Morad Farhadpour: a biographical sketch
Morad Farhadpour was born in 1958 in Tehran, during the reign of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi (1941-1979). He is a widely read essayist and translator, and member of the new Iranian left. His father was a journalist and member of Iranian Parliament under the Pahlavis. During a short stay in London, where he was studying English in the years leading up to the Iranian revolution of 1979, Farhadpour became affiliated with Marxist student opposition groups that campaigned across Europe for the overthrow of Mohammed Reza Shah. Farhadpour returned to Iran in 1979, and has lived in Tehran ever since.
From 1979 to 1981, Farhadpour was the youngest member of a theoretically minded division of Trotskyists who developed their own theory of what the revolution meant. Farhadpour wrote and translated for a few short-lived Marxist periodicals (such as the theoretical quarterly called Jadal), as did many other members of the intelligentsia. For the next two years he worked as a member of an intellectual Marxist circle that published Kavosh (a theoretical quarterly) and Basijeh: The Voice of Critical Communism, first in Germany and then in Iran. After the collapse of the political and revolutionary spirit of those years, Farhadpour turned to literature, poetry, and theology until the path was paved socially and politically for more direct political and theoretical interventions during the mid-1990s.
Farhadpour was a prominent figure of the Iranian reformist movement of the late 1990s. The reformist era opened up a space for intellectuals like him to write and translate. It was on the pages of journals like Arghanun, Rah-e-now, and Kian that Farhadpour contributed to reformist intellectual debates by translating modern European philosophy, literary and cultural theory. Farhadpour translated Theodor W. Adorno and Walter Benjamin among others for Arghanun and played a central role in popularising the Frankfurt School among Iranian reformist intellectuals. He achieved much of this influence as a translator. In 1999, Farhadpour translated the philosopher David Couzens Hoy. This was followed in 2000 by Farhadpour’s translation of Marshall Berman’s seminal study of modernist aesthetics, All That is Solid Melts into Air (1982).
While first and foremost a critical theorist and a translator of critical theory into Persian, Farhadpour has also made a distinctive contribution to Iranian intellectual thought by introducing modem Christian theology to Iran. He translated two books by Adorno’s dissertation supervisor, the Christian socialist Paul Tillich. He also translated an introduction to the thought of the German protestant theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg. In addition to his work as a translator, Farhadpour’s introductions to these translations arc important and memorable.
From 1998 to 2004, Farhadpour was associated with Arghanun, a state-sponsored journal named after the organon, the standard collection of Aristotle’s six works on logic, and published by the Ministry of Culture. When this journal closed in 2004, Farhadpour led a group of young leftist journalists and translators belonging to a circle that called itself rokhdad, meaning ‘event.’ Tn search for a philosophical system to support a kind of radical emancipative thought and praxis,’6 Farhadpour was drawn to translating contemporary critical thinkers such as Slavoj Zizek, Giorgio Agamben, and Alain Badiou. The outputs of the circle were published in a website which ceased to operate after the 2009 Green Movement. All in all, Farhadpour has translated and co-translatcd over twenty-five works of European critical theory. With Omid Mehrgan (another contributor to this volume, currently based in the US), Farhadpour translated Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment and Walter Benjamin’s selected essays.
Farhadpour’s leftism has been contrasted with other dominant intellectual currents within post-revolutionary Iran, including Ahmad Fardid’s Islamic Heideggerianism, Abdolkarim Sorush’s Islamic reformism, Tudch leftism, and other Marxist trends in Iran, and Sayyed Javad Tabatabai’s theory of decline in Islamic social sciences and Iranian political thought.7 In an essay on Heidegger, Farhadpour describes the German philosopher as a ‘reactionary revolutionary’8 who nonetheless cannot be denounced and discarded as ‘just another German Fascist.’
Farhadpour’s essays have been collected in three collections: first, Depressed Reason: Reflections on Modern Thought (1999), Western Winds (2003), and Fragments of Thought (2008-2009). These essays cover a wide range of subjects: German intellectual movements, Serbian violence during the Balkan Wars, postmodernist relativism (a literary trend within Iranian reformism), Iranian idealism, and translation theory. While his thinking is not systematic, it is everywhere pervaded by a conception of translation that reaches beyond conventional understandings of this practice as the mere conveyance of a message from one language into another.
Alongside his theoretical writings, Farhadpour is a prolific literary critic. Fie has introduced and translated J. R. R. Tolkien and edited and translated a collection of Latin American short stories. Farhadpour’s translations (with the Iranian sociologist Yousef Abazari) of European modernist poetry, called Ketab-e sha'eran, make a significant contribution to Iranian literary criticism.
Distinguished as an essay writer, translator, and teacher of the younger generation of Iranian writers, poets, translators, and activists, for more than two decades, Farhadpour has played a central role in shaping leftist intellectual debates in Iran. A younger generation of Iranian leftist journalists and translators, including Omid Mehrgan and
Saleh Najafi, has been directly influenced by Farhadpour’s ideas and positions with respect to Iranian and international politics, philosophy, and art.
Farhadpour currently lectures in private institutes, such as Porsesh Institute in Tehran, in order to develop his ideas and to inspire the young generation. In a recent interview with the Iranian daily newspaper E'temad, Farhadpour warns that international leftist thought is suffering a legitimacy crisis in relation to the masses. He expresses his hope of bringing about an emancipative event, in a world wherein all protest movements tend to be suppressed by state power and corrupted by capitalist interventions.