Author and award-winning translator Niloufar Talebi offers a rare glimpse into her native Iran in Self-Portrait in Bloom, her part-memoir, part-biography, and part-history of literature in Iran, a “brutally honest memoir of a life built by words, destroyed by words, rebuilt by words,” (Firoozeh Dumas, New York Times bestselling author of Funny in Farsi and Laughing Without an Accent).
Iranian poets were increasingly instrumental in “freeing Persian poetry from the state of decline and stagnation” in the aftermath of World War II, when a new dynamism was taking shape in Persian poetry. Into this backdrop emerges the poet Ahmad Shamlou (1925-2000), an iconic cultural figure who spent much time in Talebi’s childhood home. “There are two books in this book, one portrait of me and one of Ahmad Shamlou. And they intersect,” Talebi writes of Self-Portrait in Bloom. Released in the 40th anniversary year of the Iranian revolution, it delves deep into culture, personal history, and pays homage to Tehran, the city of Talebi’s childhood. Told in fragments of prose, poetry, and photographs, this lyrical exploration reimagines the memoir form and in a dramatic climax sets free the details of a hurt that can no longer limit the blossoming of an artist.
Niloufar Talebi is a writer, award-winning translator, creator, and producer. Her work has been featured at the Kennedy Center, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and she has received commissions from Carnegie Hall, Cal Performances, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Her projects include Belonging, Epiphany, The Persian Rite of Spring, and ICARUS/RISE. Her work has been published in World Literature Today, PBS Frontline, Rattapallax, and Poetry International. Her TEDxBerkeley talk on Match 9, 2019, is about the transformative power of translation and visibility. She is the author of the Self-Portrait in Bloom (l’Aleph, 2019), and the creator/librettist of its related opera, Abraham in Flames, which world premieres in San Francisco on May 9-12, 2019.