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Chapter 3-H


Nevertheless, when Hedâyat committed suicide by gas in Paris in 1950, Nimâ eulogized him. In a preface that Nimâ wrote to one of his long poems, “Mâneli”, based on a Japanese story called Urâshimâ, translated into Persian by Sâdeq Hedâyat, he says,


In fact, this ballad, in essence, is the response to Urâshima of my friend; he who is no longer alive; the most creative person that I have ever seen among all my friends in this land in the realm of writing.


Both men were creators of modern Persian literature who did not appreciate each other's work and innovation and remained hostile until Hedâyat's death.

     Mohammad Ziâ Hashtrudi-zâdeh was the third colleague of Nimâ in Music Magazine. He published an anthology called, Montakhabât-e Asâr-e Sho‘arâ-ye Mo'âser (A Selection of Poems by Contemporary Poets), in 1923. Hashtrudi-zâdeh included some of Nimâ's works. Nimâ speaks highly of him and says,


It is surprising that my first poem “The Tale of Pallid Color” which is considered a work of my youth, was included in this book alongside the works of all those established and bearded writers, so that they became mad at its learned author.


Nimâ's work in Music Magazine was of two types. One was poems in the new style, and the other, a series of essays called the Value of Feelings in the Life of Artists, published in 11 issues of the magazine dated from 1939 to 1941. These essays, for the first time, were put together by Abolqâsem Jannati-‘Atâ‘i during Nimâ's lifetime in 1947, albeit with unnecessary and pedantic footnotes by the editor.

  The Value of Feelings indeed is the portrait of Nimâ's views on aesthetics and history of art and literature in Europe and its similar development in Iran and the neighboring countries. It also discusses the history of modernism in literature and culture first, in India, Arab countries, Turkey, Georgia, Tajikistan, and Azerbayjan, and then, in Iranian thought, paintings, music, novels, plays and poetry. 

     Comparing The Value of Feelings with the preface to Soldier's Family written in 1926, it is easy to see the development of Nimâ's views from romantic naturalism to a materialist concept of history. In his early work, Nimâ emphasized reaching down to ones feelings and emotions and establishing harmony with ones nature and nature as a whole; whereas in The Value of Feelings he focused on historical and social conditions in which sentiments are created. He rejects that there are different laws governing intellectual life and that of "ordinary people". Intellectuals and "regular people" both are subject to exterior and objective laws which govern social life in general:


We [the writers] who share the joys and sufferings of this process, observe that artists, just like others, before anything else have to live their own ordinary lives. It is obvious that the ordinary life contains common feelings in its common forms. Artists in any field, as well, have a crucial need of daily subsistence; however their sensitivities compared to other people are stronger and in some cases are so high that the passionate stories of their lives become the focus of people's attentions.


Contrary to Kant, Nimâ believes that these sentiments are not free:


In [Kant's] opinion, art is nothing but a free entertainment. Therefore we have to conclude that the artist's life is filled with free and very unlimited feelings.


He also claims that artistic feelings are not the result of mere physical desires as Freud believes:


Sexual drive, which Freud has arrived at with conviction, and has stubbornly contemplated and concluded, is only an inseparable necessity of physical human existence and it is not a necessary condition for emergence of feelings in artists and other people.


To Nimâ, Intellectuals are “clocks” which are set to work by social and historical conditions:


Nowhere in the world, artistic works and their intrinsic sentiments have changed, unless as a result of transformation of forms of social life.


Then, Nimâ discusses the development of language, form, theme, and rhythm in poetry. 

     A good portion of this essay consists of the history of different schools of thought in art and literature, such as Romanticism, Symbolism, and Futurism. Nevertheless, he distances himself from a “mechanistic” interpretation of history in which the new ideas could only arise from the economic development within the boundaries of one's single country. On the contrary, Nimâ uses the same argument that Karl Marx relies on in his prefaces to The Communist Manifesto while discussing the connection between the economically advanced England and the backward Germany. According to this view, politics and culture as superstructures do not merely reflect the economic structure and, in turn, affect it, for superstructure has an independent life of its own. Thus, Nimâ argues that in the backward East, intellectuals are influenced by the trends of culture, modern art and literature in the advanced west:


The growth of these feelings in the countries far or near [by the west], which occurs before the change of social conditions, is the result of influence of talents and feelings of artists on each other [west influencing the other countries] and can lead to the emergence of new forms; however, in the other countries [in the west] new form and foundation has been created because of the change in the social relations.


     While surveying the process of modernism in Persian poetry, he finds it conservative. He does not even see his own innovation in his early pieces as radical enough:


By and large, our poetry does not have enough passion and courage, to break down the old fetters of classical principals.


Nimâ's transformation of ideas to a materialist interpretation of history did not take place all at once. During his early years in the beginning of 1920's, he wrote romantic pieces such as “The Tale of Pallid Color / Cold Blood” or “Afsâneh” where he had compassion towards the poor and was agreeable to social change although he was indoctrinated in a particular party line.

     In fact, Nimâ's views on social reforms and revolution in these times reflect the ideas of the guerilla movements of his day called jangalis (forest people) in the northern part of Iran around the Caspian sea. The leader of this movement was Mirzâ Kuchek Khân Jangali whose ideology was a mixture of Islamic ideas and socialism and was very much influenced by the Bolshevik peasant and working class movement in Caucasia. The first Iranian social Democratic party called the Party of Justice founded in 1917 in Baku, changed its name to the Communist Party of Iran in 1921. This party through Heydar Khân ‘Amu-Oghlu began to influence the Jangali movement. Nevertheless, when the newly established Bolshevik power changed its policy towards Iran and pulled back its support from the Jangali movement, the communists in Iran also discouraged Mirzâ Kuchek Khân from fighting the central state and saw in Rezâ Khân, the commander-in-chief of the army and the future king, the savior of new Iran. As a result, the unity of the Jangali movement withered away. Mirzâ's faction tried to kill Heydar Khân and finally Mirzâ died cold and hungry in the mountainous forests on the brim of the Caspian Sea. 

     Lâdbun, the younger brother of Nimâ, was active in the Communist movement and after the defeat of the movement, with the remainder of the Iranian communists, fled to the Soviet Union and lived in Dagestan. Nimâ had correspondence with him and some of his letters show how much Nimâ was influenced by the Jangali movement. Once he wanted to kill himself out of personal desperation and social pressure. He changed his mind and decided to join the guerrilla movement and sacrifice himself for a cause:


After this has occurred to me, I want to make a new life for myself: Living in the forest and participating in the struggle. In a few days, I will leave this area. I will go where I can provide for this new life. If I succeed, a new uprising created by me will emerge in this part of Mount Alborz and I will display the originality of the brave warriors in this mountain.... My dear brother I am gone and you may not see me again. I bid farewell with all my wishes.... After me, console my mother and be gentle to our youngest sister. When she grows up, tell her my story and tell her that I was always sad.


And like every romantic poet, he entertains the idea of his death:


When, on the battlefield, I cast my last gaze at the world and all of its attractions, it will be my wish for my tomb to be placed in the midst of a dark forest which is completely out of reach of any human being. The sun will cast its golden ray through the opening of the branches over the simple and plain tomb of a defeated truth-lover and the breeze will always pass over it and loneliness and eternal silence will encircle it.


     However, these letters to Lâdbun, show that Nimâ in spite of believing in social transformation was critical of the Bolshevik power and distances himself from its leaders:


What can I do my dear, I am not Comrade Lenin, I am not Karl Marx, that my soul can be confined so tight. My heart is trembling in an endless vibration and altogether I am different from all of them.


What is the difference between the two regimes when both in Iran and in the Soviet Union the books of the two brothers are not published and the freedom of thought is suppressed?


I badly wanted to see your book, Religion and Society. I wanted to know why can you not afford the expenses for its publication. Truly, I am embarrassed. This part of your letter conveys that the new regime does not care about books.

     Do you now believe that humans can not ever become humane? Thousands of revolutions will happen and pass by, but the essential nature of man still remains unchangeable.

     Here, too, my books are pushed to a corner and they are collecting dust. I am [capable of] everything, but what good does it do when I am out of money.

     What good does it do when the North [Soviet Union] and the South both look at books in the same way.


His anger towards the new power in the Soviet regime becomes so intensified that he develops a great hatred toward Lenin:


If Lenin lived today, I would skin him alive and myself and any one else who manipulated the working class for his own selfishness and his own ideas.


This is the time that through Stalin's purges the Iranian Communists that had fled to the Soviet Union are getting executed including their leader and theoretician, Soltânzâdeh. Lâdbun, later on, after the second World War, and the flight of Rezâ Shâh came back to Iran and worked with the Tudeh Party. Afterwards, in a separation from the party, he joined Yusef Eftekhâri, a well known trade unionist, and left the party once and for all.

     However, following the letters that Nimâ wrote around 1930-31, one can find the shift of thought in Nimâ towards a philosophical doctrine and social reform. In a letter, dated 1931, to Dr. Taqi Erâni, Nimâ reviews a work of the former, called Psychology, which became very popular among the intelligentsia. Nimâ identifies with Erâni:


Before you know my name, this letter will introduce me, and you will find that this voice is a familiar voice, just as your work sounds familiar to me.


Then Nimâ speaks of the necessity of dialogue in order to find a new methodology:


At this hour that I am reading your Psychology, I notice more than ever the different issues to be proven, they must pass the test of dialogue and criticism.... The fact of the matter is that in Iran nobody feels obligated to have any principle or methodology” >>> Chapter 3-I