Foroogh (also spelled Forough) Farrokhzaad was born January 5, 1935, into a middle-class family in Tehran, Iran, many decades before women experienced social liberation in the United States, let alone in Iran. Some Iranian women believe Farrokhzaad was the woman who began the movement for them. Had she been an American woman, Farrokhzaad’s painfully personal poems might have been startling in her time, but to have written them as an Iranian woman was absolutely unthinkable. She was the first Iranian poet to ever write about a woman’s perspective of life in Iran.
Farrokhzaad was born to a family of seven children, and by the age of sixteen she was married to her cousin, Parviz Shapur, a marriage her family did not approve of. The marriage ended in 1954, and Farrokhzaad lost custody of her son, Kamyar, who was given to her husband’s family. These events stigmatized her socially, leading her into an ever-narrowing sense of isolation.
From this isolation came Farrokhzaad’s first set of poems, published in 1955 as Asir (“the captive” or “the prisoner”), when she was only twenty years old. The book was heavily criticized by the patriarchal society that surrounded her. However, women rushed to read it. In the same year, unfortunately, Farrokhzaad also experienced a mental breakdown. In an effort to fully regain her psychological strength, she spent nine months traveling through Europe, which gave her a dramatically different perspective on life, especially as seen through the eyes of European women. It was during this time that Farrokhzaad wrote the poems that were collected in 1956 in Divaar (“the wall”), which was dedicated to her ex-husband. Through these poems Farrokhzaad exposes the restraints she experienced while trying to play out the traditional role of an Iranian woman and wife.
Many critics of Farrokhzaad’s writing have commented on a reoccurring theme that runs through her work—that of a longing for love. Some critics believe she at least partially fulfilled that need in the relationship that developed between her and Iranian short story writer and cinematographer Ibrahim Golestan, whom Farrokhzaad met in 1958. Their love affair would last until her death, despite the fact that Golestan was already married. This same affair, and several more that Farrokhzaad experienced, further alienated her from the socially respectable standards of Iranian culture. However, her poetry, which reflected the changes she was going through, became even more popular.
In 1958, Farrokhzaad published her third...
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