Daljit Nagra in conversation with Rosa Jamali and Ahmad Karimi Hakkak

How can classical Persian literature unlock our understanding of life in Iran today? And who are the contemporary Iranian writers capturing the rich complexity of daily life in Tehran and beyond? A passionate reader of Persian poetry, Daljit Nagra, talks to pioneering Iranian poets Rosa Jamali and Shadab Vajd and Iranian scholar Ahmad Karimi Hakkak about the greats of Persian literature, and what it is like to be a writer in today’s Iran.



  • Daljit Nagra comes from a Punjabi background. He was born and raised in London then Sheffield. He has won several prestigious prizes for his poetry. In 2004, he won the Forward Prize for Best Individual Poem with Look We Have Coming to Dover! This was also the title of his first collection which was published by Faber & Faber in 2007. This won the South Bank Show Decibel Award, the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and was nominated for The Costa Prize, The Guardian First Book Prize, the Aldeburgh Prize and the Glen Dimplex Award. His second collection, Tippoo Sultan’s Incredible White-Man  Eating Tiger-Toy Machine!!! was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. His current book, Ramayana, is shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. In 2014 he won the Royal Society of Authors Travelling Scholarship Award.
  • Rosa Jamali was born in Tabriz in 1977. She studied Drama at the Art University of Tehran. She is a poet, a playwright and a translator. Her debut collection of poems, This Death is Not an Apple, It Is Either a Cucumber or a Pear, was published in 1997 and announced a major new voice in Iranian poetry. That same year her second collection of poems Making a Face was published and well received by critics. Her third collection Making Coffee To Run a Crime Story was published in 2002, and partly inspired by Sadegh Hedayat’s Blind Owl. Her most recent books are The Hourglass is Fast Asleep and Highways Blocked, which have been mentioned for combining present day setting with the myths and themes of Persian mystics. 
  • Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak is at present a Professor of Persian language, literature, and cultures at the University of Maryland. He has studied in Iran and the United States, received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University in 1979. Karimi-Hakkak is the author or translator of over twenty books and around one hundred and fifty research articles, some of which have been translated into over 10 languages. The study of language, literature and culture in their various sociopolitical contexts has always been at the centre of his scholarly pursuits.    
  • Dr Shadab Vajdi (former lecturer of Persian at SOAS and former producer at BBC's Persian Service) Dr Shadab Vajdi was born in Shiraz, Iran. She obtained her BA in Persian Literature and MA in Social Science at Tehran University. Subsequently, she obtained her PhD in Linguistics at SOAS, London. From the early 1970’s to the mid-1980’s, she worked as a producer and broadcaster at the BBC’s World Service, Persian Section. Thereafter, she taught Persian language and literature at SOAS for a number of years. She is also a poet and translations of her works have been published in English, German and Swedish. She has translated Liang Heng’s Return to China and Paul Harrison’s Inside the Third World into Persian.
Name: Iran in Writing: Past and Present
Where: The British Library
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When: Wed 18 Feb 2015, 18:30 - 20:00
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