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Forty Names

Parwana Fayyaz

Cover of Forty Names by Parwana Fayyaz
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Categories: 21st Century, BAME, British, First Collections, War writings, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Jul 2021)
£10.99 £9.89
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(Pub. Jul 2021)
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Reviews
  • A New Statesman Book of the Year 2021
    A White Review Book of the Year 2021

    In this remarkable first collection, Parwana Fayyaz evokes events in the lives of Afghan women, past and present – their endurance and achievements, told from their points of view. John McAuliffe writes of the 'remarkable litanies, which haunt her poems' occasions' and the title poem, with which she won the 2019 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, is such a litany, conjuring and commemorating.

    The poems are not judgmental: they witness. The reader infers the contexts. As well as the human stories there is a spectacular landscape, unfamiliar villages and cities, and a rich history which the Western press in reporting contemporary news foreshortens and diminishes. 'Storytelling has a long tradition in Afghan culture. Stories are passed down orally. Every woman even or especially those who are illiterate knows and has memorized a few important stories – to share [...] I grew up among women who never went to school – my grandmothers, my mother, my aunts.' As the poet grew away from that tradition, in which patience was the chief virtue, she lost patience and began her resistance, their resistance, in her poems which hover between cultures and languages, thinking in one and understanding in another. Each language has its history and value systems: 'it was learning English that gave me my voice as a poet, enabling me to distance myself as well as to comprehend the connection with the tradition I was brought up in.'
    Parwana Fayyaz was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1990. From the age of seven to sixteen, she was raised in Quetta, Pakistan. After finishing high school in Kabul, she enrolled in an English language immersion program and subsequently began her undergraduate studies in Chittagong, Bangladesh. She transferred to Stanford University and ... read more
    'This is a collection that rewards the reader who carefully unravels and is patient with these poems - these stories - quietly reminding the reader the importance of witness as a collaborative process.'

    SK Grout, The Alchemy Spoon

     'My book of the year is a debut, a slim collection of poetry called Forty Names (Carcanet) by the young Afghani poet Parwana Fayyaz. 'No one ever wanted to know/what the real story was.' As clear as unruined water, as courageous as a poet can be in these times, as haunting as the 'brutal history' it records and as marvellously summoned as the lives it celebrates, it's a calm reclamation and a tour de force.'

    Ali Smith, New Statesman Books of the Year 2021

    'Independent and timely, a lyrical act of witness'

    Martina Evans, The Irish Times

    'Fayyaz skillfully interweaves words from Dari into English-language poems, at once defamiliarizing the known and revealing an intimacy in what seems to be foreign.'

    Rebecca Ruth Gould, Poetry Foundation

    'These are poems of testimony, finding sanctuary for their stories in small but life-saving moments.'

    David Wheatley, Guardian Review Roundup 

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