Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century
Volume 5 - Supplement and Index, 1993.

cateyea.gif (2884 bytes)
See Hoveyda's Cat Collages, soon!

chabrol.jpg (11018 bytes)
Hoveyda with French Film Director Claude Chabrol

HOYEYDA, Fereydoun
Iranian novelist, essayist, and film critic (writing in French), b. 21 Sept.1924, Damascus, Syria

H. was born in Syria, the son of an Iranian diplomat. He was educated in Beirut, Lebanon, and obtained a doctorate in law from the Sorbonne in Paris in 1948. H. joined the Iranian foreign service and was press attaché at the embassy in Paris from 1947 to 1951. He joined UNESCO in 1952 as a mass-communications specialist, but returned to Iran in 1965 to serve as undersecretary for international organizations in the foreign rninistry. He was the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations from 1971 to 1978. H. now lives in the U.S. and paints, lectures, and writes books and articles, on a range of political and literary subjects.

As an artist H. in his many shows in the U.S. developed a new technique of  "papiers collés," leaving a very narrow white space between papers. In the words of Andy Warhol, H. combines his literary sensitivity, his cinematic instinct, and his international experience, to create images that are beautiful, perceptive, and funny."

His first book, Histoire du roman policier ( 1956. history of the detective novel ), was given a preface by Jean Cocteau (q.v.). He became a regular contributor to Mystère-Magazine, the French counterpart of Ellery Queen's magazine Fiction, a science-fiction monthly, and to the celebrated Les cahiers du cinéma that in the early I 960s launched  what was to be known as the "new wave" of film directors. H. is represented in two volumes of Les cahiers dii cinéma, on the 1950s ind 1960s respectively, which were published by Harvard University in 1985-1986 in an English translation.

H.published his first novel, Les Quarantaines (1962; a many-faceted word whose possible meanings include medical quarantines and the state ol being forty years old). Its plot was of a French-educated Arab living in France during the Algerian war, caught between his traditional Arab culture and his Western education. Using cinematic and psychoanalytic techniques, H. describes accurately and vividly the emotions of the growing group of multicultured Middle-Eastern people and their problems. The novel succumbed to polemics in the heat of the Algerian war, but was eventually honored as a "healer" between Western and Eastern cultures. H. 's second novel, L' aérogare (1965.-the airport), recounted the production of a script, in two weeks, by a Paris-born American film director. In the course of his writing, many questioins concerning the coming of the 'age of image' and the relationship between cinema, literature, and metaphysics are illuminated for the filmmaker.

H.'s third novel, Dans une terre étrange ( l968; in a strange land), is the story of a child who feels cheated by his own parents. In this novel H. applied to literature the techniques of comic books to underline the distance between the wor1ds of adults and children. A year later, he wrote Le Losange (1969; the lozenge); a collection of science-fiction stories.

His next novel concerned a French-born American writer drifting toward alcoholism, Les neiges du Sinai (1973; the snows of the Sinai). it opens with the protagonist reading the Sunday edition of the New York Times. In this work H. used in many ways the techniques of the stream-of-consciousness (q v.) novel, introducing "sounds" and "images" in combination with words. The book won the Leopold Senghor Prize for foreigners writing in French.

When the Iranian revolution was victorious and Khomeini returned to Iran after fourteen years of living in exile, H. published in English The Fall of the Shah (1979: pub. in French as La chute du Chah, 1980), a personal account of the events that led to the tragic death of his brother, the long-time prime minister of Iran.

H. wrote an autobiographical piece, Les nuits féodales (1983; the feudal nights), and his first historical novel, Le glaive de 1'Islam (1985; the sword of Islam), treating the rise of Islam in the 7th c. and its first sixty years. His latest hook is an essay on the Middle East, Que veulent les Arabes (1991; what do the Arabs want?).

H.'s novels concentrate on characters pertaining to two or more cultures simultaneously. Even in Dans une terre étrange, although the story is about the French, his young character is caught between childhood and adulthood, which in the view of  H. are two completely separate "cultures." In Le glaive de l'Islam the hero, an Arab general, is influenced by the cultures of the conquered nations: Persia, Syria, Egypt, and North Africa. In all his works, H. searches for the ultimate unity of all human cultures.

As a writer, H. argues that the cultures, civilizations, political and religious systems complement each other rather than merge together. The vision of the world in his writings is strongly reflected in his collages and "papiers col1és," where there is a sharp edge between colors and sometimes even a space between them, while their totality creates a pattern in which color and shape are complementary.    
                                                                                                                                                            Peter Chelkowski

Since 1992,  Hoveyda has published: "Les Miroirs du Mollah," a novel (1993);  "L'Islam Bloqué" (1994) a study; and in English, "The Broken Crescent" (1998),  about militant Islamic fundamentalism.

Return to Links