Art And Culture

Prof. Richard Frye’s Memoirs in Persian

Prof. Richard Frye’s  Memoirs in Persian
Prof. Richard Frye’s  Memoirs in Persian

Memoirs of American scholar of Iranian and Central Asian studies Richard Nelson Frye (1920-2014) is now available in Persian.

Author, translator and poet Bahman Zebardast has rendered “Memoirs of Richard Frye” in Persian, IBNA reported.

Frye spent most of his life studying the history and languages of Greater Iran and fell in love with the region. By Greater Iran, Frye refers to the lands with common culture and history including Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Caucasus. 

“The book offers a general view of his life and  memoirs in Iran,” Zebardast said. It contains two interviews with Frye conducted as part of an oral history project by cultural anthropologist Shahla Haeri and author and scholar of contemporary Islamic studies Vali-Reza Nasr. 

The two Iranian scholars “spoke with Frye on several occasions and compiled his Iran memoirs. Frye traveled across Russia, Tajikistan, Iran and other countries in the region for many years. His memoirs cover a vast span of time and locations; but the two interviews only focus on his Iranian tours.” 

“As an Iranian, I’m interested in all his memoirs. He visited (former prime minister) Mohammad Mossadeq (1882-1967) five days before the 1953 coup (that ousted the first democratically premier). There are lots of questions and discussions about Mosaddeq at the time, such as his letter to the US president Eisenhower (1890-1969) and Eisenhower’s reply,” Zebardast said.

“This part of his memoirs is very interesting for me, as are the accounts he offers about the history of Iran and the relationship between state and religion before and after the Mongol invasion,” Zebardast said.

Zebardast spoke about what Iranian linguist and author Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda (1879-1956) used to call Frye. Dehkhoda gave Frye the sobriquet of ‘Iran-Doust’ (friend of Iran) in 1953, and Frye used the name since.  

  A Friend of Iran 

Throughout his career Frye was a friend of Iran and the Iranian people, whether they lived in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kurdistan, Baluchistan Caucasus or in diaspora.

His professional areas of interest were Iranian philology and the history of Iran and Central Asia before 1000 AD. He created Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. In 1957 he was named the center’s first chair of Iranian studies and kept that post until his retirement in 1990.

The career of the distinguished Professor Frye in Iranian studies spanned more than half a century during which he was fully occupied with researching, writing and teaching. He was one of the rare scholars who covered both fields of Iranian studies: pre and post-Islamic.  

His love for Iran was so deep-rooted that he requested to be buried in the city of Isfahan.

Frye was born in Birmingham, in the US state of Alabama, to Swedish parents. In his will, which is published on his personal website (, Frye wrote: “Although born of Swedish parents in 1920, I did not have strong roots in various homes in America. Since I felt I had more connection with the other part of the world, burial in Iran seemed appropriate.”

In his will, Professor Frye expressed his wish to be buried next to Zayandehrud in Isfahan. This request was approved by former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2007. Two other American scholars of Iranian studies, Arthur Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, are already buried there. 

Frye stated this wish often in a variety of settings. His devotion to Iran’s rich ancient and medieval culture transcended political turmoil. 

Frye passed away on March 27, 2014, at his home in Boston, Massachusetts. Since his burial wish had been officially approved, it was a matter of transporting Frye’s body to Isfahan. But that did not happen.

A number of parliamentarians and conservative officials gathered near the tombs of Arthur Pope and Phyllis Ackerman on April 11, 2014, and voiced their objection against the burial of the Iranologist by Zayandehrud. They called Frye a CIA spy and accused him of having collected classified information for the US.

On June 8, 2014, the family of Dr. Frye decided to cremate his remains after waiting more than two months for official permission from Tehran to bury him in Isfahan.

“Memoirs of Richard Frye” is published in 166 pages by the Tehran-based publishing house of Sahami-Enteshar.


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