Meet Farhang: A Night of Poetry & Nostalgia

Photo by: Vafa Khatami

On Saturday, June 5, 2010, high atop Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton’s Stardust Room, Farhang Foundation hosted Meet Farhang: A Night of Poetry & Nostalgia. It was a warm, classy, and friendly evening as guests gathered in an intimate, lounge-like setting to enjoy wine and food, while celebrating the beauty of Persian literature.

Though indeed a night of “poetry” and “nostalgia”, the evening had a greater purpose as it raised awareness of Farhang Foundation’s efforts to help the Iranian Studies program at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), affiliated with the Center of Middle East Studies at UCSB, with their upcoming project aimed at translating into English a number of Persian literary works, including Charand Parand, the satirical and political columns penned by renowned journalist and scholar Ali Akbar Dehkhoda (1879-1956) for Sur-e Esrafil, one of the most popular newspapers of its time.

Written during the Iranian Constitutional Revolution in the early 20th century, Charand Parand has been hailed as much for its literary significance as it has for its social impact.

“These and other editorials by Dehkhoda in Sur-e Esrafil helped transcend the immense intellectual gap between the grassroots urban community and the progressive constitutionalists and enabled the latter to achieve some of their democratic goals,” said Dr. Janet Afary, Professor of Religious Studies and Feminist Studies at UCSB, who was in attendance and will be working on the actual translation of the text.

By helping to raise awareness and funds for the translation of this and other Persian literary gems, Farhang Foundation hopes to introduce them to English speakers, including younger generations of Iranian-Americans.

“If not for the Meet Farhang event, I would never have known about Charand Parand, or even Dehkhoda for that matter. But now that it’s come to my attention, I’m eagerly looking forward to the day I can pick up an English copy and read it for myself,” said Sharareh, a Los Angeles native and Iranian-American college student.

While the goal of Meet Farhang: A Night of Poetry & Nostalgia was to benefit a great academic cause, it was also an evening full of entertainment as Elahe Akhavan, Shahrzad Ardalan, Galavij Motamedi, and Mehdi Sayahzadeh delighted guests with their readings from the treasured works of such notable Persian writers and poets as Forough Farrokhzad (1935-1967), Fereydoon Moshiri (1926-2000), Ahmad Shamloo (1925-2000), and of course, Dehkhoda.

As the timeless words of these 20th century literary masters reverberated across the room, so did the evocative music of their time, through the haunting melodies of Kamran Thunder’s piano and setar and Mohammad Hasani’s beautiful vocals with such classic songs as “Shod Khazan” and “To Ey Pari Kojaee”, among many others.

The cherished songs and literature of the past were made vivid and put into context by Professor Amin Banani of UCLA, who was on hand to share with guests his own personal and colorful recollections of a bygone time in Iran.

If you happened to miss Meet Farhang: A Night of Poetry & Nostalgia, Farhang Foundation will host future Meet Farhang events, all of which are designed to introduce members of the community – Iranians and non-Iranians alike – to the Foundation and its efforts while celebrating the various aspects of Iranian art, culture, and heritage.

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