its meetings in the members' houses. During these meetings they themselves decided to start a literary magazine called Jong-e-Esfahan (1965-1973) which through its 11 issues became the chief literary journal of the day published outside Tehran.

Golshiri's first collection of short stories, entitled As Always, was published in 1968. Most of the stories are about small-town clerks and petty intellectuals.

In the same year, he joined the Iranian writers campaign against censorship by signing a petition objecting to and boycotting a government organized "International Congress of Writers and Poets", which was cancelled as a result. The signees then announced the establishment of the independent Iranian Writers Association, and Golshiri remained one of its elected directors and most committed and influential members to the day he died.

His second and most famous book, the short novel Prince Ehtejab(1959), translated into several languages, is the story of decadence and despotism shown through the mind of a dying prince. The modern literary techniques he applied in this novel, his command of language, his style in prose and his mastery in creating a world of cruelty, alienation, and melancholy brought him great fame.

In 1971, he published his second novel, Christine and Kid-- an autobiographical novel about his love affair with a British woman. In 1973, he was arrested and incarcerated for nearly six months. He was also deprived of social rights for 5 years. Unable to continue his teaching, he moved to Tehran in 1974, started weekly meetings with other writers, published his second collection of short stories, My Little Prayer Room (1975), and a novel, The Shepherd's Lost Lamb (1977).

In 1975, he was invited to teach on contract the theater students at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Tehran. In autumn 1977, he actively participated in organizing ten nights of poetry, story reading, and lectures by Iranian writers and poets at the Iran-Germany cultural society - the Goethe Institute. His own speech was a summing up of Iranian modern fiction called "The reasons for dying young in Iran's contemporary prose", which was a huge success.

In summer 1978, he was invited to attend the International Writing Program at Iowa University, Iowa City. During his stay in the US, he gave lectures to Iranian students in different states on literary and political issues.

On his return to Tehran in early 1979, after the collapse of the previous regime, he went back to Isfahan and resumed teaching at high school. With the help of some of his friends, he set up a cultural center in Isfahan. He married Farzaneh Taheri the same year, and moved to Tehran early the next year to teach at the Faculty of Fine Arts. In 1982, he was banned from teaching by the Cultural Revolution Committee.

In 1980, he published the long story The Fifth Innocent (The Tale of Hanging Dead of the Rider Who Will Come) and started a literary quarterly in 1982 which continued through 1984.
As the Iranian Writers Association's headquarters was raided in 1980 and no meetings, literary or otherwise, were allowed, he resumed literary meetings in mid 1982, by gathering young writers at his own home every Thursday evening. Some of the best writers of the first generation of writers after the revolution started their careers by attending these meetings; they used to read their works for discussion. These regular meetings continued for 5 years.

In early 1985, the first independent literary and social journal after the suppressions of the early 1980's --Adineh-was published. He was and remained one of its main contributors. From then he variously helped, contributed to, or was in charge of different literary journals.

His numerous articles and interviews on modernist Persian literature, and the indispensability of freedom for literary creativity, show his deep commitment and preoccupation with the plight of the intellectuals in Iran. He is probably the only author in Iran who has written so many essays on the process of literary production, the function and nature of prose, and the role of the literary artist in society.

In his fiction also, most of the main characters are, by vocation, writers or artists. He played a major role in the reassessment of the nature of fiction "as a mirror reflecting the reality" or "social documentation"; as early as mid '60's he tried to disprove the then prevalent notions such as literature being a vehicle for social criticism. Though deeply committed to the struggle for freedom of thought and expression, and the campaign against censorship, he never used his art of fiction as an instrument; he believed that writers of fiction should be primarily concerned with the literary work and artistic imagination. His commitment extended to the culture of a nation, past and present, and to the world.

With its experimenting with formal and technical aspects, narrative voice, and various modes of language, his fiction was an example of what he said in his essays.

In 1989, on his first trip abroad after the 1979 revolution, he was invited to the Netherlands, by AIDA, to participate in an Iran-Netherlands cultural exchange program. He gave readings and lectures in different cities in the Netherlands, Sweden, and England. Again in 1990, he was invited to take part in a seminar held by the House of the World Cultures in Berlin, followed by a reading and lecture tour of Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and France.

In spring 1992, he took part in a conference held by CIRA, University of Texas at Austin ; followed by lectures at Harvard, Rutgers, Columbia, Chicago, and Berkeley Universities. In Feb. 1993 he had a tour of Sweden, France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Since his books had been banned in Iran for years, and he was not able to publish or reprint his previously published works there, his new collection of short stories, Five Treasures, was published in Sweden (1989). His novel, Mirrors with Doors, was published first in the US (1990) and then in Iran.

His ironic short novel, In the Realm of the Jinns, was published in Sweden (1990). He managed to publish his next collection of short stories, The Dark Hand, The Light Hand, in 1995 in Iran. In the same year, he published 2 long essays on poetry in one volume, titled An Ode to the Poetry of Silence.

He started his second major creative writing workshop in 1990. Some of the writers of the second post-revolution generation come from this workshop.

Besides educating young writers in modern techniques of fiction, he shared his great knowledge of Persian classic literature by supervising the reading of several classic works.

In the late 1980's, efforts to resurrect the independent writers association were resumed, and Golshiri was one of the main forces in these efforts. He was one of the writers and signees of the 134 writers and intellectuals' open letter in 1994, demanding freedom of speech and thought.

In 1996, the French translations of his long story, Chronicle of the Magies Victory , and his famous novel, Prince Ehtejab, were published in Paris.

In spring 1997, he was granted a 9 month stay at Heinrich Boll Haus by the H. B. Foundation. In this haven, he managed to finish his great novel - The Book of the Jinns - after 13 years. Having no hope for its publication in Iran, he took it to Sweden and published it there. Early the same year, he received the Helmann-Hammett Award from the Human Rights Watch.

He returned to Iran in Dec. 1997. The Iranian Writers Association resumed its struggle after the political changes in the country in 1997, but they paid the price for their fight for freedom and human rights: two of the active members were abducted and murdered by security agents. Golshiri's speech at their graveside showed his great courage in the face of such danger.

In June 1999, the city of Osnabrück, Germany, awarded him the Erich-Maria Remarque Peace Prize for his literary and social efforts to fight oppression and promote democracy and human rights in Iran. This ceremony followed his reading tour in Germany after the publication of his novel, Prince Ehtejab, and some of his short stories in German in a volume entitled The Man with the Red Tie.

His last trip was to Germany and England in autumn 1999.

Being constantly under harassment and threat took its toll on his health. He came down with a lung abcess which following invasive diagnostic measures led to multiple brain abcesses and his death on June 5, 2000 in a hospital in Tehran. He is survived by his wife, Farzaneh, his daughter, Ghazal (b. 1981), and his son, Barbad (b. 1982).

About Us Golshiri's Award Activities Donations Contact Us