Song of a Captive Bird
A mesmerizing story of a brave woman seeking the freedom and independence to write heartfelt and brilliant poetry
SUMMARY Song of a Captive Bird is a fictional account of Iran’s most infamous and iconic woman poet, Forugh Farrokhzad. She was a literary sensation, and acclaimed filmmaker, who was both loved and hated within her country. A country she loved and would never leave. The book follows her turbulent life, from her controlled and abusive childhood, though her oppressive teenage marriage, the birth of her son, her passionate literary career, her affairs of the heart and her death in a car crash in 1967. Forugh came of age in the 1940’s and 1950’s, at a time of upheaval in Iranian history.
The novels opens one morning, with her mother forcing a bruised and battered Forugh to a clinic in the poorest and dirtiest district of Tehran, the bottom of the city, for a virginity test. It’s an experience which leaves the sixteen-year-old Forugh shaken and forever changed. ‘It was the end of her girlhood and the true beginning of her life’. She begins writing poetry to capture her father’s attention, who at first is amused by his daughters efforts. But as Forugh continues writing her black-eyed father withdraws his support, and he marries her off to Parviz, who rejects her on their wedding night. She is unhappy in the marriage, and in living under the roof of her domineering mother-in-law. Shortly after her son is born she sneaks back to Tehran in an naive effort to have her sensuous poetry published. Her first poem “Sin” is published under her own name, which set off an avalanche of life altering events.
“When I left my father and then my husband I lost my name and I was no one. But there was freedom in this, to be a woman on my own, it made me strong and it made me the poet I wanted to be. I knew many poets whose lives have nothing to do with their poetry. They were only poets when they sat down to write. They would finish a poem and then turn back into greedy, shortsighted, miserable, envious people. Well I could never believe in their poetry because I could never believe in them.”
REVIEW Forugh’s character was so well-developed that you can’t help but have empathy for her. You could feel the pain from her father’s kicks, you can feel her dank and sweaty sheets in the hospital, and you could feel her heart racing as she ran from the machine gun spray. This story of Forugh’s quest for independence is both breathtaking and admirable. The writing is beautifully lyrical and captivatingly descriptive. It is a breathless ride that skillfully transports us not only through the story, but specifically to that time in history, and to a house in Tehran with a garden full of lush roses, jasmine, honeysuckle, and dahlia blossoms.
Lovers of feminist, literary and historical fiction will appreciate this book about a female poet whose name in Persian means ‘eternal light.’ The author, Jasmin Darznik used Forugh’s poetry, letters and films to create this powerful fictional account of a rebellious but brave woman. Darznik is a professor of English and creative writing at California College of the Arts. She came to America from Iran in 1978 when she was three years old. She is also the author of The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life. Publisher Ballantine. Publication Date February 13, 2018.
“ Remember the flight, for the bird is mortal.” Forugh Farrokhazd