Beyond Black There Is No Colour: The Story of Forough Farrokhzad

Written by Maryam DIENER
Review by Julia Stoneham

In the last century, three major women poets died in their prime. Two, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, took their own lives. Forough Farrokhzad died in a car accident after numerous suicide attempts. All three were beautiful and held in high regard by their peers. All three had passionate relationships with eminent men who loved and admired them, and this included the husbands of their children. But all three suffered from levels of depression which, from childhood and despite dizzying heights of elation, laid them low enough to overpower them.

Arguably, Forough Farrokhzad, born and raised in Tehran and consequently subject to the rigid dictates of Iranian law and religious restrictions, which inflamed her feelings of repression and lack of freedom to express herself as she wished, had more intolerance and disapproval to contend with than did either Sexton or Plath, each in her own Western environment.

Maryam Diener aptly describes her book as “a work of imaginative fiction” in which she has successfully contrived to give us her subject with precisely the right amount of sensitivity and compassion without, for one moment, descending into sentimentality. Her feeling for both time and place is relaxed and evocative, while her crystalline prose is a pleasure to read, as she moves her subject through the trajectory of her life with a rare assurance and skill.

This book will encourage readers who may be unfamiliar with Forough Farokhzad’s work to discover her for themselves and be the richer for it. This is one to relish and cherish.