“A timeless work of art to enjoy!”
Forugh Farrokhzad’s On Loving is one of the most beautiful love poems I’ve ever read in my life! Farrokhzad was a young woman who used her pure emotions to write poetry and created remarkable works to last forever. ON LOVING is translated from Persian to English by the Iranian-American poet, and translator, Sholeh Wolpe.
“Have you ever had a “heart-to-heart” conversation with yourself?!”
What if our hearts could freely talk to us?!
“What a lovely day!”
I’d like to express my sincere thanks to Chapters/Indigo Woodbridge staff for being such great hosts and all the avid readers who attended “On Loving” book signing event yesterday. Great discussions on a beautiful Saturday afternoon!
Yesterday, April 27th, Vaughan Civic Centre Resource Library hosted me for my book signing in its amazing, inviting, peaceful and embracing environment. I’d like to thank, Urszula Jambor, the library manager and her helpful staff for their cordial hospitality and also, to thank all the library’s avid readers and others who were interested in my work “On Loving: A Novel”. It is so great to see how our young generation still shows this much interest in attending libraries and getting surrounded by the best companions in the world sitting silently on the shelves!
Remembering “Gabriel Garcia Marquez”
… I’ve been always fascinated by how our tiny brain cells and the connections between them enable us to keep track of events that happened many years ago. But I became even more fascinated when I first heard Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s thoughts on memory: that memories held by the heart minimize what was bad and emphasize what was good.
It’s true — the heart can recall things … but in a different way from the brain. Regardless of what happens in your life, your heart has its own agenda, its own guidelines to follow. There are always events, good or bad, that will never wash from your heart’s memory … (From: “On Loving: A Novel”, by Lili Naghdi)
Five years ago, in April 2014, the great Colombian writer, Marquez, who brought us “One Hundred Years of Solitude” passed away from complications of pneumonia at age 87. His wise and meaningful words will always remain in the minds of all literature lovers, but what I really love to remember him by would be these words: “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” In the words of Carlos Fuentes, the famous Mexican novelist, Márquez is now recognized as “the most popular and perhaps the best writer in Spanish since Cervantes.” We can sincerely remember and honor Marquez this April not by shedding tears or feeling sad, but by reading his wonderful works since as he solemnly believed: “Nobody deserves your tears, but whoever deserves them will not make you cry.” May he rest in peace.
“The greatest romantic epic poet in Persian literature”
… “The love story of Shirin, Khosrow and his rival Farhad was written down many times, including as a beautiful poem by Nezami Ganjavi, a Persian poet who lived in twelfth century. It is an old tale and has been retold by many writers across the Persian-influenced world. Farhad, a humble sculptor and famed stonecarver, falls madly in love with Shirin, a gorgeous Armenian princess who was also the object of affection for Khosrow, rightful King of Persia. Shirin has told Khosrow she would not consider marrying him until he had reconquered his land.” … (from On Loving: A Novel)
The great Nezami Ganjavi who was born in 1141 Seljuk Persia (modern-day Azerbaijan), is known for his beautiful romantic epic poems and many outstanding literary works such as: The Five Jewels, Khosrow and Shirin, The Treasury of Mysteries, etc.
The famous German writer, Goethe, commented on Nezami and his works: “A gentle, highly gifted spirit, who, when Ferdowsi had completed the collected heroic traditions, chose for the material of his poems the sweetest encounters of the deepest love. Majnun and Layli, Khosrow and Shirin, lovers he presented; meant for one another by premonition, destiny, nature, habit, inclination, passion staunchly devoted to each other; but divided by mad ideas, stubbornness, chance, necessity, and force, then miraculously reunited, yet in the end again in one way or another torn apart and separated from each other.”
Nezami’s love story of Layli and Majnun also provided the namesake for a hit single by Eric Clapton, also called “Layla”. The album was highly influenced by Nezami and his poetry. The following is the link to the clip from an exhibition devoted to the 870th anniversary of Nizami Ganjavi in Paris at the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts.
“To save someone’s life”
“Life” is the most precious gift that has been given to any living thing. To save some one’s life is a rewarding yet unique experience that many of us have had encountered in our lives either due to our profession or just by being present “in the right place at the right time”. But what if as a professional you can’t save your loved one when you should!? How horrible you may feel, the feeling would unfortunately and certainly be beyond imagination. Or as Dr. Rose Hemmings may recall: “I can’t help but notice how desperate, how incompetent, a physician can feel not being able to save the life of their own beloved. Saving lives — something you’re trained for, something you do automatically — suddenly seems impossible.”
Attar of Nishapur and his “Seven Valleys of Spirituality”
Today, April 14th, is the day that the great Persian mystic poet, theoretician of Sufism, pharmacist/physician was brutally attacked and killed in the massacre inflicted by the Mongols on Nishapur (Iran) in 1221. Many of his literary works were ruined or lost during this time. But the world still knows him as a great Sufi master, who introduced “The Seven Valleys of Spirituality” in a beautiful story of his ” Conference of the birds”. He traveled widely throughout Egypt, Turkestan and India during his youth and his works were the inspiration for Rumi and many other mystic poets who came after him. ” Attar has roamed through the seven cities of love while we have barely turned down the first street.” Rumi said in Attar’s praise.
So what are “The Seven Valleys of Spirituality” Attar explained in his beautiful book “Conference of the birds”?
The Valley of Quest
The Valley of Love
The Valley of Wisdom
The Valley of Detachment
The Valley of Unity
The Valley of Amazement
The Valley of Annihilation
To honor this great man in 1963 the Persian composer, Hossein Dehlavi, wrote a piece for voice and orchestra on Attar’s ‘Forugh-e Eshgh’. The Iranian opera singer, Hossein Sarshar, performed this piece in his amazing voice. Enjoy!
The title for the novel “On Loving” has been chosen from a poem with the same title written by the great, late contemporary Iranian poet, Forugh Farrokhzad and in her memory. In a part of this story and during an interesting conversation between the two main characters, Siyavash and Rose, in Isfahan, Siyavash, the male character, tries to explain what he thinks about Forugh Farrokhzad’s work. He also recites a short section of a beautiful poem by Forugh, titled “Window”:
“Her poems have as much power as they do because they derive so much from her own life — her heartbreaks, desolation, disappointments, physical and emotional passion triggered by turmoil she endured as a woman in her society at her time — but all that is conveyed to you as a reader, man or woman, by her specific way of using words and phrases that makes you stop and think, or stop and feel, and then go on to notice the depth of the effect that it had on your soul. She unveils a woman’s delicate heart and soul, warmly inviting you to explore it, without any anticipation of being judged. Her poems let you connect with things around you as a human, even things as simple as a window you look through aimlessly every day, out of habit.”
He stood up, took another book from his shelves and opened it:
A window to see,
A window to hear!
A round window like an unending well!
It should reach to the fiery core of the Earth.
And it should open to its gentle, lightly air.
A window that loads our lonely, little hands
with the nocturnal scent of the generous stars.
A window that invites the sun
to the frozen exile of the blooms.
Just a window
is enough for me…”
(This poem has been translated by Maryam Dilmaghani and used by permission in “On Loving” with my great appreciation.)
Symbolism in “On Loving”
– Rose (as in Rose Hemmings): Symbol of “Frequent Blooming”, “Hope” (Surviving hardships)
– Lavender Rose: Symbol and sign of “Love at first sight” (Dean and Rose)
– Black Rose: Symbol of “Tragic Romance”(Siyavash and Rose)
– Siyavash: Symbol of “Innocence” (Based on the character from Book of Kings)
– Borna: Symbol of “Youth”
– Sohrab: Symbol of “Victory Over Resistance”
– Forugh: Symbol of “Brightness”
As many of “On Loving” readers noticed, variety of symbolism has been used in choosing character names, objects, etc. through the story. Some asked me about certain number of them. I am sharing a few of them here with you:
“What was said to the Rose”
This beautiful translation/interpretation of Rumi’s poem is one of the works of Coleman Barks, American poet who taught poetry and creative writing at the University of Georgia for more than thirty years. He is also the author of numerous Rumi translations. In this clip he recites his translation of “What was said to the Rose”.
He generously granted me his permission to use his translations/interpretations in my novel “On Loving”, and made me eternally grateful. On Loving main character’s name, Rose, has been chosen symbolically not only to represent “love”, but also to express” promise”, “new beginnings”, and “hope”. Rose Hemmings is a woman who keeps moving on, rising from the ashes again and again, regardless of all the hardships she endures.
“What was said to the Rose”
What was said to the rose that made it open
was said to me here in my chest.
What was told to the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was whispered to the jasmine
so it is what it is, whatever made sugarcane
sweet; whatever was said to the inhabitants
of the town of Chigil in Turkestan that makes
them so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate
flower blush like a human face, that is being
said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence
in language, that’s happening here. The great
warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane, in love with
the one to whom every ‘that’ belongs!
~ Rumi, 13th century Persian Poet
Translated by Coleman Barks, in his book. ‘Rumi the Book of Love – poems of ecstasy and longing’.
“Combining Eastern and Western literature”
Many of my readers and friends have been asking me what made me decide to intertwine Persian literature such as poems from Rumi, Hafez, Khayyam and Forugh with quotes and works of Western or other parts of the world’s literary legends such as Edgar Allan Poe, Bertrand Russell, Hugo, Dumas, etc. in my novel “On Loving”. To answer their questions, I thought I should share this beautiful masterpiece performed by Kayhan Kalhor, a Persian musician playing Camancheh (a Persian instrument), Rembrandt Frerichs from the Netherlands playing forte-piano and Tony Overwater, a Dutch jazz bassist, playing cello with all of you. The harmony is beautiful and make you connect to the depth of the music, touching your souls in a mystical way. Maybe it can talk for itself why I chose to do what I did. Art, literature and humanity, all share the same source and that is why we get inspired by them at any age, any level of education with any theme originating from any part of this universe. Enjoy the beauty of this musical masterpiece called “Offering”!