S.F. Iran Literary Arts fest explores everyday life

With a narrowly focused view of the Middle East, bombarded by headlines of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the perilous war in Iraq, it is easy to construe the Iranian Literary Arts Festival, debuting in The Citytoday, as a symbolic outlet of political uproar.

The festival’s crown jewel, onstage Thursday through Saturday at Theater Artaud, is a multimedia performance piece of spoken word, dance and video called “ICARUS/RISE,” which bridges the legend of the mythological figure to the migration of Iranians searching for freedom. It is, in the words of its creator Niloufar Talebi, about “the strangeness after the fall.”

But the weeklong festival, Talebi says, is much less about the climate of conflict and more about the everyday Iranian and his or her culture. One film screening in the festival called “Ahmad Mahmoud, A Noble Novelist” is about a novelist who worked as a day laborer and suffered imprisonment for his political views. “Aref Squared,” on the other hand, is about a cab driver in Tehran who dreams to sing with his idol on stage.

“All people see on TV are images of dust-eating refugees and it’s a skewed image,” Talebi said. “There are so many Iranian artists doing tremendous things and we wanted to present a balanced image. There is something for everyone and something universal in the pieces we show.”

To Talebi, that universal something begs the question: Why is there such a dearth of Iranian literature in the U.S.?

“When you talk about Iranian literature, all you read about is Rumi [the 13th century Persian poet],” said Talebi. “Our literature is invisible in a way.”

Presented by The Translation Project — a nonprofit literary organization and think tank based in The City — the first annual festival aims for a multitude of goals: attract an audience to the various media of Iranian art, open the eyes of the publishing industry and seed a path for philanthropic Iranian Americans to follow.

“How many Iranian books are being translated?” Talebi asked. “Zero. One of our goals is to shed light on contemporary Iranian literature.”

A vibrant woman who articulates equally with a wave of her hand, wrist and arm, Talebi was born in London to Iranian parents. The nonprofit founder serves not only as the artistic director, but as its accountant, marketer and paper copier. She said she has worked tirelessly to get the festival off the ground. </p>

“This is one of the biggest events of my young life,” Talebi said.

Along with film screenings and “IRARUS/RISE,” the festival also includes panel discussions such as Iranian writer Moniru Ravanipur’s “Why Iranian Literature is not World Literature (yet),” which asks why Iranian literature isn’t recognized outside its niche. Talebi said her organization formed a committee some years ago, offered publishers three contemporary Iranian works to translate at no cost and still came up empty.

“It’s a sad story, right?” Talebi asked. “But maybe it’s just the timing. I mean how does Orhan Pamuk [the Nobel Prize-winning Turkish novelist] gain fame but none of our Iranian writers haven’t?”

IF YOU GO

The Iranian Literary Arts Festival

When: Today through Saturday; “ICARUS/RISE” at 7 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: Theater Artaud, 450 Florida St., San Francisco

Tickets: $35 to $185 for “ICARUS/RISE”

Contact: (415) 626-4370; (415) 392-4400; www.thetranslationproject.org  

bliou@examiner.com

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Outdoor dining, as seen here at Mama’s on Washington Square in North Beach in September, is expected to resume in San Franisco this week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to reopen outdoor dining, personal services

San Francisco will allow outdoor dining and other limited business activity to… Continue reading

Patients line up in their cars to receive a shot at The City’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site at City College of San Francisco on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Legislation would require SF to create a public COVID-19 vaccine plan — fast

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health would have to come up with… Continue reading

Ian Jameson (center) organized a group of tenant rights activists and assembled at the El Monte City Hall to demand that the City Council there pass an eviction moratorium barring all evictions during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
California would extend eviction protections to June 30 under proposal

Legislation released Monday would also subsidize rent for low-income tenants

A statue of Florence Nightingale outside the Laguna Honda Hospital is one of only two statues of women in The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
S.F. still falling short of goal to represent women in public art

City has few streets or public facilities not named after men

Comedian and actor Bob Odenkirk is among the dozens of performers in Festpocalypse, streaming this weekend to benefit SF Sketchfest. (Courtesy photo)
Bob Odenkirk joins star-studded Festpocalypse gang

Virtual comedy benefit replaces SF Sketchfest this year

Most Read