The Rainbow World of Simin Behbahani

Acknowledging the importance of speaking, of witnessing, of claiming an independent voice and vision, Simin Behbahani is now at the height of her powers and popularity. For well over half a century, Behbahani has been the voice of freedom and moderation rising against repression and discrimination in Iran. Although she has avoided involvement in party politics, from the beginning of her career this pioneering poet has condemned any form of violence. Concern for social justice has been the strongest drive in her poetry. Consistently, her allegiance has been to democracy, her perspective egalitarian, her worldview tolerant.

This article studies eight of the most salient features of Behbahani’s poetry. As a literary giant who has produced 16 volumes of poetry, a memoir of her late husband, two collections of short stories and literary criticism, and a book of translation, and as an advocate of individual rights regardless of gender, class, religion, or ethnicity, Behbahani has also managed to transform a conventional and mainly masculine poetic form—the Ghazal. She is a master innovator of devices and techniques, blending the old and the new. The discourses of modernity and tradition do not compete in her work. They complement one another. They restructure and reconstruct each other. Behbahani integrates an exclusively classical tradition with a distinctly modern vision. Small wonder then if her elegant poetry has attracted the attention and admiration of an ever-growing number of readers inside and outside of Iran.

Farzaneh Milani
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