Forugh Farrokhzad was a Persian poet who died at 32 after having authored four books of poetry and made a documentary film about how lepers are treated. Darznik imagines Farrokhzad's life, sticking to the outline of events like Farrokhzad's marriage, divorce, publications, hospitalization, and death, but creating a lot of the in-between.
Darznik comes off has identifying heavily with Farrokzhad, so some of the Farrokhzad's thoughts and actions feel overly justified. However, I like the Darznik paints Farrokhzad as complex. Farrokhzad, in her struggles to be free of societal expectations of women, may be read as that friend who is brilliant, but runs hot and can be draining to be around. I gave up those friends in my 30s, but I still feel their draw sometimes. At a low point in her life, she is described as
IMMODEST. IMPETUOUS. DISRUPTIVE. DEPRESSED. SLOVENLY. EXCITABLE. IMPERTINENT. DISHONEST. OBSESSIVE. SECRETIVE. ERRATIC. NONSENSICAL.
But that's what it took to bust out of a constrained life. Without independence from men (a ton of money), there was no middle ground. She's definitely mouthy, in a good way, putting a traditionalist in his place. Think confederate statue fetishists:
He meant it as a provocation and I took it as that. "I wonder, Mr. Bazargan, if you'd rather have us women shrouded and sequestered in our homes?"
"Whatever their shortcomings, the ways of the past were at least our own. Our customs are our identity, Miss Farrokhzad, and by giving them up we've lost sight of who we are."
"What do you mean 'our own'? It doesn't seem to me that we women have had much freedom in choosing the traditions that govern our lives."
Farrokhzad's other passions show through in Darznik's writing:
Unveiled, corseted, and lipsticked though she was, my mother's life would always be a prayer rug spread at the altar of fear.
I don't even know how to unpack all that! Does this help? "my mother whom I fought with a force nearly equal to love." Oof!
You will probably want to know more about Farrokhzad after reading this novelization of her life. There are books and documentaries for you to dig into. I first learned of Farrokhzad when I was given a play about her to stage as a reading. I look forward to all Farrokhzad renaissances.