Beijing Header

Page Header

Poetry Reading & Talk With Athena Farrokhzad

TIME:

Sunday ,June 18th,7.00PM, 2017

 ADDRESS:

@ the Bookworm

(2-7, East Yujie St., 28 Sect. 4th,South Renmin Rd)

 FREE ENTRY

 BILINGUAL

About the Poetry

White Blight, translated by Jennifer Hayashida, Athena Farrokhzad makes a powerful debut for English-language readers–one that is even more powerful set against the backdrop of the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis and the bigotry and hatred spewed by current U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump. The original Swedish language version, Vitsit, was nominated for numerous awards and has even been staged as a play. The book, perhaps a take on Farrokhzad’s own life, from being born in Iran and immigrating to Sweden, is an important contribution to the literature of diaspora.
My father said: Your brother shaved before his beard started to grow
Your brother saw the terrorist’s face in the mirror
and wanted a flat iron for Christmas

My brother said: Some day I want to die in a country
where people can pronounce my name

Throughout the book, there are only two pages where the text is not attributed to other speakers. The very first page, which serves as an introduction of sorts before launching into the litany of statements by the other voices, and then, startlingly, a single phrase shortly into the collection: “The past is an assault never to be completed.” The experience of the war in Iran, immigrating, and living in exile has severely affected each member of the family and how they relate to one another. The past continues to be an assault in the present. It conditions the family members’ relationships to everything else including to each other. In one particularly poignant statement, the narrator’s brother says, “Your family will never be resurrected like roses after a fire.”

The effect recalls obliteration–the literal writing over of something–but also foregrounds whiteness in a text that opens with the narrator accusing her mother of letting “bleach run through her syntax.” Ultimately, the visual effect contributes to the starkness of the language, powerfully sets a rhythm to the work by slowing down the reading of the poem, and serves as a way of isolating the speakers who seem to have a hard time connecting with one another.

White Blight is a thoroughly captivating read from beginning to finish. Hayashida’s translation of Farrokhzad powerfully captures a family who has gone through war, torture, exile, and racism, capturing the way those experiences continue to bear out–the way people continue to carry their experiences and traumas, and the way those experiences and traumas may continue to affect their relationships going forward. White Blight is a profoundly human and humane book whose English translation has appeared at an important time.

About the Author

Farrokhzad is an Iranian-born poet and playwright who grew up in Gothenburg, Sweden. Originally published in Swedish (under the titleVitsvit, literally “jokewhite”), White Blight was translated into English by Jennifer Hayashida and published by Argos Books. It’s told entirely through the voices of five characters (a mother, a father, a brother, an uncle, and a grandmother), moving between them in sections of recalled speech: “My father said: There is a war that takes place in the guts”; “My grandmother said: Pistachios for the toothless.” The effect can at times seem like a verse drama (Vitsvit has been performed on the stage in Sweden), but the quick pivots between perspectives feel more like the leaps between sections of a long poem than gaps in spoken dialogue—characters almost never explicitly address what the others have said.

Comments are closed.

The Bookworm Chengdu Download Map

Yujie East Road 2-7#, Ren min South Road 28# (玉洁东街2-7号,人民南路28号)

Tel: (028) 85520177
Web: http://chengdubookworm.com