Art And Culture

‘Faust’ in Persian Took 4 Years

‘Faust’ in Persian Took 4 Years
‘Faust’ in Persian Took 4 Years

A new Persian translation of Goethe’s Faust is available. It is the result of four years of hard work and rework by the young Iranian translator Saeed Jowzi.

The magnum opus of German writer and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) has been published in the new Persian edition released by Golazin Publication based in Tehran.

Faust is a tragic play in two parts, usually known as Faust, Part One and Faust Part Two. Jowzi said the addition of footnotes and references took much longer to prepare the book.

In a talk with Mehr News Agency, he said, “Faust is my second translation work. It was a very difficult and complicated task, but I enjoyed it.”

Jowzi spent four strenuous years on the Persian translation. The book is full of ambiguity and mystery.

“We know that Goethe was inspired by (Persian poet) Hafez of Shiraz (1315-1390), whose poetry is ambiguous and mysterious. The approach appealed to Goethe who clearly stated that he didn’t want to use plain and direct expressions. The enigmatic characters and complicated dialogues made the translation of the work a challenging task,” he said.

“In many parts of the translation, when I realized that I had erred, I returned to the starting point and re-translated the part.”

Jowzi says the earlier Persian translations of Faust are disappointing. “I believe the previous translators have failed to convey the subtleties of German language and niceties of Goethe’s pen.

 Character Analysis

“In German plays, there is expectedly the blending of old and new settings and situations and characters. He (Goethe) changed his characters and made the work more attractive,” said Jowzi.

Making a case in point, he said, “Oftentimes, when we speak about the devil, a dark and evil character comes to mind; but in Goethe’s Faust, Mephistopheles is different from the crude devil of medieval legend and the original Faust story.”

Mephistopheles is a cultivated, witty, and cynical exponent of materialism and nihilism, and preaches a sophisticated doctrine of philosophical negation. Ironically, although he represents evil, he can also be an unconscious force for good, according to Cliffs Notes (, a study guide website.  

“The translation took me six months, but I spent a lot of additional time on references and footnotes. Faust can be comparable to Divine Comedy by (Italian poet) Dante (1265-1321). I had to do extensive research to enable the Persian reader to establish a connection with the work and understand its subtleties and allusions,” Jowzi said.

The plays are not merely works belonging to Goethe’s times. “Such works reflect the histories of Germany and Greece in their own way.”

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints