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Amir Abbas Haidari obituary


My father, Amir Abbas Haidari, who has died aged 91, was a poet, writer and lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) in London. With his great friend and colleague Ann Lambton, he ran the Persian department at Soas, their contrasting teaching styles complementing each other perfectly. Lambton was highly respected but by all accounts rather forbidding, with a no-nonsense and professorial approach. Across the corridor it was a different story; laughter and a relaxed and informal atmosphere were very much the order of the day.

Amir's students loved him and many kept in touch over the years. As testimony to his generosity and sense of fairness, he once told me how many students would have left without their PhDs had he not convinced Lambton not to fail them after all the work they had put in.

He was born in Tehran and left Persia to pursue an academic career, arriving at Cambridge University for a teaching post in 1948. He then travelled to Canada, where he completed his master's at McGill University in Montreal. In 1954 he embarked on what proved to be a distinguished career at Soas, where he remained lecturing in Farsi until his retirement in 1986.

Shortly after Amir had settled in London, his brother, Houshang, a much-respected figure who was modernising the rural district where the family lived in Persia, was murdered. Amir decided to bring Houshang's widow, Tayebeh, and her two sons back to London, where Amir took on the role of father and protector immediately. Eventually Tayebeh and Amir married and had four more children, the six of us fortunate to be raised in a loving, stimulating and happy house.

One of Amir's great loves was literature. His mother introduced him to the Persian poetry of Hafiz, Rumi, Sadi and Omar Khayyám. He wrote many volumes of poetry in Farsi as well as publishing the highly successful Modern Persian Reader in 1975. He also translated Richard III, Alice in Wonderland and many of Samuel Johnson's essays into Farsi.

He was a man of great character, humour, charisma and energy. Everyone who crossed his path along the way was touched by his warmth and vigour.

Amir is survived by Tayebeh; three daughters, Maryam, Shirin and Laleh; three sons, Reza, Ali and myself; and 15 grandchildren.

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