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On the Use and Abuse of Life(s) for History: Life-Writing Narratives and the (Academic) Historiography of Modern Iran

Abstract : When Mehdīqolī Khān Hedāyat Mokhber al-Salṭanah (1864-1955), the renowned Iranian politician and one-time Prime Minister who made his influence felt during the late Qâjâr and early Pahlavi periods, published his memoirs he chose to call them Khāṭerāt va khaṭarāt (Tehrān: Rangīn, 1329 Approaching the ‘modalities and challenges of the narrative’ that are at stake in this symposium from the vantage point of the historian, it could be suggested – not entirely tongue-in-cheek – that Khaṭarāt-e Khāṭerāt might have been a more appropriate title for Mehdīqolī Khān Hedāyat’s work given that any attempt at making use of memoirs as historical sources is fraught with countless dangers. Aiming at exploring the complex issue of the relationship between life-writing narratives and those produced by academic historians this paper takes Mehdīqolī Khān Hedāyat’s vita as a case study by focusing on (auto-)biographical texts written by and about this colourful and controversial figure in Iran’s political history, which do not only include the above-mentioned memoirs but also a famous travelogue covering a trip around the world undertaken in 1903-04 (Safarnāmeh-ye tasharrof be-Makkeh-ye moʻaẓẓammah : az ṭarīq-i Chīn, Zhāpon, Amrīkā, Tehrān: Chāpkhāneh-ye Majles, 1330 and, perhaps particularly pertinent in the context of this symposium, Ṣādeq Hedāyat’s well-known satirical work Ḥājjī Āqā (Tehrān: n.d., 1330, which is assumed to be based on Mehdīqolī Khān Hedāyat.
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Contributor : Oliver Bast <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - 11:52:12 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, October 8, 2020 - 4:32:03 PM


  • HAL Id : halshs-02518137, version 1


Oliver Bast. On the Use and Abuse of Life(s) for History: Life-Writing Narratives and the (Academic) Historiography of Modern Iran. Modes et enjeux de la narration dans le monde persanophone (colloque international), FRE 2018 Mondes iranien et indien (CNRS - Sorbonne Nouvelle - INaLCO - EPHE); Centre d'histoire Espaces et Cultures (CHEC-Université Clermont Auvergne); Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (Harvard University), Jun 2019, Paris, France. ⟨halshs-02518137⟩



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