ConQuest by Arash Allahverdi, translated by Ali Araghi, is the rst full-length poetry collection from one of the standout poets in the critically acclaimed anthology I Am a Face Sympathizing with Your Grief: Seven Younger Iranian Poets (co•im•press 2015). ConQuest, however, is unique because it functions like two books in one. In the rst“book,” Conquest, readers experience Allahverdi’s hard-hitting poems of alienation, absurdity, and anger, set against the backdrop of capital city, Tehran, and revealing an intimate perspective told by a member of the generation that came of age in the shadow of the devastating Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s and marched the streets during the 2009 protests. As part of the Matrod Poetry Circle that rejected the Persian literary status quo, Allahverdi writes poems emblematic of the hyper-expressionism advocated by the group, rejecting the baroque arti ces of the Iranian language poetry trends of the nineties. By turns, the second “book,” ConQuest, is a facing- page, bilingual edition of Conquest, including commentary—text exchanges between poet and translator that took place over Telegram and WhatsApp as Araghi worked through the challenges of Englishing Allahverdi’s poems. In creating ConQuest, Araghi has lifted the veil, letting readers see the process of translation in action, while also providing useful contextual information that an English-speaking audience would not know, providing a rich—and enriching—quest to undertake.
In this innovative book, Ali Araghi’s translation and commentary on the poems of Arash Allaverdi become a paradigmatic representation of the translation process itself. e second half, which assembles Araghi’s translation alongside the exchanges between poet and translator on Telegram and WhatsApp, powerfully mirrors the reading process, capturing the many layers of internal dialogue and semi-conscious associations that we bring to our encounters with poems. In their commentaries and notes, Araghi and Allaverdi mix philology with highly personalized readings that remind us of the work poetry does in our everyday lives, expanding our horizons while also helping us get through the day.
- Rebecca Ruth Gould, author of The Persian Prison Poem
This remarkable book consists of two halves. The first half features Ali Araghi’s translations of contemporary Iranian ”hyper expressionist” underground poet Arash Allahverdi’s urgent and often hilarious poems, in seamless English. ”I dance and spit” writes Allahverdi: his poetry is equal parts art and defiance. In the second half, Araghi lets all the seams show. e poems from the first half are reprinted along with Persian originals as well as contextual information, discussions between translator and poet, and—perhaps most radically—almost Nabokovian personal associations from the poet. We are lucky to be able to read these fierce poems, and lucky to get these insights into the process of translation.
- Johannes Göransson, author of Summer and The Sugar Book
This book offers the English-speaking reader an evocative and brilliant translation of the poetry of Arash Allahverdi, a contemporary Iranian poet. The book is not only a translation, but a creative take on indecision. It leaves the dialogue between the translator and the poet open, exposing the process of translation to the reader. These exchanges reveal for us the inner layers of the poems, as well as the experiences of a generation of Iranians. You can read Ali Taheri Araghi’s book as a fascinating experiment and learn about his analysis of poetry, or just delve into the rhythm and images of Allahverdi’s lines and haunted visions of the city of Tehran. is choice between two reading possibilities is a wonderful gift to the reader.
- Laetitia Nanquette, author of Iranian Literature after the Islamic Revolution, Production and Circulation in Iran and the World
Allahverdi’s poems in ConQuest are poems of a wound exposed. He does not shy away from laying bare a fractured body, a fragmented mind, a frustrated psyche. rough Araghi’s translation, we are invited to closely listen to Allahverdi’s sounds of “slumber” and “suffocation,” sounds of “a crisis,” “a fall,” of “rubble and dust and dirt and the dead,” sounds of “a mass death.”
Beyond this initial journey, ConQuest also invites us into a space we often don’t get access to, surely not in this creative playful manner: the space of the writer-translator collaboration—what the translator thinks and feels throughout the translating process, and what kind of conversations happen between the writer and the translator to inform the conversations that are to come between the readers and the text.
After I Am a Face Sympathizing with Your Grief: Seven Younger Iranian Poets was published (co•im•press, 2015), I could not wait for Ali Araghi’s next choice of work for translation. When he presented on his project ConQuest at ALTA in 2019, I held on to the pamphlet he handed out, and I have used it in every “experimental translation” and “multilingual writing” class I have taught since. I am so glad that I can now share the whole book with friends and students enthusiastic about Persian literature in translation, as well as with those curious about the writer-translator co-creation and all the possibilities that translating/translation can o er if we begin to think outside of the box.
- Poupeh Missaghi, author of trans(re)lating house one