Jasmine and Stars: Reading More Than Lolita in Tehran

By Fatemeh Keshavarz | Go to book overview

2 The Eternal Forough
The Voice of Our Earthly Rebellion

It was a midmorning in the fall; I was in ninth grade. As our physics teacher walked in, we knew something really disastrous had happened. Mr. N. was a demanding teacher and one who had a broad definition of teaching. While he taught his physics lessons conscientiously, he somehow found the time to talk about a lot more. “Who has read The Grapes ofWrathï” he would say, out of the blue, at the end of a class. Then he would use the opportunity to talk about Steinbeck. Or he might ask, “Do you read the daily paper?” This usually meant that some recent event was worth discussing. There were three or four of us who always had a short poem handy because he sometimes suggested we end a difficult lesson with a poem. Everyone liked Mr. N., even those who did not do well in physics. Once he asked if someone would like to impersonate him; to my amazement two hands shot up in the air instantly. He was delighted.

The day Mr. N walked in with a stern look on his face, our first thought was that we had done terribly on the last quiz. He stood next to the tall podium and rested his elbow on it. I remember vividly the beige suit he was wearing because it contrasted with the gloomy look on his face. It had to be worse than a bad quiz. “Something terrible has happened,” he said in a low voice. “Forough Farrokhzad has died in a car accident.” What? That was impossible. Farrokhzad was my favorite poet, a woman in her midthirties, and she had been so alive. Someone to the right of me gasped. The rest of us were just stunned. Mr. N. went on to say that she had hit a lamppost in an attempt to avoid running over a stray dog. Since the car was a jeep without front doors, she had been thrown out. She had died of a head injury. To this day I am not sure if this oft-repeated account of how Farrokhzad died is accurate. But her status as a beloved poet made her worthy of the velvety cloak of invented stories.

To us, in ninth grade, the story made perfect sense. Farrokhzad was in real life the same as she had been in her poetry—bold, imaginative, curious,

-33-

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