Self-Portrait in Bloom

Self-Portrait in Bloom

by Niloufar Talebi


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In the aftermath of World War II, “a new dynamism” was taking shape in Persian poetry. Award-winning translator Niloufar Talebi explains how Iranian poets were increasingly instrumental in “freeing Persian poetry from the state of decline and stagnation.” Into this backdrop emerges the poet Ahmad Shamlou in this part-memoir, part-biography, and part-history of literature in Iran. “There are two books in this book, one portrait of me and one of Ahmad Shamlou. And they intersect,” Talebi writes of Self-Portrait in Bloom. Released in the 40th anniversary year of the Iranian revolution, it delves deep into culture, personal history, and pays homage to Tehran, the city of Talebi’s childhood. Told in fragments of prose, poetry, and photographs, this lyrical exploration reimagines the memoir form and in a dramatic climax sets free the details of a hurt that can no longer limit the blossoming of an artist.

"Self-Portrait in Bloom recounts the stories of poets, revolutions, women, and censorship. A celebration of the recreative power of memory and language, from the girl standing in front of her blue bedroom window watching snow, to the many lessons of silence—Talebi's "animal with two faces." It is a book of longing, haunted by history.”— Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic and Dancing in Odessa

"Niloufar Talebi offers a lyrical evocation of an Iranian childhood, of a girl growing into complicated maturity as an artist while bringing to life the great Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou, whose art became intertwined with her own. For these achievements alone, her book would be well worth reading. But Talebi is after bigger game. Step by step, she lures us into a profound meditation on the power of poetry, the politics of language, and the art of translation—and then into the shocking spectacle of an artist stifled. This memoir is not just poignant, it’s wrenching.” — Tamim Ansary, author of West of Kabul, East of New York, and Games Without Rules

"A brutally honest memoir of a life built by words, destroyed by words, rebuilt by words.” —Firoozeh Dumas, New York Times Bestselling Author of Funny in Farsi and Laughing Without An Accent.

“Niloufar Talebi has written an original and intriguing memoir. Dispensing with linearity, shuttling between her Iranian childhood and her American coming of age, she moves nimbly up and back along the space-time axis. A loving and contemplative spirit compels these pages forward.” —Sven Birkerts, author of Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age

Niloufar Talebi’s superb translations of Shamlou’s poetry convey a deep mastery and love of the immortal poet’s texts, and are a major contribution in presenting Shamlou’s literary greatness for Western readers. These translations are a work of love.”—Nahid Mozaffari, editor, Strange Times My Dear: The PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789176375631
Publisher: Wisehouse
Publication date: 03/28/2019
Pages: 258
Sales rank: 823,050
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.58(d)

About the Author

Niloufar Talebi is a writer, award-winning translator,
and creator. Her work has been featured at the Kennedy Center, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and she has received commissions from Carnegie Hall, Cal Performances, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Her projects include Belonging, Epiphany, The Persian Rite of Spring, ICARUS/RISE, and Abraham in Flames opera. Her work has been published in
World Literature Today, PBS Frontline, Rattapallax, and
Poetry International.

Table of Contents

Contents 9

Prologue 13

1. Me 19

2. Shamlou 43

3. Aida: Muse, Wife, Assistant, Steward 61

4. Me 65

5. Shamlou 73

6. Me 81

7. The New World 85

8. Tehran 101

9. Shamlou’s Funeral 117

10. The Master and Margarita 125

11. San Francisco, My Golden City 133

12. The Birth of a Translator 137

13. A Skyrocketing, 2003–2013 145

14. My Shamlou Projects 147

15. Poems by Ahmad Shamlou 151

Collective Love 153

The Beginning 155

Genesis 157

Nocturne10 159

River 160

Poverty 161

Farewell 162

Unfinished Ghazal… 164

Song of Acquaintance 165

You and I… 166

Aida in the Mirror 168

Nocturne 171

On the Winter Within 172

The One Who Says I Love You 174

I Wish I Were Water 175

Hamlet 177

Nelson Mandela 180

An Epic? 181

Dark Song 182

The Anthem of Abraham in Flames 183

Rupture 187

Funeral Address 189

In the Moment 190

Still Life 191

Grappling with Silence 192

Nocturne 199

Epitaph 200

Birth 201

At the Threshold 202

I Cannot Not Be Beautiful 206

16. Venom of Snake 207

17. To Colleague, My Censor 219

18. Time, a Long, Long, Time (Through the Fire) 233

19. Blossomfield 237

CODA 243

Notes 249

References 251

Illustrations 253

Acknowledgments 255

About Ahmad Shamlou 256

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