Behbahani, Simin 1927-

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Behbahani, Simin 1927-


Born 1927, in Tehran, Iran; daughter of Abbas Khalili (a writer and newspaper editor) and Fakhr Azami Arghoon (a teacher, writer, newspaper editor, and poet); married second husband, Manuchehr Kushiar; children: (first marriage) Ali, two other children. Education: Law degree, Iran.


Home—Tehran, Iran.


Poet. High school teacher, 1952—; contributor to national public radio and television in Iran, 1962—.


Iranian Writers' Association (president), International PEN.


Nobel Prize nomination, 1997; Human Rights Watch/Hellman/Hammet grant, 1998; Carl von Ossietzky Medal, 1999.


Setar-e Shekasteh (title means "Broken Setar"), [Tehran, Iran], 1951.

Jay-e Pa (title means "Footprint"), [Tehran, Iran], 1956.

Chehel Cheragh (title means "The Lamp of Forty Lights"), [Tehran, Iran], 1957.

Marmar (title means "Marble"), [Tehran, Iran], 1963.

Rastakhiz (title means "Resurrection"), [Tehran, Iran], 1973.

(With Nader Naderpour) Wounded Rose: Three Iranian Poets, Readers International, 1980.

Khati ze Sor'at o az Atash (title means "A Trajectory of Speed and Fire"), [Tehran, Iran], 1981.

Dasht-e Arzhan (title means "The Plain of Arzhan"), [Tehran, Iran], 1983.

Kaghazin Jameh (title means "Paper Thin Vestment"), [Tehran, Iran], 1989.

Yek Daricheh-ve Azadi (title means "A Window to Freedom"), [Tehran, Iran], 1995.

A Cup of Sin: Selected Poems, edited and translated by Farzaneh Milani and Kaveh Safa, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1999.

Collected Poems, [Tehran, Iran], 2003.

Contributor of poetry, essays, and other articles to newspapers and magazines in Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the former Soviet Union.


In a writing career spanning five decades and including a 1997 nomination for the Nobel Prize, Simin Behbahani has established herself as a major poet of modern Iran and a welcome female voice in the literature of the Muslim world. Behbahani is daring in both her choice of writing style and themes; her poems evince "honesty, technical precision, rhythmic quality, and compassionate concern for the underdog," according to Sabah A. Salih in World Literature Today. Behbahani writes in a traditional Persian poetic form called the ghazal, which is similar in some ways to the English sonnet. She molds the form to her own uses, however, and infuses it with her personal concerns, which are those of a woman living through the dual traumas of a country at war and a political regime that imposes repressive orthodoxy, especially upon its female citizens. In an essay for the Muslim World, Farzaneh Milani called Behbahani "a major figure in Persian literature," adding that her poems "demand a new literary space for women."

In a Washington Post article, Nora Boustany wrote of Behbahani: "Before the revolution, her poetry dealt with poverty, orphans and corruption, reflecting her concern for the outcast, the marginalized and the neglected. Her recent work has touched on the themes of freedom of expression and the rights of minorities and prisoners." Though the poet has toured the United States and Canada several times, she always returns to her native Iran, despite continuing political problems there. As she told Boustany: "I want to live there and die there…. I feel for my people, the language, the ability to write about them through cultural bonds. The creativity in me comes from them, and I want to share it."

A selection of Behbahani's poems have been translated and published as A Cup of Sin: Selected Poems. A reviewer of the book for the Middle East Journal felt that in the work the poet "reveals Iranian women's innermost desires and dreams." A Kirkus Reviews critic praised the verse as "ironic and evocative," and W.L. Hanaway noted in Choice that Behbahani "speaks with a bold, clear, and personal voice."



Choice, December, 1999, W.L. Hannaway, review of A Cup of Sin: Selected Poems, p. 715.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1999, review of A Cup of Sin, p. 1085.

Middle East Journal, summer, 2000, "Recent Publications," review of A Cup of Sin, p. 494.

Muslim World, April, 1996, Farzaneh Milani, "Simin Behbahani: A Few Poems," pp. 148-149.

Virginia Quarterly Review, winter, 2000, review of A Cup of Sin, p. 30.

Washington Post, June 10, 2006, Nora Boustany, "A Poet Who ‘Never Sold Her Pen or Soul,’" p. A16.

World Literature Today, summer, 2000, Sabah A. Salih, review of A Cup of Sin, p. 683.


Artists without Frontiers Magazine Web site, (January 7, 2007), Shadab Vajdi, "Simin Behbahani, the Greatest Persian Lyricist of the Modern Age."

BBC News Web site, (November 10, 2002), "How War Inspires the World's Poets."

Iran Chamber Web site, (January 7, 2007), brief biography of Simin Behbahani., (June 6, 2006), Alireza Tarighian, "Behbahani in New Jersey."

Payvand's Iran News, (August 10, 2005), Syma Sayyah, "Simin Behbahani: The Lovely, the Great, the Fascinating Lioness Lady of Iranian Letters."

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Behbahani, Simin 1927-

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