by Niloufar Talebi

96 years ago on December 12, 1925, a son was born into circumstances that were less than inspiring to him. He wasn’t dealt the advantages of a cultured home or a stirring education. So he rebelled, left school and got swept up in the ravages of a World War and a homeland—whose many desolate corners and beautiful people he had seen as a child—in occupation, exploited for its wealth. He awakened, socially and politically, found himself imprisoned, standing with his father before a firing squad. The enemies were numerous, internal and external. Then, he found his way, his genius. With his pen he resisted, challenged the old ways. He reached into the world and mined its gifts to graft to his own source, like great oaks whose tentacles feed their fruits at home. He amplified the people, fused the high and the low, braved storms to walk the razor’s edge for his truth. He defined a century, offered the new. By the force of an iron will, he grew into a colossus, an immortal. Happy birthday to the revolutionary Iranian poet, Ahmad Shamlou (December 12, 1925 — July 23, 2000). This is the story of his beginnings in his own words:


Niloufar Talebi نیلوفر طالبی is the author of the hybrid memoir Self-Portrait in Bloom and creator of Abraham in Flames ابراهیم در آتش, an opera with composer Aleksandra Vrebalov and director Roy Rallo, both projects inspired by the life and work of Ahmad Shamlou احمد شاملو. Talebi’s English translation of “The Beginning” is part of the literary portrait and selected translations of Shamlou’s works in Self-Portrait in Bloom and re-printed here with the author’s permission. Visit for videos and recitations of Shamlou’s works and other projects.

IMAGE: “Le Ruisseau” by Davood Emdadian (1944-2005) – 75×55 – technique mixte – 1985 (c)Instagram: Davood Emdadian