Fariba or poetry as a source of escape and a weapon of resistance

See the French version HERE

(c) Photog. Marc Pataut : Fariba Adelkhah during her intervention in the seminar Des territoires, on May 5, 1997 at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris (then organized by Jean-François Chevrier): « Iranian society at the time of political Islamism. Portrait of Tehran ».

« If I write, it is let’s say…

To open a door. »

Guillevic, Poetic Art

According to some testimonies, Fariba, in the midst of her detention in Evin, is engaged in poetry, especially the translation of French poets. This is hardly surprising for her, despite or because of the circumstances she is enduring.

Indeed, this passion for poetry has long been rooted in Fariba and transcends « the 1001 borders ». When she arrived in France for her studies, she used to recite poems by Rumi, Kayyam, Hafiz, as well as contemporary poets, trying – already – to translate them the best she could to make them known to her friends. She also used to recall nostalgically the poetic jousting practiced in Iran. Very quickly, in order to familiarize herself with the French language, she listened to and sang with her beautiful voice the great singer-poets of the time: Ferrat, Brel…

Her passion for poetry is eclectic and covers a wide range from the Middle Ages to the contemporary, from Rutebeuf and Charles d’Orléans to Prévert and Michaux, without omitting her favourite poets: Drelincourt (who really knows him in France?), her dear Marceline Desbordes-Valmore with, among others, her « Roses of Saadi », and Guillevic, whose stripped-down, plain speaking poetry she loves and frequently quotes…

Fariba does not only spend time and live with poetry. For many years, she has also devoted herself ardently and diligently to translating into Persian the French poets that catch her attention and with whom she maintains an intimate relationship, translations that she publishes on a site that is increasingly consulted for her favorite poems. This is why, even if it makes her gasp or laugh, the honorary citizen of the City of Strasbourg and doctor honoris causa of the University of Geneva, who in no way claims to be a specialist in literature, can also be considered a fervent ambassador of French poetry in Iran.

As an ethics and aesthetics of her art of translation, a vital activity for her, Fariba has always favoured the music of words, the rhythm of the poem in the literal sense while taking care to respect the general meaning. The rendering of the musicality of Persian, the quest for the « right » word, the most phonetically appropriate to the context and that (re)sounds best in her native language, as well as the « right » image, the one appropriate to her culture, all of this requires a lot of patience and perseverance and filled her with a perceptible joy, even on the phone when after many versions she finally felt satisfied… before continuing her quest for a perfect union between sound, meaning and culture. This hand-to-hand confrontation with the linguistic and syntactical difficulties of the French language, a sort of personal challenge that had to be taken up imperatively, represents a triple homage: to the poetry of her adopted country, to her Iranian roots, and to poetry in general.    

Moreover, for Fariba, making French poetry known in Iran, a project that she holds particularly close to her heart, is not limited to the task of translation – which is already so demanding – but also to establishing links, bridges (linking the Pont des Arts in Paris with the famous bridge of Ispahan?…) on the literary, historical and political levels, as her long note on Rutebeuf proves. Thus the biography of a poet becomes the foundation for reflection that is both audacious and original. These various biases, for which Fariba accepts total responsibility, have sometimes earned her criticism that has only served to further stimulate her.

Poetry in all its forms: reading, translation, interpretation, and no doubt also personal creation, is undeniably vital for Fariba, and, in the ordeal she faces, deprived of Homer but endowed with a volume of medieval poetry sent by her Parisian friends, poetry undoubtedly constitutes (we await her return for confirmation) an essential means of resistance.

If Rutebeuf in his poignant « Complaint » complained: « What have my friends become ? (…) These are my friends that wind carries away », the friends, known and unknown of Fariba and Roland, « are friends that wind [gathers together] » to support them as best they can, with, after Roland’s liberation, always « the hope of tomorrow », that of Fariba’s liberation.

Christine Meyer


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