Bozorg Alavi

Bozorg Alavi bigraphy, stories - Writer, novelist and activist

Bozorg Alavi : biography

February 2, 1904 – February 18, 1997

Bozorg Alavi (بزرگ علوی in Persian) (February 2, 1904 – February 18, 1997) was an influential Iranian writer, novelist, and political intellectual. He was a founding member of the communist Tudeh Party of Iran in the 1940s andfollowing the 1953 coup against Premier Mohammad Mossadeghspent the rest of his life in exile in Germany, first during the Pahlavi regime, then returning to Germany once more following the 1979 revolution. His finest novel is Chashm’hā’yash (Her Eyes), which was published in Iran in 1952 and was subsequently banned.


Bozorg Alavi (born Seyyed Mojtaba Alavi) was born in Tehran, Iran. He was the third of six children. His father, Abol Hassan Alavi, took part in the 1906 Constitutional Revolution and later published (with Hasan Taqizadeh) the progressive newsletter Kaveh (Kaweh) in Germany. His paternal grandfather was Seyyed Mohammad Sarraf, a wealthy banker and merchant, who was a leading constitutionalist and member of the first Majles. Sarraf was a younger brother of Haj Seyyed Javad Khazaneh, treasurer of Nasser ed-Din Shah Qajar and later Mozaffar ed-Din Shah Qajar. Bozorg Alavi derived his nickname ‘Bozorg’ from being named after his great-grandfather -his Agha Bozorg- Agha Seyyed Mojtaba Ghannad, sugar merchant, confectioner and shipowner, who died in the year Bozorg was born,

Bozorg Alavi had his primary schooling in Tehran. In 1922 he was sent to Berlin along with his older brother Mortezā, to study. Upon his return to Iran in 1927, he first taught German in Shiraz and later in Tehran. During these years he met and befriended Sadegh Hedayat. Around this time he became active in the meetings held by Dr. Erani and was one of the famous 53 persons who were jailed in 1937 under the regime of Reza Shah for communist activities. Alavi himself claimed that he was not involved politically at the time and simply was in a group of literati, who among other things read communist writings. He was given a 7-year sentence, but was released after 4 years in 1941 after a general amnesty following the Allied control of Iran. Upon his release he published his Scrap Papers of Prison and Fifty Three Persons, and continued his political activities, becoming a founding member of the communist Tudeh Party of Iran and serving as editor of its publication Mardom (People). Alavi was in Germany when the 1953 Coup d’état overthrew the government of Premier Mossadegh and resulted in massive arrests and imprisonment. Alavi stayed in exile in East Berlin, teaching at Humboldt University, until the fall of the Pahlavi dynasty and the emergence of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

In spring of 1979 he returned briefly to Iran after 25 years in exile and was warmly received by the Iranian Writers Association, including such writers/poets as Ahmad Shamlou, Mahmoud Dolatābādi, Siāvash Kasrā’ie and others. He returned to Iran a year later in 1980 for another short visit and was dismayed by the repressive turn of the revolution. He continued to live and work in Berlin, visiting Iran for the last time in 1993. He died in Berlin in 1997.

Before his exile, he married his cousin Fatameh Alavi and had a son, Mani. In 1956, he married Gertrud Paarszh in Germany who stayed with him until his death.