The Stray Dog ~ Part 1

This time, I would like to share my translation of a Persian short story entitled “The Stray Dog” written by Sadeq Hedayat. He is a well known writer in Iran but mostly his stories are depressing…huhu~

I wrote this translation as an assignment during my M.A. days in America. As usual, I will publish the translation into several parts. Before you read the short story, let me briefly introduce Sadeq Hedayat to you. This introduction is also my translation from a Persian book.

Sadeq Hedayat – 1903

            Sadeq Hedayat, the child of E’tezade al-Mulk, was born in 1903 in Teheran. He completed his elementary education there, graduating from the Saint Louis School in 1926. He went to Belgium to study dentistry, and then to Paris for architectural studies. Hedayat wrote Buried Alive, Three Drops of Blood, Parvin Drama, The Fable of Creation, and The Advantages of Vegetarianism in Paris, and returned to Iran in 1931. At first, he worked at the General Commerce Office and then at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1937, he quit his job and went to India to learn Pahlavi (the Middle Persian Language). There, his handwritten book Blind Owl was printed using a copy machine in limited numbers.

Hedayat returned to Iran in 1938 and was hired at the National Bank, but this job did not last long. After changing jobs several times, he returned to Paris in 1944. On Tuesday, April 7th, 1951, he turned on the gas in his bathroom and committed suicide.

Hedayat is the most important contemporary Iranian writer. There is still no one on his level in terms of writing ability, and quality of thoughts and ideas. His works include: Stray Dog, Three Drops of Blood, Buried Alive, Mr. Haji, Chiaroscuro, Blind Owl, Parvin Sassan’s Daughter, Madame ‘Alaviye, Maziyar, The Fable of Creation, The Advantages of Vegetarianism, The Trickery Land, The Songs of Khayyam, The National Songs, The Book of the Deeds of Ardashir [son of] Babakan, Doubt Breaking Explanation, The Memory of Jamasab, Zand and Homan Yasn, The Provinces of Iran, Afarinegan, Mister Bow Wow (with Mas ‘ud Farzad), and the translation of The Metamorphosis (by Franz Kafka).

With his own short stories, Hedayat set a firm and deep foundation on the basic story writing of Jamal Zadeh. As a result, he positioned himself at a level higher than other contemporary authors.

Hedayat’s prose works are simple and fluid in composition and production. No Iranian contemporary writer or writer before him wrote as simply and non-hypocritically. Some of his stories were written entirely in the colloquial language, e.g., ‘”The Elixir of Life” from Buried Alive. The other stories in this book are grammatical prose, but are still simple and without ornamentation, like the majority of his stories.

Hedayat’s stories can be divided into two groups: 1) Stories that show deep hatred towards the dictatorship of Reza Shah and other law enforcement groups that led the people to ignorance and idolatry; and 2) Stories that we can view as Hedayat’s spiritual biography and inner ideology. These stories are full of deliberate pessimism, depression, and hopelessness. The despair is so deep and is expressed so well in his stories that it affects the readers and influences them deeply. For this reason, these stories are generally not recommended for young people, especially young researchers and scholars.

Aside from story writing, Sadeq Hedayat was active in research, cultural projects, and anthropology. Below is a translation of Hedayat’s story “The Stray Dog” from the book of the same name.

The Stray Dog

By: Sadeq Hedayat

Translated by: Firuz Akhtar Mohamad Bohari


Source: Wikimedia taken by David Trawin

Fulfilling the basic needs of life, a few small bakeries, a butcher shop, perfume shops, two coffee shops, and a barber shop formed the Varamin Square. The people who were half-burnt and half-roasted under the blazing sun in the square were hoping for a sunset breeze and some shade. People, stores, trees, and animals lost their liveliness because of the harsh heat. The warm weather became heavier and the soft dust in the azure sky rippled like a wave and thickened with the movement of the cars.

                On one side of the square was an old sycamore tree with a hollow in the trunk that rebelliously spread its crooked and gouty branches widely. Under the shadow of the dust-covered leaves, there was an open platform where two little boys with loud voices were selling rice pudding and pumpkin seeds. The thick muddy water struggled to drag itself through the canal in front of the coffee shop.

                The only building that attracted attention was the famous Varamin tower, of which half of its cracked cylindrical body and the cone-shaped top could be seen. The sparrows that had built nests between the gaps of the fallen bricks were napping due to the severe heat. Only the howl of a dog could be heard, breaking the silence from time to time.

                The Scottish breed dog with a grey muzzle and black, spotted legs looked as if he had just run through a mud puddle and gotten splashed. He had hanging ears, a long tail, dirty, wavy hair, and two eyes that shone with human intelligence above his woolen muzzle. A soul could be seen in the depth of his eyes. Stuck behind the small eyes, something was overflowing. It was an incomprehensible message with neither light nor color, only something astonishing like the pain in the eyes of a hurt gazelle. Not only was there similarity, there was also a type of equality between his eyes and a human’s eyes. They were two hazel eyes full of hurt, torture, and hope that could be visible only from above the stray dog’s muzzle. However, it seemed that no one saw and understood his looks of pain and pleading! In front of the bakery, he was beaten by the errand boy; in front of the butcher shop, he was hit by the apprentice; and when he sought shelter in a car’s shade, he got a heavy kick from the spiked shoe of the chauffeur.