A Festival of Blood, or, It Sounded Like A Good Idea At The Time

So I’ve come upon a document which is either a perfect example of irony or the work of a slightly deranged man. Could be both, I suppose.  The author is the Iranian poet/playwright/essayist Mirzadah ‘Eshqi (1893-1924), a younger contemporary of Bahar’s whose literary attacks on the government eventually resulted in his assassination, apparently by agents of Reza Khan (later Reza Shah Pahlavi). His poetry is clever and often more daring than Bahar’s, if less technically proficient. He also lacked Bahar’s range, confining himself almost solely to the plight of contemporary Iran.

Around about 1922, furious over the collapse of the democratic movement following the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-1911, ‘Eshqi composed a series of articles in his paper “Twentieth Century” (Qarn-e Bistom) under the title “Festival of Blood” (‘Ayd-e Khun).   The opening passages stress that laws at their conception are pure and just, but as they are administered by fallible human beings, eventually they become corrupted and twisted to the petty ends of the very individuals who have been entrusted with upholding them. He uses the analogy of someone who owns a hunting rifle or a watch; eventually, through use, the tool becomes worn down, and requires regular attention and maintenance to ensure that it functions properly. The same is true, he claims, for the law. Five days of each year should be set aside for repairing and cleansing the law, just as one might do with one’s own home.

Fair enough, you might be thinking, but what exactly does this entail? Well..I’ll let ‘Eshqi explain:

“I would like these several days (Festival of Blood) to supersede all other holidays and recreational pursuits of human society, for such pastimes have no real consequence other than personal amusement, while this Festival would provide benefits of immeasurable value. In this belief and by means of these writings, I hereby suggest the five days of the Festival of Blood to the world at large, following this pattern:

From the first to the fifth day of the first month of summer, the general public, each in their own clime, country, city, town, or tribe shall come out of their houses dressed in their best clothes and marked by a scarlet sash to gather in the town square. Then, after the recitation of odes composed specially for the Festival of Blood, they shall hasten to the houses of people who, during the past year, were in positions of authority and responsible of the upkeep of the law but had betrayed society, escaping prosecution only because the courts lacked the power to interfere or for some other reason. ٌWithout hesitation, they should burn down their houses and tear them limb from limb.

In the name of God – what recreation could be better than this?”

[More to come! The fun’s just starting!]

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About M.C. Smith

translatingpersian@gmail.com View all posts by M.C. Smith

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