My Favourite Authors: Samad Behrangi

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.

favourite authors samad behrangi

Behrangi’s 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.

my favourite authors samad behrangi

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.

My Favourite Authors: Samad Behrangi

My Favourite Books Growing Up

My Favourite Books Growing Up

My Favourite Books Growing Up

My father was an avid reader and he wanted me to have a solid reading habit starting from a very young age. He’d had a cunning plan of setting up a library for me even before I was born. Thanks to him, I had this amazing library full of a variety of children’s classics and devoured them before I finished primary school. Later on, everything else I didn’t have was borrowed from the library of Teachers Society in the city by my father. It was a total bliss and because of that library, I was exposed to literature of other cultures from around the world. My favourite one was books from Scandinavian countries with their white winters and all that time I thought Laponya (Lapland in Turkish) was Japonya (Japan in Turkish) misspelled. Wasn’t I in for a shocking discovery some years later?

My father also taught me how to read books properly. He used to say that “There is a reason why this particular author wrote this particular book,” while waving that “particular” book in the air at the same time and add “When you read this book, try and find that reason.” I always search for that “why” every time I read a book, even today.

What were your favourite books growing up? This is the question I want to ask every time I meet someone for the first time. I’m not really interested in what they do for a living or how many kids they have. I just want to know, which childhood favourites shaped them up and molded them into the person they are today.

I have put together a list of my favourite books I enjoyed immensely as a child. I’m warning you though. You won’t find The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia here. However, you might still find some of them interesting enough to read —only two of these books are not translated into English. If you’re thinking that they are children’s books and you’re too old for that kind of stuff, then let me remind you a quote from C. S. Lewis:

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

Well, here’s my list…

Kibritçi Kız (The Little Match Girl) by Hans Christian Andersen
This was a tiny book I owned with incredibly detailed, gorgeous illustrations. I absolutely loved this book but it tore me apart with its ending. I’ve never been to Denmark but this is as close as I got to Andersen during a trip to Vienna last year: I spotted this plaque (see photo below) on the wall of a building. Apparently, Andersen had lived on the second floor of this building from June 9 till July 9 in 1834.

Hans Christian Andersen

Gümüş Patenler (The Silver Skates) by Mary Mapes Dodge
This book had made me want to visit Rotterdam. Years later, when I actually spent one night there, the place was such a disappointment. I still love the book, though. And did you know that The Silver Skates was first published in 1865? I didn’t! Up until yesterday.

Küçük Kara Balık (The Little Black Fish) by Samad Behrangi
I read all of Samad Behrangi’s books but The Little Black Fish speaks to me on a deeper level. I recently ordered a brand new copy of The Little Black Fish from an online shop in Turkey (see photo below) and read it immediately soon after it arrived. Having read it as an adult made me realise why I love this book so much: I am the little black fish. You can read it online here. Don’t worry, it’s in English and it’s not just for children. I believe every adult should read The Little Black Fish.

favourite books growing up

Lokomotifçi Lukas (Jim Button and Luke The Engine Driver) by Michael Ende
Not The Neverending Story or Momo; this was my favourite Michael Ende book. I remember curling up with Lokomotifçi Lukas and my favourite blanket for more than one occasion. I probably read it four times. I’m hoping to find an old copy of it during one of my trips to Turkey one day. Like the one in photo below which is exactly the same copy I had.

Lokomotifçi Lukas (Jim Button and Luke The Engine Driver) by Michael Ende

Küçük Prenses (A Little Princess) by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This was the “girlie” book I enjoyed very much. It was part of my library which was formed by my father before I was born. As an extra delight to the story itself, they were showing TV series at the time on our one and only channel back in Turkey. In black and white. I was glued to the screen. I recently tracked down a free Kindle version of it. I might sit down and read it one day again.

Şimdiki Çocuklar Harika by Aziz Nesin
Şimdiki Çocuklar Harika was about a new generation kids and how they would do things differently. There was a section about swapping places with their parents and how they would punish them if they were naughty. The punishment methods varied between children who were from well-to-do families and poor families. It was funny and interesting.

Seyyahatname by Aziz Nesin
We, as a family, enjoyed Seyyahatname immensely. It was about an American tourist visiting Istanbul and a couple of Turks showing her around while pretty much everything was going wrong. It was so funny we couldn’t stop quoting bits and pieces from the book. Later on, they made it into a four-part television series.

So what were your favourite books growing up?