Avery, Peter 1923-2008 (P.W. Avery, Peter William Avery)

views updated

Avery, Peter 1923-2008 (P.W. Avery, Peter William Avery)


See index for CA sketch: Born May 15, 1923, in Derby, England; died October 6, 2008. Middle East scholar, educator, translator, and author. Avery had two passions in life—the culture and history of modern Iran and the classical Persian poetry of times past and present. He was able to pursue both fields of study in his long career. Avery discovered the Persian language as a soldier in India during World War II. After the war he spent several years in Iran and Iraq, first as an employee of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, then as a teacher at the Iraqi Royal Military College and Staff College and the Baghdad College of Arts and Sciences. His tenure in the Middle East occurred during a period of modernization and relatively tolerant cultural freedom, and he took full advantage of the opportunity to observe and interact with members of the literary circles that thrived in cities like Baghdad. In 1957 Avery returned to England as a lecturer in Persian at Cambridge University, a position that he held until 1990. He also served the university as a dean of King's College, a director of the Middle East Centre, and a member of the editorial board of the multi-volume collection The Cambridge History of Iran. Avery was decorated an officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2001. His contributions to the study of Persian culture in the West were recognized when the government of Iran bestowed upon him the Farabi Award in 2008. Avery's interest in poetry spanned the centuries and resulted in several well-received translations, from the modern The Ruba'iyat of Omar Khayyam (1979) to the fourteenth-century poetry in The Collected Lyrics of Háfiz of Shíráz (2007). Avery was often acknowledged as an expert on the history, politics, and culture of the Middle East. His publications in this field include Modern Iran (1965), The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 7: From Nadir Shah to the Islamic Republic (1991), and The Spirit of Iran: A History of Achievement from Adversity (2007).



Melville, Charles, editor, History and Literature in Iran: Persian and Islamic Studies in Honour of P.W. Avery, British Academic Press (London, England), 1990.


Times (London, England), October 16, 2008, p. 59.