Jalal Al-e-Ahmad

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Jalal Al-e-Ahmad
جلال آل‌احمد
Jalal Ale Ahmad.jpg
Born(1923-12-02)2 December 1923
Died9 September 1969(1969-09-09) (aged 45)
Asalem, Iran
Nationality Iranian
OccupationWriter, social and political critic
Political party
Spouse(s) Simin Daneshvar (1950−1969, his death)
Jalal-e Al-e-Ahmad signature.png

Seyyed Jalal Al-e-Ahmad (Persian : جلال آل‌احمد; December 2, 1923 – September 9, 1969) was a prominent Iranian novelist, short-story writer, translator, philosopher, [1] socio-political critic, sociologist [2] as well as an anthropologist who was "one of the earliest and most prominent of contemporary Iranian ethnographers". [3] He popularized the term gharbzadegi – variously translated in English as "westernstruck", "westoxification", and "Occidentosis" –, [4] producing a holistic ideological critique of the West "which combined strong themes of Frantz Fanon and Marx". [5]

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is one of the Western Iranian languages within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is a pluricentric language primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script.

Iran Country in Western Asia

Iran, also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With over 81 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Comprising a land area of 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), it is the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. The country's central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the country's capital and largest city, as well as its leading economic and cultural center.

Anthropology is the scientific study of humans and human behavior and societies in the past and present. Social anthropology and cultural anthropology study the norms and values of societies. Linguistic anthropology studies how language affects social life. Biological or physical anthropology studies the biological development of humans.


Personal life

Jalal was born in Tehran, into a religious family – his father was a cleric – "originally from the village of Aurazan in the Taliqan district bordering Mazandaran in northern Iran, and in due time Jalal was to travel there, exerting himself actively for the welfare of the villagers and devoting to them the first of his anthropological monographs". [6] He was a cousin of Mahmoud Taleghani. [7] After elementary school Al-e-Ahmad was sent to earn a living in the Tehran bazaar, but also attended Marvi Madreseh for a religious education, and without his father's permission, night classes at the Dar ul-Fonun. He went to Seminary of Najaf in 1944 but returned home very quickly. [8] He became "acquainted with the speech and words of Ahmad Kasravi" and was unable to commit to the clerical career his father and brother had hoped he would take, describing it as "a snare in the shape of a cloak and an aba." [9] He describes his family as a religious family in the autobiographical sketch that published after his death in 1967. [10]

Tehran City in Iran

Tehran is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With a population of around 8.7 million in the city and 15 million in the larger metropolitan area of Greater Tehran, Tehran is the most populous city in Iran and Western Asia, and has the second-largest metropolitan area in the Middle East. It is ranked 24th in the world by the population of its metropolitan area.

Taleqan County County in Alborz, Iran

Taleqan County is a county in Alborz Province in Iran. The capital of the county is Taleqan. At the 2006 census, the county's population was 25,781, in 7,574 families. The county has one district: the Central District. The county has one city: Taleqan.

Northern Iran

Northern Iran consists of the Southern border of the Caspian Sea and the Alborz- mountains.

In 1946 he earned an M.A. in Persian literature from Tehran Teachers College [11] and became a teacher, at the same time making a sharp break with his religious family that left him "completely on his own resources." [12] He pursued academic studies further and enrolled in a doctoral program of Persian literature at Tehran University but quit before he had defended his dissertation in 1951. [13] In 1950, he married Simin Daneshvar, a well-known Persian novelist. Jalal and Simin were infertile, a topic that was reflected in some of Jalal's works.

Persian literature

Persian literature comprises oral compositions and written texts in the Persian language and it is one of the world's oldest literatures. It spans over two-and-a-half millennia. Its sources have been within Greater Iran including present-day Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Caucasus, and Turkey, regions of Central Asia and South Asia where the Persian language has historically been either the native or official language. For instance, Rumi, one of best-loved Persian poets born in Balkh or Vakhsh, wrote in Persian and lived in Konya, then the capital of the Seljuks in Anatolia. 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, India, Tajikistan and other parts of Central Asia. Not all Persian 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, as Turkic, Caucasian, and Indic poets and writers have also used the Persian language in the environment of Persianate cultures.

Simin Daneshvar Iranian writer

Simin Dāneshvar ‎ was an Iranian academic, novelist, fiction writer and translator, largely regarded as the first major Iranian woman novelist. Daneshvar had a number of firsts to her credit. In 1948, her collection of Persian short stories was the first by an Iranian woman to be published. The first novel by an Iranian woman was her Savushun, which went on to become a bestseller. Daneshvar's Playhouse, a collection of five stories and two autobiographical pieces, is the first volume of translated stories by an Iranian woman author. Being the wife of the famous iran writer Jalal al-Ahmad she had a profound influence on his writing, she wrote the book "the Dawn of Jalal" in memory of her husband. Simin was also a very good translator, of her translations we can name "The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekhov and "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Her last book is currently lost and was supposed to be the last book of her trilogy which started with "the lost island". Al-Ahmad and Daneshvar never had a child.

The Persians are an Iranian ethnic group that make up over half the population of Iran. They share a common cultural system and are native speakers of the Persian language, as well as closely related languages.

He died in Asalem, a rural region in the north of Iran, inside a cottage which was built almost entirely by himself. He was buried in Firouzabadi mosque in Ray, Iran. [14] Commons and his wife, Simin, believe he was poisoned by Savak. [15] [16]

Mosque Place of worship for followers of Islam

A mosque is a place of worship for Muslims.

In 2010, the Tehran Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Department bought the house in which both Jalal Al-e Ahmad and his brother Shams were born and lived. [17]

Political life

Gharbzadegi "Westoxification"

We have been unable to preserve our own historicocultural character in the face of the machine and its fateful onslaught. Rather, we have been routed. We have been unable to take a considered stand in the face of this contemporary monster. So long as we do not comprehend the real essence, basis, and philosophy of Western civilization, only aping the West outwardly and formally (by consuming its machines), we shall be like the ass going about in a lion's skin. We know what became of him. Although the one who created the machine now cries out that it is stifling him, we not only fail to repudiate our assuming the garb of machine tenders, we pride ourselves on it. For two hundred years we have resembled the crow mimicking the partridge (always supposing that the West is a partridge and we are a crow). So long as we remain consumers, so long as we have not built the machine, we remain occidentotic. Our dilemma is that once we have built the machine, we will have become mechanotic, just like the West, crying out at the way technology and the machine have stampeded out of control.

Jalal Al-e Ahmad, Occidentosis: A Plague From the West, Mizan Press (1984), p. 31

Al-e-Ahmad is perhaps most famous for using the term Gharbzadegi, originally coined by Ahmad Fardid and variously translated in English as weststruckness, westoxification and occidentosis - in a book by the same name Occidentosis: A Plague from the West, self-published by Al-e Ahmad in Iran in 1962. In the book Al-e-Ahmad developed a "stinging critique of western technology, and by implication of Western `civilization` itself". He argued that the decline of traditional Iranian industries such as carpet-weaving were the beginning of Western "economic and existential victories over the East." [4] His criticism of Western technology and mechanization was influenced, through Ahmad Fardid, by Heidegger, and he also considered Jean-Paul Sartre as another seminal philosophical influence. [18] There was also Ernst Jünger, to whom Jalal ascribe a major part in the genealogy of his famous book, and he goes on to say "Junger and I were both exploring more or less the same subject, but from two viewpoints. We were addressing the same question, but in two languages." [19]

His message was embraced by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who wrote in 1971 that

"The poisonous culture of imperialism [is] penetrating to the depths of towns and villages throughout the Muslim world, displacing the culture of the Qur'an, recruiting our youth en masse to the service of foreigners and imperialists..." [20]

and became part of the ideology of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which emphasized nationalization of industry, independence in all areas of life from both the Soviet and the Western world, and "self-sufficiency" in economics.

He's also one of the main influences of Ahmadinejad. [21]

Discourse of authenticity

Ali Mirsepasi believes that Jalal is concerned with the discourse of authenticity along with Shariati. According to Mirsepasi, Jalal extended his critiques of the hegemonic power of west. The critique is centered on the concept of westoxication. Al Ahamad attacks to secular intellectual with the concept. He believes that the intellectuals could not construct effectively an authentically Iranian modernity. In this occasion, he posed the concept of “return” to an Islamic culture which is authentic at the same time. Jalal believed for avoiding the homogenizing and alienating forces of modernity it is necessary to return to roots of Islamic culture. Of course the discourse by Jalal was a few complicated politically. In fact, Al Ahmad wanted to reimagine modernity with Iranian-Islamic tradition. [22]

Political activism

Al-e-Ahmad joined the communist Tudeh Party along with his mentor Khalil Maleki shortly after World War II. They "were too independent for the party" and resigned in protest over the lack of democracy and the "nakedly pro-Soviet" support for Soviet demands for oil concession and occupation of Iranian Azerbaijan. They formed an alternative party the Socialist Society of the Iranian Masses in January 1948 but disbanded it a few days later when Radio Moscow attacked it, unwilling to publicly oppose "what they considered the world's most progressive nations." Nonetheless, the dissent of Al-e-Ahmad and Maleki marked "the end of the near hegemony of the party over intellectual life." [23]

He later helped found the pro-Mossadegh Toilers Party, one of the component parties of the National Front, and then in 1952 a new party called the Third Force. Following the 1953 Iranian coup d'état Al-e-Ahmad was imprisoned for several years and "so completely lost faith in party politics" that he signed a letter of repentance published in an Iranian newspaper declaring that he had "resigned from the Third Force, and ... completely abandoned politics." [24] However, he remained a part of the Third Force political group, attending its meetings, and continuing to follow the political mentorship of Khalil Maleki until their deaths in 1969.In 1963, visited Israel for two weeks, and in his account of his trip stated that the fusion of the religious and the secular he discerned in Israel afforded a potential model for the state of Iran. [25] Despite his relationship with the secular Third Force group, Al-e-Ahmad became more sympathetic to the need for religious leadership in the transformation of Iranian politics, especially after the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1963. [26]

Literary life

Al-e-Ahmad used a colloquial style in prose. In this sense, he is a follower of avant-garde Persian novelists like Mohammad-Ali Jamalzadeh. Since the subjects of his works (novels, essays, travelogues and ethnographic monographs) are usually cultural, social and political issues, symbolic representations and sarcastic expressions are regular patterns of his books. A distinct characteristic of his writings is his honest examination of subjects, regardless of possible reactions from political, social or religious powers.

On invitation of Richard Nelson Frye, Al-e-Ahmad spent a summer at Harvard University, as part of a Distinguished Visiting Fellowship program established by Henry Kissinger for supporting promising Iranian intellectuals. [27]

Al-e-Ahmad rigorously supported Nima Yushij (father of modern Persian poetry) and had an important role in acceptance of Nima's revolutionary style.

In "a short but prolific career", his writings "came to fill over thirty-five volumes." [28]

Novels and novellas

  • The School Principal
  • By the Pen
  • The Tale of Beehives
  • The Cursing of the Land
  • A Stone upon a Grave

Many of his novels, including the first two in the list above, have been translated into English.

Short stories

  • "The setar"
  • "Of our suffering"
  • "Someone else's child"
  • "Pink nail-polish"
  • "The Chinese flower pot"
  • "The postman"
  • "The treasure"
  • "The Pilgrimage"
  • "Sin"

Critical essays

  • "Seven essays"
  • "Hurried investigations"
  • "Plagued by the West" ( Gharbzadegi )


Jalal traveled to far-off, usually poor, regions of Iran and tried to document their life, culture and problems. Some of these monographs are:


  • A Straw in Mecca
  • A Journey to Russia
  • A Journey to Europe
  • A Journey to the Land of Israel [29] ("The land of Azrael" [15] )
  • A Journey to America


Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Award

The Jalal Al-e Ahmad Literary Award is an Iranian literary award presented yearly since 2008. Every year, an award is given to the best Iranian authors on the birthday of the renowned Persian writer Jalal Al-e Ahmad. The top winner receives 110 Bahar Azadi gold coins (about $33,000), making it Iran's most lucrative literary award. [30] In some years there is no top winner, other notables receive up to 25 gold coins. Categories include "Novel", "Short story", "Literary criticism" and "History and documentations". [31] The award was confirmed by the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council in 2005, [31] the first award was presented in 2008.

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