Ali Salami

Sadeq Chubak: Flowers of Flesh [Golhay-e Gushti in English Translation]

Sadeq Chubak, also spelled as Ṣādiq Chūbak, was a prominent Iranian writer born on August 5, 1916, in Bushehr, Iran. He authored short fiction, drama, and novels and was considered one of the most influential writers of 20th-century Iran.

Sadeq Chubak’s short stories were known for their intricate details, economy of language, and focus on a single theme, often drawing comparisons to Persian miniature paintings.

He grew up in Shiraz, Iran, and graduated from the American College of Tehran in 1937. Chubak was mentored by Sadeq Hedayat, a renowned Iranian author, and was also influenced by the works of American writers such as Henry James, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway.

Despite these influences, Chubak developed his own unique style of writing. He used colloquial language to convey moods effectively and told his stories with an unmistakable sense of realism.

Sadeq Chubak


The collected stories Puppet Show and The Monkey Whose Master had died have exercised profound influence on modern Persian literature.


One of Chubak’s most renowned novels, “Tangsir,” highlights the heroic deeds of the fighters in Tangestan and has been translated into several languages. The novel’s protagonist, Zar Mohammad, is driven by his anger at social injustice and takes it upon himself to fight against it. Despite earning a significant amount of money from trading, he is deceived and robbed by the governor, which leaves him bitter and desperate for justice.

Unable to rely on the slow-moving justice system, Zar Mohammad takes matters into his own hands, killing his enemies one by one. After these killings, he is dubbed “Shir Mohammad” or “lion-hearted Mohammad” by the villagers. The novel revolves around the themes of justice and revenge, portraying the consequences of a justice system that fails to address societal injustices.

Chubak criticizes social injustice and the failures of the legal system in “Tangsir,” depicting the protagonist’s quest for justice as a messianic mission to liberate the people from tyranny. Ultimately, Zar Mohammad is able to escape the law’s grasp, highlighting the consequences of a justice system that fails to provide justice to those who deserve it.

Following the success of his works “The Last Alms” and “The First Night of the Grave,” Chubak went on to write “The Patient Stone,” which is widely regarded as a great modern novel in Persian literature.

The folowing story is partof a project titled Persian Literature in Translation by Ali Salami.


The Flowers of Flesh

Murad stood smack dab in the middle of the bustling street, shedding his coat like a snake sheds its skin. Without a second thought, he sold it to the nearest clothes-slinger and felt a sense of relief wash over him. It was like he’d cast off a heap of phony social constraints that had been weighing him down.

A feeling of freedom coursed through him, and he let his hands flail about like a couple of fish on a line. Who needed a coat anyway? Not Murad, that’s for sure.

As he jingled the two tomans in his pocket – the coin he’d just earned – his stomach growled and his mind turned to opium. It had been a whole day since he indulged in either, and the craving was real. But first, a belly full of grub was in order.

Oh, how Murad longed for the sweet, sweet relief of opium! His nerves were pulled tight as a bowstring, and nothing else could satisfy his cravings. In his mind’s eye, he could already see himself packing the drug into his pipe and inhaling it deeply, the rush of euphoria washing over him like a wave.

Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. He let out a loud, satisfying yawn that mingled with the noise of the bustling street around him. But inside, he felt a glimmer of hope and softness that he hadn’t felt in ages.

Tears welled up in his eyes as he realized how little he had in life. He was nothing but a bag of bones, a pessimist at heart, and his knowledge was so outdated it was practically rusted. A thousand thoughts raced through his mind, but he couldn’t seem to put any of them into action.

Oh, how he wished for the sweet release of opium to ease his troubled soul.

This fella, Murad, was a misfit, like a louse nestled in the dingy crotch of society. He was an outcast, living a life that was barely clinging on to existence. He just couldn’t find his place in this world. His joys, pains, and thoughts were as different as night and day compared to those around him. He even enjoyed his agonies and saw them as an integral part of his being. He found people, even babies, to be detestable.

He had adapted to solitude, even in the most crowded places. He felt lonely and barely acknowledged anyone around him. He built a shell around himself, like an egg, and only came out when he needed something. He would laugh off his thoughts and sway his head like a snake, dismissing everything from his mind.

To him, honor, morality, religion, and truth were just empty words. He followed only his own desires, but even those were temporary. Once they were satisfied, he felt the absurdity of life even more deeply. He never paid attention to his past or future sorrows.

But he couldn’t avoid the encounter with the Jew who owned a shop on the side of the street. From a distance, he cast a glance upon the shop and saw the Jew perched like an eagle on a stool outside. In an instant, a shiver ran down his spine.

He fell into a contemplative state. “I don’t care a damn if this blasted Jew grabs me by the collar in front of everyone and demands his money back. He has already made a fuss about it a hundred times before. If I paid attention to those simpletons, what would differentiate me from them? They ignore me as if I were not a human being, living amongst them, with passions and needs like theirs. They keep a harem of concubines in their shop for themselves and their buddies. I’m not afraid of those bastards.”

The crowd would gather if we got into a quarrel. Women would think, ‘What a handsome young man! He would be a good bedmate.’ But no one would come forward to say it to my face. I haven’t taken a bath in months and have nothing to my name: no coat, no social standing, no money, and no parents. Who would pay any attention to me? Men would think to themselves, ‘He’s nothing but a vulgar thug.’ We would exchange a barrage of insults and then go our separate ways. Nevertheless, I need my money. I want to survive on it. Why should I let go of this blasted piece of paper when my life depends on it? I’d better leave, smoke my fill of opium, down a glass of arrack, and then go to Mahin’s place to spend the night with her. Screw the Jew! I’ll blend in with the crowd and make myself scarce! How could he spot me in this dim light with his poor eyesight?”

Ah, at this very moment, there strode past our dear Murad a young and exquisite damsel, slender and seductive, with a stately air about her. Her gown hung delicately from a nearby rack in the laundry, tempting Murad to caress it, though such a thought was but a distant dream. As she moved past him, she left behind a soft morphemic scent, which instantly set one of his desires to neighing wildly in his bosom.

With great relish, he inhaled the scent as far as his lungs would allow, and was loath to exhale it, holding it within his chest until he was seized with a fit of coughing. The scent was like morphine to his nerves, a heady blend of baked opium and tincture. He felt as though he had taken a deep puff from his opium pipe, his head growing hot as an overpowering desire arose within him.

It was unclear from whence this desire sprang or what it wanted, but it was mingled with jealousy, poverty, passion, and lust. Yet it belonged to none of these. The hollow of the damsel’s waist, the delicate broadness of her shoulders, and the statuesque perfection of her buttocks were so masterfully crafted that only a sculptor who had long suffered the agony of separation from women in a God-forsaken place could have created such a well-proportioned, statuesque woman to his heart’s content.

The poppy flowers on her sheer gown appeared to have been etched onto her very skin. As she moved, her lithe and naked feet causing the flowers to sway and quiver with a tantalizing seductiveness that set the soul ablaze. Each and every bloom danced so wantonly, as if communicating a message – sometimes sullenly frowning, other times luring with their sultry allure, and yet other times leaving one disenchanted. The woman appeared to be unclothed, her flesh embellished with blood-red blooms with opium-colored petals that adorned her hips and her buttocks. Murad longed to follow her every move, to inhale her morphemic aroma, and to feast his eyes on those flowers that were alive and fleshy- so warm and tender!

The graceful swaying of her behind caused the flowers to undulate like the pistons of a car- sometimes more, sometimes less, but always captivating, eloquent, and spellbinding. Her waist produced such alluring waves that you would have thought she was walking on a tightrope, sometimes giving her buttocks a flirtatious shake to prevent herself from tumbling down. From that shake arose such an elegant grace that was enough to thrill your very soul and ensnare you in a web of life and desire. A pair of frail legs, adorned with delicate golden hairs, evocative of a field of wheat basking in the August sun, bore her slender and elegant form.

Her lithe form sauntered past him, clad in buffalo leather shoes. Murad was intoxicated by the woman’s hypnotic allure, but the fact that she was beyond his reach left him feeling disheartened. His thoughts became pensive. “What a desirable fuck, no? Who has had the pleasure of her company? I can’t fathom how I might be inferior to those who have bedded her. If I were to get my hands on the beneficent Lord, I’d know what to do. I don’t seem to belong in this world.”

All of his senses were fixated on her poppy flowers, as if he had never seen them before, as if he had just suddenly recognized them. Once again, he fell into a pensive state.

“Poppy flowers are so lovely, so delightful, so exquisite. How they have made her all the more charming!”

Once more, an intense desire to smoke opium overtook him. He had become desire incarnate. He yearned to fill the endless void within him with the woman’s scent, the thick smoke of opium, and the aroma of the poppy flowers. But in an instant, his gaze shifted away from the fleshy flowers. Suddenly, it appeared as though the woman’s flesh was withering away in the shadows of the trees, and all of her blooming flowers were wilting. The graceful form transformed into a comical, deflated skeleton, staggering away before his eyes. His stomach churned and a feeling of sickness consumed him. He was consumed by hallucinations.

Murad remained in a state of stupor when the Jewish creditor caught sight of him and shouted his name several times. He stopped in his tracks, and the Jew immediately jumped down from his stool. However, their encounter was interrupted by the passing of a Chevrolet, and the Jew was forced to wait on the opposite side of the street. Impatiently, he fidgeted and nervously waited for the car to pass.

Despite this, his gaze remained fixed on Murad, as if he was a prey that the Jew had been waiting to capture. Murad stood on the other side of the street, gathering all his courage to confront the stubborn shopkeeper. The scent of opium, the alluring redness of the poppy flowers, and the seductive movement of the fleshy flowers were forgotten. Instead, he was consumed by the memory of the red two-toman bill he owed the Jew, and a bitter feeling of worthlessness washed over him.

To him, everyone in the street became his enemy. He pondered, “Curse you! I won’t give you a single penny, not even for the world. I could pay you back, but I won’t. Come and get it if you dare.”

The Chevrolet raced off at a swift pace, leaving the creditor gazing after him with the intensity of a skilled hunter tracking his prey through a dense meadow. “You confounded Moslem!” he thought to himself, “I will not allow you to slip through my fingers again. If I get my hands on you, I’ll debag you in front of everyone so they can witness your inability to devour Jacob’s money.”

But fate had other plans. Before the screeching sound of the lorry’s brakes could even resonate through the air, it had already dragged the creditor’s body several meters away, completely crushing him and setting the remains ablaze like wool. As Murad stood there, hands thrust deep into his pockets, he felt a sense of relief wash over him. It was as if nothing had happened. Like a spider crushed beneath the weighty feet of a camel, the creditor’s fear of crossing the street was forever gone.

He pondered to himself: “The path ahead is clear. It was not my wrongdoing. I am no longer beholden to him.”

In a moment’s notice, a throng of individuals amassed around the lorry like ants encircling a grandiose carcass. Their expressions were contorted with a violent intensity at the sight of death. In everyday life, such expressions would be unthinkable. Fearful of solitude and the inevitability of death, these individuals had sought refuge in one another’s company. But now, they stood there, plunged into an abyss of mortal apprehension.

As he blended into the crowd, Murad ruminated to himself: “When a fowl is beheaded and its entrails are exposed, the other fowls will fight over it until one of them claims it, dragging it away to a secluded corner to feast upon it. But the masses recoil at the thought of their own mortality.” His hands remained in his pockets as he shuffled through the throng of onlookers. Meanwhile, the lorry had been moved aside, leaving behind a grisly scene. A pool of blood and a shattered skull, its fragments still clinging to the chubby tires of the lorry, were strewn across the pavement. Thick, coagulated blood oozed into the crevices of the cobblestones, staining them black.

A pale, slimy substance resembling egg whites and mingled with the coagulated blood caught Murad’s eye, nestled amongst a pile of shattered bones. The sight made him feel sick to his stomach. Letting out a long, drawn-out yawn, he longed for the comfort of his opium den. With a slow, lethargic pace, Murad disentangled himself from the crowd, making his way towards his secluded cellar. Weariness overcame him, causing his shoulders to slump backwards and his chest to jut out. Whistling a faint melody, as if there was no one else around, he continued with his hands buried deep in his pockets. However, his feet felt heavy, and a sharp pang shot through his nerves, causing him to stop abruptly. Turning around while still whistling, he surveyed his surroundings only to find that the street, the lorry, and the crowd had all disappeared from sight.

His eyes dropped down to the ground as he muttered to himself, “Damn it all! It feels as if someone is pulling my veins out.” Disgusted, he spat out a thick, gooey substance, resembling egg whites, onto the pavement and continued his train of thought.

“She was a tasty morsel. Oh, how I wish I could have stripped her bare!”

Kicking a cigarette case lying in front of him, he tried to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. Frustrated, he stooped down to pick it up, only to find it empty. In despair, he flung it into the murky water trickling through the gutter, slithering like a wounded snake.

“Cursed luck! If only I had a shred of it in this country, my life wouldn’t be so bleak,” he muttered, his gaze fixed on the floating cigarette case. Lost in his thoughts, he stumbled into a plane tree, exclaiming, “God damn it!”

the fella changed course and dove straight into the throng of people. He was bumpin’ into folks left and right, and he didn’t seem to care much about it. A curious sense of liberty coursed through his veins. He felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He was on his own once again. The passersby were like ghosts to him, floatin’ through their own worlds while he wandered through his. The clamor of the horns and the chatter of the crowd didn’t faze him none. He was completely and utterly alone.

And then, all of a sudden, a lady sauntered past him.

He shuddered and whirled ’round. There she was, that same slender, graceful figure twirlin’ out of a fancy clothier’s shop. Her curves were still as elegant as ever, with poppy flowers inked onto her behind. But this time ’round, she gave off a foul stench – a smell of manure, of bones, of blasted brains and coagulated blood.




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