subject was the Iranian writer Shahrnush Parsipur, the year 1974. That’s when
her first novel 'The Dog and the Long Winter' came out, and when she first went
to prison – for protesting over the torture and execution of two journalists
(she was working as a TV producer at the time). She spent 59 days in jail and
afterwards escaped to
it was a case of ‘meet the new boss, just like the old boss’. She was
immediately arrested and incarcerated for four and a half years without trial
or charge. She continued working on her third novel 'Women Without Men' after her
release, but its frank depiction of women’s sexuality didn’t go down too well.
She was briefly rearrested in 1989, and decided it might be a good idea to
leave the country for the
across an interview Shahrnush Parsipur gave to an Iranian journalist when she
This seemed such a simple liberty, but nevertheless it was one that had been denied in her home country, where women are expected to stand in the shadows. So I used this idea to start my 50 words.
Finding out more about her writing, I discovered that her work is surreal, dreamlike and often myth based, verging on magic realism. I decided to contrast her colourful imagination with the black pen of the censor that tried to repress it.
Parsipur is not an overtly political writer, she doesn’t even consider herself to be a feminist. But by exploring female sexuality and class in her society, she was seen to have stepped over a line. The red dress seemed to sum up both her bravery and her creativity.
Here’s what I wrote:
In exile she can wear red,
If she chooses.
At home all is black.
Black lines that strike out her words;
The abysmal black terror of another cell.
But still she writes in colour;
Bright, burning colour that knows no bounds
Free to fly wherever fancy takes it.