What does Vaptsarov sound like in Persian?

Farid Ghadami, the Iranian translator of the book of poetry “Motor songs” by Bulgarian poet Nicola Vaptrsarov, met with the public of Ruse at the invitation of the International Elias Canetti Society. Ghadami is in Bulgaria to establish connections with Bulgarian writers and translate a number of their works into the language of Jalaleddin Rumi and Omar Khayyam

The poetry book “Motor songs” by Nicola Vaptsarov is already available in Iran in Persian. News of the translation was announced at the Austrian Library in Ruse with its translator, Farid Ghadami, in attendance. Ghadami is in Bulgaria on a residency to translate Bulgarian literature; the residency was awarded by The Next Page Foundation (in the House for Literature and Translation – Sofia with the support of the State Cultural Institute). The Iranian came to Ruse on an invitation by the International Elias Canetti Society, which hosts the Austrian Library and encourages cultural and literary links between Bulgaria and the world.

Ghadami learned about Vaptsarov by chance, while translating Mayakovsky’s poem “Lenin” and while reading articles about the Soviet poet. The Iranian author and translator found Vaptsarov’s poems in English and decided to translate them immediately after he finished reading them. Ghadami was impressed by Vaptrsarov’s modern thinking, by his faith in technological progress and by his conviction that man should not use technologies in order to dominate nature or man. Ghadami is a mechanical engineer by education and is currently a university professor in machine engineering. He is the author of a number of books – fiction, poetry, literary criticism, and manuals in engineering and has translated more than 30 books from English. Ghadami is the first to translate the American beat generation authors, such as Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs, into Persian. His translation of Vaptsarov was also from English.

The public in Ruse was impressed by the way in which “Memory”, Ghadami’s favourite poem, sounds in Persian:

The translator belongs to the left circles of Iran and knows well the works of a number of left-wing European intellectuals and social critics. However, in Bulgaria ‘the left’ provokes unpleasant feelings and mockery among many Bulgarian intellectuals. That is why it will probably be more difficult for Bulgarian public to understand the notion of “literary communism”, which Ghadami uses in order to explain his vision for literature and social development. In an interview for “The Barricade”, which will be published soon, the Iranian author and translator explained that the term “literary communism” was coined by the French philosopher and cultural theorist Maurice Blanchot; Ghadami has developed this term further.

The idea is that each language is a way of looking at life’s objects and realities. Knowing a few languages, we can approach the objects of reality from different points of view, like Cubist painters did, and overcome the borders between languages and cultures. This is what some of Ghadami’s favourite authors do: Jalaleddin Rumi, who sometimes writes in four languages in a single poem (Persian, Turkish, Arabic and Greek), James Joyce and Walt Whitman. What is essential is that books and literature are universally accessible and don’t discriminate against their readers by ethnicity, religion, or gender. That is why literature can form an international community. In English, the words for ‘community’ and ‘communication’ have the same root as ‘communism’ and in this sense, literary communism is not only a lens for understanding literature, but also a way to improve politics and the world.

Ghadami has long-term plans to translate Bulgarian literature into Persian. At the moment, he is working on a Farsi translation of an anthology of modern Bulgarian literature, which will include works by Zdravka Evtimova, Alek Popov, Virginia Zaharieva, Olya Stoyanova, Velina Minkoff, Boyan Biolchev and others. The Iranian translator also has plans to translate into Persian a Bulgarian novel, a Bulgarian theatre play and will also write a novel on his experiences during the residency.

In the near future, the Barricade will publish an interview with the Iranian writer and translator, in which he talks about his interest in Bulgarian literature, Vaptsarov, and the state of the left in Iran.

Photo: The white book is Vaptsarov’s “Motor Songs” in Ghadami’s Persian translation,  while the left book is his work on literary theory, where he discusses about literary communism

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