Ali Salami

Sadeq Hedayat: The Broken Mirror [Ayeneh Shekasteh]

About the Author

Sadeq Hedayat was an Iranian author whose contributions to Persian fiction marked a significant departure from traditional literary styles. Widely regarded as one of the most accomplished Iranian writers of the 20th century, Hedayat pioneered modernist techniques that continue to influence contemporary Persian literature.

Hedayat was born into a family of high social standing and received his early education in Tehrān. Subsequently, he pursued studies in dentistry and engineering in France and Belgium, where he came into contact with prominent European intellectuals. This exposure led Hedayat to abandon his scientific pursuits in favor of a career in literature.

Sadeq Hedayat was an Iranian author whose contributions to Persian fiction mark a clear departure from the traditional literary style. Hedayat is considered one of the most successful Iranian writers of the 20th century and was a pioneer of modernism, which continues to influence contemporary Persian literature to this day.

Hedayat was born into a prestigious family and received his early education in Tehran. He later studied dentistry and engineering in France and Belgium, where he came into contact with prominent European intellectuals. This contact prompted Hedayat to abandon his scientific ambitions in favor of a career in literature. Sadeq Hedayat is known for a large number of short stories that have been widely read by Iranian readers. Some of these stories are: Dash Akol, The Stray Dog (Sag-e Velgard), Three Drops of Blood (Se Qatr-e Khun), The Whirlpool (Gerdab), Seeking Redemption (Talab-e Amorzesh), The Doll Behind the Curtain (Arusak-e Posht-e Pardeh), The Claws (Changal).

All of his stories have been translated into English by the Iranian scholar Ali Salami.

 

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Odette, with her enchanting sky-blue eyes and strands of blonde hair, conveyed a feeling of freshness reminiscent of the first blossoms of spring. She often sat at the window for hours, engrossed in a novel, or mending her stockings with great care. However, it was her exquisite renditions of the Garizari waltz on her violin that really made my heart soar.

Her window was opposite mine and for endless minutes, hours and sometimes whole Sundays I was lost in her beauty. Especially at night, when she took off her stockings and retired to bed. A mysterious bond had developed between us, born of unspoken words and unrequited feelings. A single day without her presence felt as if something crucial had been taken away from me. And if I stared at her for too long, she would eventually get up and close her window.

This routine continued for two weeks, during which Odette remained indifferent to my presence, her expression stoic and impenetrable. But fate intervened one morning when I bumped into her at breakfast at the end of our lane. Odette had her violin case in her hand and was on her way to the metro. I plucked up the courage to greet her, which she acknowledged with a friendly smile. Encouraged, I offered to carry her violin case for her, to which she replied with a simple “thank you” So our acquaintance began with a single word.

From that day on, our interactions evolved from hand gestures at our windows to meetings in the Jardin du Luxembourg, followed by visits to the cinema and theater performances. Odette’s family company was absent as her stepfather and mother were out of town, leaving her alone in Paris for work.

Although she spoke little, her temperament was like that of a child: stubborn, determined and occasionally angry. And so our friendship developed over two months, culminating in our decision to visit the Friday market in Neuilly. That evening, Odette looked particularly happy in her brand new blue dress. When we came out of the restaurant, she talked a little about her life on the metro ride until we got off opposite Luna Park.

A throng of people bustled to and fro, crowding around a kaleidoscope of attractions that lined the street. Showmen and showwomen, all kinds of games of chance, sweets, a circus, miniature electric cars circling a track, balloons circling in the air, rides of all kinds and various exhibits vied for attention. The screams of the girls, the chatter, the laughter, the mumbling, the roar of the engines and the different types of music mingled together in a confused jumble.

We had opted for a car ride – a train with cars circulating in a loop. During the ride, the train was covered with a tarpaulin that made it look like a green worm. Before we boarded, Odette entrusted me with her gloves and handbag so they would not tip over during the ride. We sat down close to each other and as the ride began, the green cloth rose up and shielded us from prying eyes for five minutes.

When the cover lowered, our lips remained locked in a passionate embrace. I kissed Odette with fervor and she did not resist. Afterwards, we got out, and as we strolled, Odette told me that it was only the third time she had been to the Friday market since her mother had forbidden it. We visited a few other attractions and finally set off for home, exhausted. Odette did not want to leave, however, and stayed at every stall, and I was forced to wait.

I grabbed her arm several times to persuade her to accompany me until she stopped in front of a vendor promoting Gillette razor blades. The salesman extolled the virtues of his product, gave a demonstration and urged people to buy. This time I was furious. I grabbed her by the arm and shouted: “This is no place for women.” But she released her arm and replied: “I know, but I still want to watch.”

Annoyed, I walked towards the subway station without responding. When I arrived home, the alley was deserted and Odette’s window was dark. I went into my room, switched on the light and opened the window. Since I was not sleepy, I read for a while. It was one o’clock in the morning and I wanted to retire for the night. But when I closed the window, I caught sight of Odette standing under the streetlight in the alley below her window. Her behavior surprised me and I slammed the window shut.

As I began to undress, I discovered that Odette’s beaded handbag and gloves were in my pocket, while her money and door key were in the purse. I tied the things together and dropped them out of the window. For three long weeks I paid no attention to her and closed my window as soon as hers opened. As luck would have it, I had the opportunity to travel to London. The day before I left, I met Odette at the end of the alley, violin case in hand, on my way to the tube. After exchanging greetings and trivialities, I informed her of my upcoming trip and apologized for my behavior that fateful night. Odette icily took out her beaded handbag and handed me a small mirror that had been broken in half. “This happened to me the night you threw my handbag out of the window,” she said. “You must know that this is a bad omen.”

I laughed at her superstition and promised to see her before I left, but unfortunately I could not keep that promise. After spending a month in London, I received a letter from Odette.

“Dearest Jamshid,” it said, “you cannot know how deep my loneliness is. The pain of loneliness is tearing me apart. Please forgive my informality, but when I write these lines, it is as if I am talking to you. The days drag on endlessly, the hands of the ticking clock seem to crawl. Do you also find time sluggish? Perhaps you met a young lady there, although I am sure your head is buried in a book, just like in that cramped Parisian room that has stayed in my memory forever. A Chinese student has taken up residence in your absence, but I have drawn a heavy curtain in front of my window to block his view, for the man I adored is gone. It reminds me of the refrain of this ballad: ‘A bird that has flown to another land will never return’

Yesterday, Helen and I were strolling through the Jardin du Luxembourg. As we passed this bench, I felt transported back to the day when we sat there and you spoke of your homeland and made promises that I believed with all my heart. But now I am ridiculed by my friends and the gossips have started talking about me. Whenever I play the Garizari waltz, I think of you. The photo we took in the Bois de Vincennes adorns my table. When I look at your image, I feel reassured and say to myself: ‘No, this picture cannot deceive me’ But unfortunately I can not fathom whether you share my feelings or not. Since the evening when the mirror you gave me broke, my heart has been warning me of an impending disaster. The day we last met, when you told me your plans for a trip to England, my heart predicted that you would move far away from me and that we would never see each other again. And now my worst fears have come true. Madame Burle inquired about my melancholy state and offered to take me to Brittany, but I refused, knowing that this would only worsen my condition.

But enough. What is done is done. I apologize if I sound angry, for I am quite dejected. Please forgive me, and if I have burdened you with my letters, please disregard them. You will throw them away, will not you, Jimmy?

You can not comprehend the anguish and sorrow that consumes me at this moment. I am weary of everything. I am disillusioned with my daily routine, although it was not always like this. I can no longer bear to be left in the dark. Even though I fear that my decision may cause others grief, the grief they will feel is nothing like mine. That is why I have decided to leave Paris next Sunday. My journey will begin with the train at half past six to Calais, the last town you passed through. There I will look out over the blue expanse of the ocean. Its waves have the power to erase all misfortunes. With each passing moment, the hues of the water change as its soft, melancholy whisper laps the sandy shore. The foam it tirelessly produces is nibbled away by the sand and swallowed whole. Eventually, these same waves will carry my last thoughts with them, for when death smiles on someone, their smile draws them closer. You may doubt that I have the strength to perform such an act, but I assure you that my words are sincere. Accept my kisses from afar,

Odette Lasour.

In response to Odette’s letters, I sent two letters, but only one was answered, while the other was stamped “Return to sender” and eventually came back into my possession.

The following year, on my arrival in Paris, I hurried to Rue Saint Jacques, where my former apartment was located. The melody of the Garizari waltz, whistled by a Chinese scholar, could be heard from my room. I noticed, however, that the sash window of Odette’s apartment was firmly closed and that there was a sign at the entrance saying, “This apartment is for rent.”

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