The Power of Forbidden Notebook’s Hidden Journal Entries

The Power of Forbidden Notebook’s Hidden Journal Entries
The Power of Forbidden Notebook’s Hidden Journal Entries

Yet as she faded from view in Italy, there was one place where her popularity soared. Following Mohammad Khatami’s election as president in 1997, Iran was going through something of a literary revolution with the government relaxing censorship, resulting in many books not being cleared before publication. or reposted. Writer and historian Arash Azizi was a teenager in Iran in the early 2000s. “If you went to a cafe in Iran at that time, everyone was talking about books. Literature was really seen as this powerful thing that can really change the world.”

Bahman Farzaneh, a highly regarded Iranian translator who has translated books from Spanish and Italian – including One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez – has translated many of De Céspedes’ works. “When someone like Bahman Farzaneh translates a book, you only buy it for the translator. It has a role of cultural mediator”, explains Azizi. Several of De Céspedes’ books have been published in Persian, but Azizi says the one that stood out was Forbidden Notebook. “It was one of the most identifiable books of that era. Without fail, Iranian friends my age, they all remember the book.”

He remembers being particularly popular with women – not just his peers, but women in their 30s, 40s and older. “I remember a lot of my girlfriends would gossip about how the main character’s husband called her ‘mom’, which she found very frustrating. They too wanted to be known as more than mothers.”

The concept of a diary, a space to record thoughts you weren’t allowed to share publicly, resonated with those who lived in a repressive society. “What I really liked personally was that confessional tone,” says Azizi. “This idea that you can achieve some kind of emancipation through the power of words alone. For someone who grew up in the repressive Islamic Republic, that was really powerful, because of all the things we couldn’t do. We have lived this double life.”

Azizi is thrilled that more people are now discovering the book. “I am very happy that something I grew up with can now be shared by my friends in the United States and around the world. The book is truly a testament to that period of my youth, as well as a testament to the power of literature.”

So why is De Céspedes being rediscovered now? “I think Ferrante has a lot to do with it,” Goldstein says. “Her popularity really made people look for other female Italian writers.” Freudenheim says there was a resurgence of interest in women’s writing from the late 1940s to the 1960s in general – and De Céspedes is one of them. Pushkin plans to publish two more books by De Céspedes over the next two years – Her Side of The Story (1949) and his first novel Nessuno Torna Indietro (There is no turning back).

“Literary rediscoveries are really exciting, period, but sometimes you can’t imagine a lot of people reading them, because they’re pretty difficult or abstruse or dated in a way that doesn’t resonate,” says Freudenheim. “What’s so exciting to me about this novel is that it’s just an incredibly readable book that’s both heartbreaking and very moving. It’s a page-turner with a lot to say. Everyone I know who has read it is struck by it.”

Forbidden notebook by Alba de Céspedes (translated by Ann Goldstein) has just been republished by Pushkin Press.

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. power entries entries log hidden Forbidden Notebook

. Power Forbidden Notebooks Hidden Journal Entries

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