Ahmad Schamlu

censorship, democracy, everyday life, exile
Film (documentary)
Written and spoken word (poem, short story, tale, translation)
Middle East
Iran (Islamic Republic of)
created on:
June 22, 2003
last changed on:
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Ahmad Shamlu was born in 1925 in Teheran. Regarded as one of Iranís most important contemporary poets, he published more than thirty poetry collections. Shamlu founded and edited a number of literary and cultural journals. He also wrote short stories and fairy tales, published studies on ancient Persian themes and worked as a translator (for instance of poems by Mayakovsky, Rilke and Lorca). As an early opponent of the Shah regime, he was repeatedly prohibited from publishing and was arrested several times. In protest against human rights abuses by the Shah regime, Shamlu left Iran in 1976 and lived in exile until the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Later he lived a secluded life in Karadj in the Elburs mountains west of Teheran. He maintained a critical distance toward the new rulers in Iran.
From 1968 to 1971 Shamlu produced films on customs and folk traditions in the Persian provinces for Iranian television. The majority of these politically conscious TV productions were censored. Among his scholarly works, the socio-encyclopaedic cultural panorama ("Ketab-e Kutscheh"/"The Book of the Little Street") deserves special mention. "Ketab-e Kutscheh" was planned to fill about 15 volumes. For his work on this project Shamlu was appointed a member of the Iranian Language Academy in 1969. In 1972 he was offered the position of lecturer for the Persian language at the University of Teheran.

Shamlu saw himself as an heir of Nima Yushij (1895-1960), the first to revolutionise Persian poetry, freeing it from all its historical ballast and the formal, metric fetters of classical Divan poetry and placing it in the midst of everyday life in Iran. Shamlu continued on this path; at the beginning of the 1950s he was already positing the necessity of embracing the simplest and most banal words and using words from everyday and childrenís language, dialect and the language of the street.

Ahmad Shamlu died in Karadj in the summer of 2000.
Author: Haus der Kulturen der Welt