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Song of a Captive Bird: A Novel

Song of a Captive Bird: A Novel

An Iranian Poet's Life and Fight to Create & Live for Herself

Ballatine Books February 13, 2018

An intimate, powerful, and striking imagining of Forugh Farrokhzad's life

*An advanced reader ebook copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*


In a room the size of loneliness,
my heart’s the size of love.
It contemplates its simple pretexts for happiness:
the beauty of the flowers’ wilting in a vase,
the sapling you planted in our garden,
and the canaries’ song—the size of a window.
— Forugh Farrokhzad, from ‘Reborn’

Happy publication day to Jasmin Darznik’s gorgeous & tragic novelization of Forugh Farrokhzad’s life. An Iranian poet that broke poetic & cultural norms to be an independent woman who lived for herself & her art. Forugh Farrokhzad (December 29, 1934 – February 13, 1967) was an influential Iranian poet and film director. Before this book, I’m sad to say I did not know about her or her work.

Simply know as Forugh, she was born in Tehran, Iran, to career military officer Colonel Mohammad Bagher Farrokhzad and his wife Touran Vaziri-Tabar. One of seven children, Forugh attended school until the 9th grade. At the age of 16 she was married to satirist Parviz Shapour and a year later gave birth to her son. Within two years, in 1954, the couple divorced and Parviz won custody of their son. Farrokhzad moved back to Tehran to write poetry and published her first volume, The Captive, in 1955.

She published two more volumes, The Wall and The Rebellion, before traveling to Tabriz to make a film about Iranians affected by leprosy. This 1962 documentary film, titled The House is Black, is considered to be an essential part of the Iranian New Wave. She published Another Birth in 1964. Farrokhzad died in a car accident on February 13, 1967, at the age of 32.


Forugh Farrokhzad

Forugh Farrokhzad

I love that bits of her poems are peppered throughout the book to mark important points and changes in her life. It was a small taste of her work but I was blown away by the raw authenticity of her words that connected with me. After reading this novel I'm extremely interested in her reading translations of her work.

Reminiscent of many trailblazing women, Forugh's life and poetry rebelled against the societal conventions that sought to silence her feminine voice and constrain her freedom. She wrote, published, filmed, and lived on her own at a time and place that forbid such behavior from women. 

Moreover, I’m amazed at the voice in this book! It’s written like a memoir & I had to remind myself throughout that it’s a novel. But it felt so authentic to me and my heart broke for her and soared at her success. In the author's note, Darznik says that she immersed herself in Forugh's voice and writing and I think it comes across well in this book. There's an immediacy and unapologetic rhythm to the writing as well as empathy and tenderness. I admit that moments in this book cut me open and I cried knowing that this was a real woman.

On that note,  please be aware that there are instances of physical abuse & horrific ways of dealing with mental illness in the book. It's important to read but be gentle with yourself if you need to step away from the book.

I highly recommend this book and I blew threw it in a few days! I think this would be great for a book group or anyone trying to read books about women around the world! I really appreciated reading about a women, time period, and country outside of my own experience.

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