15 Best Iranian Authors

Discover our guide with our top picks if you’re looking for the best Iranian authors. 

Recently, the Islamic regime – a theocracy in Iran governed by religious law – has come under fire for its strict morality guidelines. Iranian authors have long been writing about the regime’s controversial oppression and censoring of Iranian women, and many great works of literature have been created as a result. Discover the inspiring works of these profound authors in our guide. If you’re interested in this topic, you might enjoy our round-up of influential feminist authors.

Here Are The Best Iranian Authors You Must Read

1. Zoya Pirzad, 1952 –

Pirzad was born in Abadan in 1952 and has won numerous awards for her work, including France’s Chevalier of Legion of Honor and the Hooshang Golshiri Literary Award. She also won France’s Best Foreign Book of 2009 for her most recent collection of short stories. Pirzad was raised in Tehran and resides with her husband and two children, Shervin and Sasha. 

I Will Turn Off the Lights tells the story of an Armenian woman with her three older children living an everyday life in 1960s Abadan, not unlike her childhood. The book explores controversial themes of fatal attraction, the historical city of Abadan, and what life is like for an Iranian woman struggling to keep hold of tenuous relationships in her community. 

“It was my mother who bought me green ink for the first time, along with the fountain pen she gave me as a gift to mark my graduation from high school. When I asked ‘Why green?’ she laughed and shrugged. ‘I don’t know, maybe just because it’s different from black and blue.’” 

Zoya Pirzad, Goodreads

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2. Sadegh Hedayat, 1903 – 1951

Sadegh Hedayat
Photo portrait of Sadegh Hedayat

Sadegh Hedayat was an Iranian writer, translator, and thinker who is considered one of the most influential literary figures of the 20th century. He found himself drawn specifically to the darker works of famous authors at the time, like Edgar Allan Poe and Franz Kafka, the latter of which Hedayat translated into Persian. As one of the first Iranian authors to incorporate literary modernism into their works, Hedayat immediately put himself on the map.  

Hedayat’s best-known work is The Blind Owl, a modern Iranian classic that vividly chronicles a man’s descent into madness as he confesses his twisted crimes to an owl-shaped shadow on the wall. The story is widely open to interpretation since the confessions aren’t written in chronological order, and it’s up to the reader to decide for themselves what happened. 

If you enjoyed our round-up of the best Iranian authors, we have many more articles on the best authors from around the globe. You might want to check out our list of the best Pakistani authors. Or use the search bar at the top right of the page to search for authors in a country or region you are interested in.

“In life there are certain sores which, like a kind of canker, slowly erode the soul in solitude.”

Sadegh Hedayat, azquotes.com
The Blind Owl
  • Hedayat, Sadegh (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 10/12/2010 (Publication Date) - Grove Press (Publisher)

3. Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, 1940 –

Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
Photo of Mahmoud Dowlatabadi looking into the distance

Mahmoud Dowlatabadi is an Iranian writer and novelist born in 1940 in the remote village of Dowlatabad in the Khorasan Province of Iran. He began working as a farmhand at a young age and became thrilled with romance and fantasy books, reading as many as he could get his hands on. His writing features highly realistic and conversational descriptions of rural life gleaned from anecdotal experiences. 

Dowlatabadi is best known for his novel The Colonel, first published in Germany and deals with social injustice. The novel tells the story of a Colonel called by the police to get the mutilated body of his daughter after she was killed by the Islamic regime and takes a hard look at what the families of Islamic Revolution victims face.  

“A man without hope is nothing but an insect, a mindless creature with no future. And a man without a future can only go backwards.”

Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Goodreads
The Colonel: A Novel
  • Dowlatabadi, Mahmoud (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 05/08/2012 (Publication Date) - Melville House (Publisher)

4. Shahrnush Parsipur, 1946 –

Shahrnush Parsipur
Photo of Shahrnush Parsipur looking thoughtfully at the camera

Shahrnush Parsipur is an Iranian author best known for her short stories depicting the oppression and censorship rampant throughout the country. In 1994, Parsipur was awarded the prestigious Hellmann Hammett Award for Human Rights, and in 2003, her achievements were honored at the Encyclopædia Iranica Gala. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate from Brown University in 2010. 

Parsipur’s first novel, Touba and the Meaning of Night, was published in 1989 in Iran and subsequently banned for its position on feminism under the Islamic regime. The book follows the main character Touba through 80 years of life, giving readers a stark visual of what Iranian women are up against.

“I don’t see myself as a very important person. But I was the second woman to write a novel in Iran, and I have written most of the novels about Iranian women. In this way, maybe I have a good place in Iranian literature.”

Shahrnush Parsipur, azquotes.com
Touba and the Meaning of Night (Women Writing the Middle East)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Parsipur, Shahrnush (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages - 01/01/2008 (Publication Date) - The Feminist Press at CUNY (Publisher)

5. Iraj Pezeshkzad , 1907 2022

Iraj Pezeshkzad
Photo of Iraj Pezeshkzad smiling at the camera

Iraj Pezeshkzad is a longtime Iranian novelist and writer who primarily explores themes of love and its various forms, such as between a man and a woman, between friends, or between family members. He also often writes about the political climate in Iran and has been known to pen plays and screenplays.   

Pezeshkzad is best known for his novel My Uncle Napoleon, which was adapted into a provocatively comedic Iranian television series in the 1970s that was later banned shortly after the start of the Islamic Revolution. Both the book and show were well-known for taking witty jabs at the oppressive regime’s common schools of thought and social attitudes. 

“If you were drowning in the ocean and then at the last minute – when you were suffering unspeakable torments and your soul was being torn from your body – a whale were to save you, in your eyes that whale would be as beautiful as Jeanette McDonald.”

Iraj Pezeshkzad, Goodreads
My Uncle Napoleon: A Novel (Modern Library (Paperback))
  • Pezeshkzad, Iraj (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 528 Pages - 04/11/2006 (Publication Date) - Modern Library (Publisher)

6. Marjane Satrapi, 1969 – 

Marjane Satrapi
Photo of a Marjane Satrapi outside

Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian-born French graphic novelist, cartoonist, and film director. Satrapi was born in 1969 in Rasht, Iran, and her parents were active members of the leftist Iranian Communist Party. She attended school in Tehran at Islamic Azad University before eventually moving to France with her then-husband and Iran-Iraq War veteran, whom she later divorced. Her parents have since advised her to remain outside the country in Europe. 

Satrapi is most famous for the graphic novel Persepolis, which tells the story of her childhood in a place that would later become Shiraz during the Islamic Revolution. While initially published in French, it has been translated many times. However, it remains controversial due to its graphic depictions of the Shah regime. 

“Life is too short to be lived badly.”

Marjane Satrapi, Goodreads
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
  • Persepolis By Satrapi Marjane
  • Satrapi, Marjane (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 06/01/2004 (Publication Date) - Pantheon (Publisher)

7. Simin Daneshvar, 1921 – 2012

Simin Daneshvar
Black and white headshot of Simin Daneshvar

Simin Daneshvar, born in 1921 in Shiraz, was the first Iranian woman to publish a collection of short stories in 1948. She had started writing early in the 8th grade and developed a strong command of language, reading, and writing. After publishing her work The Quenched Fire, she graduated from Tehran University with a doctorate in Persian literature. She was married to Jalal al-Ahmad, another famous Iranian writer, and died in Tehran at the age of 90 in 2012.  

Her most famous work is Savushun, which tells the story of a family in Shiraz during World War II. The novel was banned shortly after its publication but has since been translated into many languages and sold 500,000 copies in Iran. 

“Mourning is not forbidden, you know.”

Simin Daneshvar, BrainyQuote
Savushun: A Novel About Modern Iran (Persian Classics)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Daneshvar, Simin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 322 Pages - 01/11/2017 (Publication Date) - Mage Publishers, Incorporated (Publisher)

8. Azar Nafisi, 1948 –

Azar Nafisi
Photo of Azar Nafisi smiling at the camera

Azar Nafisi is an Iranian-American author, literary critic, and college professor. Nafisi was born in Tehran in 1948, the niece of Iranian scholar Saeed Nafisi. Her literature has won numerous awards, including Booksense’s Non-fiction Book of the Year Award in 2004 for Reading Lolita in Tehran, which also made the New York Times Bestseller List for 117 consecutive weeks. In 1997, she moved to the United States permanently and began teaching at Johns Hopkins University.

Nafisi’s 2003 book Reading Lolita in Tehran has been widely acclaimed. The book tells the story of Nafisi’s experience leaving Iran and returning to the country under the Islamic Republic of Iran. The novel depicts the Iran-Iraq war, her refusal to comply with oppressive compulsory veil laws, and teaching a group of women about Western literature at her book club. 

“The negative side of the American Dream comes when people pursue success at any cost, which in turn destroys the vision and the dream.”

Azar Nafisi, BrainyQuote
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
  • Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, paperback
  • Nafisi, Azar (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages - 11/04/2008 (Publication Date) - Random House Trade Paperbacks (Publisher)

9. Shahriar Mandanipour, 1957 –

Shahriar Mandanipour is an award-winning Iranian novelist and Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University, where he teaches contemporary Iranian cinema and modern Persian literature. He also serves as a Professor of Practice at Tufts University. Mandanipour began his writing career at 14 years old and became a published short story author that same year.  

Mandanipour is well known for his literary work Censoring an Iranian Love Story, which tells the story of an Iranian affair between two young lovers across the web and explores themes of forbidden love with rich, dramatic language and dark, comedic flair. Critics have called the work a masterpiece of Iranian fiction. 

“Every writer has met with his words time and again. They have had frequent conversations. They have even flirted with each other. But there are those rare moments when the shadows and the naked bodies of the writer and the words, in one time frame of the story, in one setting of the story, are coupled. They become two lovers who have long known each other and who in their clandestine meetings have frequently concealed their longing for one another.” 

Shahriar Mandanipour, Goodreads
Censoring an Iranian Love Story
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Mandanipour, Shahriar (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 305 Pages - 04/28/2009 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

10. Forough Farrokhzad, 1934 – 1957

Forough Farrokhzad
Black and white headshot of Forough Farrokhzad

Forough Farrokhzad is a renowned Iranian filmmaker and poet and is considered one of the most important feminist voices in Iran and best authors of the 21st century. Her work often deals with themes of love, women’s rights, and social justice, which was banned for years following the Islamic Revolution for its frank discussion of feminism and protest.  

Farrokhzad died in 1967 at the age of just 32 due to an automobile accident. She is survived by her partner, Ebrahim Golestan, and her children, Kamyar and Hossein. Her most notable works include The House Is Black and The Rebellion, both of which deal with the struggles of the Iranian New Wave movement. These works continue to inspire Iranian women and feminists today.  

“What matters, is to cultivate and nourish one’s own positive characteristics until one reaches a level worthy of being a human.”

Forough Farrokhzad, Goodreads
The House Is Black
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Forugh Farrokhzad, Ebrahim Golestan, Hossein Mansouri (Actors)
  • Forugh Farrokhzad (Director) - Forugh Farrokhzad (Writer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • English (Publication Language)

11. Reza Aslan, 1972 – 

Reza Aslan
Photo of Reza Aslan smiling

Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American religious studies scholar, writer, and television host. As a young boy, Reza converted from Shia Islam to evangelical Christianity and eventually back to Islam, giving him many themes to work with in his books. 

Aslan produces the hit HBO drama The Leftovers and has hosted the television series Believer on CNN. He currently serves on multiple committees and associations, belonging to the International Qur’anic Studies Association, the National Iranian American Council, and the American Academy of Religion.  

Aslan’s book, No God but God, became a New York Times bestseller. In it, Aslan argues that the most common perception of Islam as a monolithic religion is incorrect. This book was followed by another New York Times bestseller, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. In Zealot, Aslan tells the story of Jesus from a historical perspective versus a religious one, breathing new life into ancient texts. 

“A politician is a politician whether he’s wearing a suit or a funny hat.”

Reza Aslan, Goodreads

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12. Hafez, unknown – 1390

Painted portrait of Hafez

Hafez is a renowned poet from 14th-century Persia, known for his lyrical and spiritual poetry that focuses on love, wine, and mysticism. Hafez is considered one of the most important poets of the Persian literary canon, and his work has been translated into many languages. 

Hafez’s poetry is often compared to that of the great Sufi poets Rumi and Attar. Like Rumi and Attar, Hafez’s work is marked by its deep spiritual and mystical themes. However, it also has a unique playfulness and sensuality that sets it apart from the work of other Persian poets.

He is best known for a posthumously published collection of ghazals, lyrics, odes, and quatrains titled Divan of Hafez. However, some experts believe it was edited about 20 years before his passing. This work, which consists of over 400 poems, is one of the most popular books of poetry in the Persian-speaking world.   

“Light will someday split you open; even if your life is now a cage.”

Hafez, Goodreads
The Complete Divan of Hafez: Including Ghazals Inspired by the Ghazals of Hafez by the Translator Paul Smith
  • Hafez (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 779 Pages - 10/19/2017 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

13. Ahmad Shamlou, 1925 — 2000

Ahmad Shamlou was born in 1925 in Tehran to a homemaker and a government official. He began writing poetry at a young age, and his first poem was published when he was just 17 years old. Throughout his life, he continued to write complex and imaginative poetry, which became a cornerstone of Persian poetry. He experienced a great deal of tragedy and heartbreak in his personal life, which is often reflected in his work. In 2000, Shamlou died of complications related to Type II diabetes. 

Ahmad has successfully published over 70 works, including poetry, The Love Poems of Ahmad Shamlou, short stories, novels, children’s books, and screenplays. His simple but impactful free-verse writing style deviates from traditional Persian rhythm, creating uniquely classic works that have stood the test of time and political change. 

“Before I take my last breath, before my last flower withers, I wish to live, I wish to make love, I wish to be in this world close to those who need me, those who I need, in order to learn, comprehend and rediscover that I can be and I want to be better at every moment.”

Ahmad Shamlou, Goodreads
The Love Poems of Ahmad Shamlu
  • Hardcover Book
  • Shamlu, Ahmad (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 188 Pages - 12/01/2005 (Publication Date) - IBEX Publishers (Publisher)

14. Shokoofeh Azar, 1957 –

Shokoofeh Azar is an Australian-Iranian journalist and writer born in Iran in 1972 to a poet and began studying literature at a young age, even before authoring her first work. Her journalistic endeavors were problematic for the government of Iran, and her coverage of women’s rights issues garnered her an arrest three separate times. Eventually, Azar fled to Turkey and Indonesia for refuge, traveling to Christmas Island, where she reached an Australian detention center for refugees. She became an Australian citizen in 2011. 

Shokoofeh is one of the most notable Australian authors and has received multiple awards for her works, including the International Booker Prize and the Stella Prize for her novel The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree. This book tells the story of an Iranian who is forced to leave their home during the Iran-Iraq war and is creatively narrated by a 13-year-old ghost.  

“There are a lot of good things about dying. You are suddenly light and free and no longer afraid of death, sickness, judgment or religion; you don’t have to grow up fated to replicate the lives of others.”

Shokoofeh Azar, Goodreads
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree: A Novel
  • Azar, Shokoofeh (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 01/07/2020 (Publication Date) - Europa Editions (Publisher)

15. Goli Taraghi, 1939 –  

Goli Taraghi
Photo of Goli Taraghi smiling at the camera

Goli Taraghi is an Iranian short story author, translator, and novelist. Although Taraghi was born in Tehran, Iran, she traveled abroad to the United States to attend Drake University, where she graduated with a philosophy degree. Back in Iran, she pursued a Master’s degree in 1967 at Tehran University, where she also became a professor and taught courses on mythology, symbolism, and philosophy. 

Her best work, A Mansion In the Sky, was published in 2003. She has written dozens more, earning coveted awards like the Contre-Ciel Short Story Prize and Stanford University’s Bita Prize for Literature and Freedom. You might be interested in exploring other cultures across the globe, such as these incredible best Turkish authors. You can also use the search bar at the top right of the page to search for authors in a country or region you are interested in.

“I make rope out of words and lift myself up from the depth of darkness.”

Goli Taraghi, Goodreads
A Mansion in the Sky: And Other Short Stories (CMES Modern Middle East Literatures in Translation)
  • Taraghi, Goli (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 10/01/2003 (Publication Date) - Center for Middle Eastern Studies, The University of Texas at Austin (Publisher)