Join us for the next meeting of our new reading group, Books from Banned Lands, which will read contemporary literature (in English translations) from the seven Middle Eastern and North African countries targeted by the “Muslim ban” executive order of January 2017.
For our fourth meeting, we're reading Forough Farrokhzad's award-winning poetry collection Sin, translated by Sholeh Wolpé. We'll continue with books from Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia, finishing the series around the one-year anniversary of the attempted ban. This reading group comes out of a desire to do something, specifically as a bookstore, to resist the dehumanization of refugees, immigrants, Arabs, Arabic-speakers, and Muslims in the United States. All readers are welcome for any and all of the meetings!
The Books from Banned Lands reading group will meet on the third Saturday of every month at 3:00 pm, on the following schedule.
Saturday, July 29: SYRIA
Damascus Nights, by Rafik Schami
Saturday, August 19: IRAQ
A Sky So Close, by Betool Khedairi
Saturday, September 23: LIBYA
In the Country of Men, by Hisham Matar
Saturday, October 21: IRAN
Sin, by Forough Farrokhzad
Saturday, November 18: SUDAN
Season of Migration to the North, by Tayeb Salih
Saturday, December 16 (earlier for the holidays): SOMALIA
Black Mamba Boy, by Nadifa Mohamed
Saturday, January 20 (One year since the Executive Order!): YEMEN
Hurma, by Ali Al-Muqri
All books will be available in advance at the Penn Book Center.
About Forough Farrokhzad:
Forough Farrokhzad was born in Tehran to career military officer Colonel Mohammad Bagher Farrokhzad (originally from Tafresh city) and his wife Touran Vaziri-Tabar in 1935. The third of seven children (Amir, Massoud, Mehrdad, Fereydoun Farrokhzad, Pooran Farrokhzad, Gloria), she attended school until the ninth grade, then was taught painting and sewing at a girls' school for the manual arts. At age sixteen she was married to Parviz Shapour, a satirist. Farrokhzad continued her education with classes in painting and sewing and moved with her husband to Ahvaz. A year later, she bore her only child, a son named Kamyar Shapour (subject of A Poem for You). Within two years, in 1954, Farrokhzad and her husband divorced; Parviz won custody of the child. She moved back to Tehran to write poetry and published her first volume, entitled The Captive, in 1955. Farrokhzad, a female divorcée writing controversial poetry with a strong feminine voice, became the focus of much negative attention and open disapproval. In 1958 she spent nine months in Europe. After returning to Iran, in search of a job she met film-maker and writer Ebrahim Golestan, who reinforced her own inclinations to express herself and live independently. She published two more volumes, The Wall and The Rebellion before traveling to Tabriz to make a film about Iranians affected by leprosy. This 1962 documentary film titled The House is Black won several international awards. During the twelve days of shooting, she became attached to Hossein Mansouri, the child of two lepers. She adopted the boy and brought him to live at her mother's house. In 1964 she published Another Birth. Her poetry at that time varied significantly from previous Iranian poetic conventions.
On February 13, 1967, Farrokhzad died in a car accident at age thirty-two. In order to avoid hitting a school bus, she swerved her Jeep, which hit a stone wall; she died before reaching the hospital. Her poem Let us believe in the beginning of the cold season was published posthumously, and is considered by some to be one of the best-structured modern poems in Persian.
Farrokhzad's poetry was banned for more than a decade after the Islamic Revolution. A brief literary biography of Forough, Michael Hillmann's A lonely woman: Forough Farrokhzad and her poetry, was published in 1987. Farzaneh Milani's work Veils and words: the emerging voices of Iranian women writers (1992) included a chapter about her. Nasser Saffarian has directed three documentaries about her life: The Mirror of the Soul(2000), The Green Cold (2003), and Summit of the Wave (2004).
In February 2017, on the occasion of 50 years after Farrokhzad's death, the 94-year-old Golestan broke his silence about his relationship with Forough, speaking to the Guardian's Saeed Kamali Dehghan. “I rue all the years she isn’t here, of course, that’s obvious,” he said. “We were very close, but I can’t measure how much I had feelings for her. How can I? In kilos? In metres?”
Farrokhzad is now widely regarded as a famous Iranian poet and an advocate for women’s liberation and independence. She wrote during a time when Iranian women were facing extensive discrimination and prejudice.
For the first time, the work of Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad is being brought to English-speaking readers through the perspective of a translator who is a poet in her own right, fluent in both Persian and English and intimately familiar with each culture. Sin includes the entirety of Farrokhzad's last book, numerous selections from her fourth and most enduring book, Reborn, and selections from her earlier work and creates a collection that is true to the meaning, the intention, and the music of the original poems. Farrokhzad was the most significant female Iranian poet of the twentieth century, as revolutionary as Russia's Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva and America's Plath and Sexton. She wrote with a sensuality and burgeoning political consciousness that pressed against the boundaries of what could be expressed by a woman in 1950s and 1960s Iran. She paid a high price for her art, shouldering the disapproval of society and her family, having her only child taken away, and spending time in mental institutions. Farrokhzad died in a car accident in 1967 at the age of thirty-two. Sin is a tribute to the work and life of this remarkable poet.