Samad Behrangi has always been one of my favourite authors since I was a little girl –we spell his name as Samed Behrengi in Turkish, by the way. You may have spotted one of his books in my previous post; My Favourite Books Growing Up. If you haven’t, you can read the post here.
We have a saying in Turkey that children who’d been brought up with Samad Behrangi’s books turn out fine no matter what life throws at them. It is no surprise since Behrangi’s books portray the lives of children from poor villages of Iran who remain good in the face of poverty and hardship. Well, I have been brought up with Samad Behrangi’s books and I guess, it is safe to say that I too turned out right despite all that injustice I had to face through a large portion of my life.
Behrangi was born into a lower-class Azerbaijani family in Tabriz, Iran in June 24, 1939. He graduated from a teacher training school in 1957 and he obtained his degree in English from Tabriz University while teaching Persian in rural Azerbaijani schools.
He was mostly famous for his children’s books, especially The Little Black Fish but he was also a teacher, translator, social critic, poet and folklorist. He wrote many pedagogical essays, translated Persian poems into Azerbaijani and collected and published several samples of oral Azerbaijani literature.
Behrangi’s Children’s Books
Here’s a list of some of Behrangi’s children’s books. Why some? Because I don’t know the English titles for many and finding all the book titles is a bit of a drama because at the end of the day, these are not Harry Potter books, are they?
The Little Black Fish (this is my favourite Behrangi book, ever!)
The Tale of Love (the very first, full-size, non-curriculum book I have ever read)
Oldooz and the Talking Doll (also one of my favourites)
Oldooz and the Crows
The Little Sugar Beet Vendor (loved that little guy and how he peeled the sugar beets)
One Peach and One Thousand Peaches
24 Restless Hours
I read all of Behrangi’s books and I read them all in Turkish. At that time, as a child, I believed that there was goodness in the world. Only light, no darkness. I truly believed that until one day I turned over one of his books and found out that my favourite author was actually killed by Shah Pahlavi’s men and thrown into Aras river to make it look like he was drowned in there. It was exactly three years one day before I was born. I remember how my child brain struggled to process this. At that moment, my whole perception of life was shattered. In the photo below, you see Behrangi being carried out of Aras River.
Then came the military coup in Turkey when I was ten and my Behrangi books were screaming communist or leftist —both were equally bad at the time. I wondered if the police or gendarme came to our flat and searched for banned material and found my books, would they take me into custody and beat the sole of my feet with sticks until they split off, then make me walk on prison floor washed with salty water like they had done to one of my parents’ teacher friend?
As a final note, I would like to leave you with one of Behrangi’s profound quotes.