The School Principal
Jalal Al-e-Ahmad

“Ten years of teaching the alphabet, and the abject faces of the children of humankind contending with the most inane words that ever came out of your mouth…. I saw that I was turning into an ass; I said it would be better for me to be a principal. A principal of an elementary school! That way, I will no longer have to teach and will not have to give each total idiot a passing grade on repeat exams only to save for myself the most pleasurable days of the end of the summer vacation.”

The School Principal, which was published in 1958, is considered to this day one of the first and most incisive and sophisticated criticisms of the Iranian education system, in particular, and of the country’s society and government, in general. This novella uses first-person narration to recount the experiences of a teacher in the course of a year during which he was the principal of a small new school on the outskirts of Tehran. It is the semi-autobiographical story of a person who has become disenchanted with the Iranian education system.

In his novels, Jalal Al-e-Ahmad often exposes the miserable reality of life in his country following decades of colonial dependence, political suppression, torture, and gross violation of human rights. In addition to using literary realism, Al-e-Ahmad’s style, like that of other engaged Iranian writers of his generation, was sometimes vague and rich in metaphors, to evade the strict censorship of the shah’s regime.