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Majid Naficy

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Majid Naficy
Majid Naficy Hooshang Golshiri Los Angeles April 1992.jpg Majid_Naficy_Hooshang_Golshiri_Los_Angeles_April_1992.jpg
Majid Naficy and Hooshang Golshiri in Los Angeles, April 1992
Born1952 (age 67–68)
Isfahan, Iran
🏳️ Nationality
💼 Occupation

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Majid Naficy (Persian: مجید نفیسی‎) was born in Isfahan, Iran, on February 22, 1952. He is a descendant of 15th-century Persian physician Burhan-ud-din Kermani.

He published poetry in Iran until the Iranian Revolution. He was a member of Confederation of Iranian Students and a member of the independent Marxist Peykar Organization after the Iranian Revolution until 1982.[1]

Naficy moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1984, joining a group of Los Angeles-based exile poets. He continues to write and publish poetry, and has been recognized for his work by multiple organizations.

Early life in Iran[edit]

In 1965, at age fourteen, Naficy published two poems in Jong magazine and became the youngest member of Jonge-e Isfahan literary circle.[2]

The editor Sirus Tahbaz published Naficy's long poem "For Patient Stone" (برای سنگ صبور) alongside Forough Farrokhzad's poem "Only the Sound Remains" (تنها صداست که می‌ماند) in the magazine Arash in Fall 1966. Next to Ahmadreza Ahmadi and Bijan Elahi Naficy was considered one of the three representatives of New Wave Poetry (شعر موج نو) whose poetry was published in Jozveh-ye She'r magazine edited by Esmail Nooriala (اسماعیل_نوری‌علاء).

His first collection of poetry, In the Tiger's Skin (در پوست ببر), was published by Amir Kabir in 1969. The poet and critic Reza Baraheni reviewed Naficy's "In the Tiger's Skin" in an article titled "On Four Books" (در باره‌ی چهار کتاب) included in the second volume of his book Gold in the Copper (طلا در مس) Zaryab, Tehran 2001.

Like many other Iranian leftists, Naficy was drawn toward Marxism after reading a banned book Elementary Principles of Philosophy (اصول مقدماتی فلسفه) written by French-Hungarian philosopher Georges Politzer, who was executed by Nazis in 1942. When the linguist and translator Abolhassan Najafi returned from Paris to Isfahan and joined the Jong circle in mid 1960s, the existentialist philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus prevailed in the circle. When the man of Enlightenment, Mostafa Rahimi published his translation of Jean-Paul Sartre's Existentialism Is a Humanism (اگزیستانسیالیسم و اصالت بشر) Naficy became allied with existentialism, rejected Marxist determinism and adhered to Sartre's doctrine of "individual responsibility".

Life abroad[edit]

In 1970 Naficy went to Los Angeles to study Linguistics at UCLA but he became a Marxist and joined the anti-Shah Iranian student movement in Europe and America. In 1972 he returned to Iran to struggle inside the country. He published a few books such as A Critique of The Existensialist Philosophy of Sartre (نقدی بر فلسفه‌ی اگزیستانسیالیستی سارتر) based on the Polish philosopher Adam Schaff's book A Philosophy of Man, Land Rent in China (بهره‌ی مالکانه در چین) and Proletarian Love (عشق پرولتری) under two pseudonyms Karim Minooie (کریم مینویی) and Asadollah Amoosoltani (اسداله عموسلطانی). Naficy researched the impact of the Shah's land reform in the countryside including Kerarj Rural District by the Zayandeh River, which had around thirty villages.

He studied history at Tehran University but at the same time secretly worked in several factories in order to be with workers. He and his friends organized small demonstrations in front of factories (such as Ray Textile and Goethe Printing House, where workers were on strike) or city halls in periphery of Tehran (which did not give permission to people to build homes "out of zone") and different universities in Tehran a few years before the Revolution. He was active in the February 1979 Iranian Revolution and with his future wife Ezzat Tabaian was among the first people who opened the gate of Evin Prison.

Political activity in Iran[edit]

He was the representative of his small group Militant Workers (کارگران مبارز) in the Conference of Unity (کنفرانس وحدت) of "third line" (خط سه) groups, that is, Iranian Marxists who were against the Marxism of the Soviet Union, China and Albania as well as the armed struggle of Iranian urban guerrilla groups in the 1970s. The majority members of Naficy's group joined the Pekar Organization or "The Organization of Struggle for the Emancipation of Working Class" (سازمان پیکار در راه آزادی کارگر) in August 1980.[3]

The Peykar Organization had announced its existence on December 7, 1978. It emerged out of the Marxist-Leninist urban guerrilla group People's Mojahedin, which in turn had emerged out of the original People's Mujahedin of Iran three years earlier. The Pekar Organization criticized the violent process of shifting the ideology of the organization from "Revolutionary Islam" (اسلام انقلابی) to Marxism-Leninism within People's Mojahedin Organization and severed ties with its leader Mohammad Taqi Shahram and his immediate collaborators.[4]

Naficy was the first cadre (مسوول) in the Peykar organization who did not belong to the old Marxist-Leninist People's Mojahedin Organization. He worked both as an organizer and theoretician within the Peykar organization. He led the efforts to establish Dal Dal (دال دال) or "The University and High-School Student Organization of Peykar" (سازمان دانشجویان و دانش‌آموزان پیکار) in 1979. Naficy was the writer of two crucial articles in Weekly Pekar against hostaging of the personnel of the American Embassy in Tehran[5] and against Iran-Iraq war,[6] which differentiated the independent line of Pekar Organization from the line of Soviet and China-oriented leftist groups such as Tudeh, Fedaian (Majority) and Ranjbaran who supported so-called "anti-imperialist" Khomeini's regime. In 1981 he wrote the book The Islamic Republic Party with Two Rusty Swords: Clericalism and State Capitalism (حزب جمهوری اسلامی با دو شمشیر زنگزده: کلریکالیسم و سرمایه‎داری دولتی) for internal circulation.

On June 16, 1981 the editorial of Weekly Peykar No. 110 changed the main slogan of Pekar Organization from "Against Islamic Republic Party! Against Liberals!" to "Against Islamic Republic Party!" Ayatollah Khomeini wanted to oust the moderate President Bani Sadr who had called for resistance against dictatorship. In response to this call, People's Mojahedin Organization had a massive demonstration in Tehran on June 21, 1981, which was brutally suppressed by Khomeini's supporters. On June 28, 1981 the headquarters of the Islamic Republic Party was bombed and more than seventy top officials were killed. Naficy was against the change of tactic proposed in "Editorial 110" of Pekar and believed it would lead to conformity and compliance with the suicidal uprising and terroristic tactics of People's Mojahedin. He called for an "open polemic" (مبارزه ایدئولوژیک علنی) among different tendencies within the peykar. This led to the formation of "Revolutionary Wing" (جناح انقلابی) or "Faction" (فراکسیون) directed by Naficy and two other members including Mohammad-Ali Samadi.[7]

On September 19 1981, Naficy's wife Ezzat Tabaian was abducted and then executed on January 7, 1982 in Evin Prison. A month later Alireza Sepasi-Ashtiani[8] and two other members of Peykar Central Committee were arrested and later executed. At that time, Majid Naficy wrote the pamphlet "Past Sheds Light on Path to Future" (گذشته چراغ راه آینده) in which he called for a return to theory in order to find what went wrong that Khomeini could kidnap the revolution. In April 1983 he fled to Turkey with the help of Kurdish peshmergas. Then he sought political asylum first in France and later in the U.S. On May 17, 1984, Naficy arrived in Los Angeles for the second time.

Early life in Los Angeles[edit]

In the summer of 1985, Naficy decided to re-study Marx's major works chronologically and systematically and present them as lectures for other Iranian Marxists in exile in a community room at University of Southern California. His method was "using his own understanding" alongside reading reviews of other major thinkers on Marx's early works such as the structuralist and anti-humanist Louis Althusser of France. The result of this effort was nine lectures from June 1985 to November 1986 on nine books of Marx collectively called "Marx not as a Führer" (مارکس نه چون یک پیشوا) of which the first four lectures were published in Talash Magazine edited by an ex-member of Peykar, Mehrdad Darvishpour in Sweden. Naficy republished these four essays as an appendix to his book of essays "Poetry and Politics and Twenty-Four Other Essays" (شعر و سیاست و بیست‌و‌چهار مقاله‌ی دیگر). At the end of one of his lectures, someone asked him: "Are you still a Marxist?" Parodying Khomeini's famous statement, "I am not an athlete but I like athletes," Naficy replied: "I am not a Marxist but I like Marxists!"

Life and poetry in the United States[edit]

When Naficy fled Iran in 1983, he brought his imaginary reader along with him. As a political refugee, he started to experience new things in Turkey, France, and then America. But for half a decade, when he picked up his pen, as a writer and as a poet, he was driven to write for that imaginary reader who still wanted to live in Tehran, speak only in Persian, eat Iranian food, and think within the framework of an Iranian culture.[9]

In 1982, Naficy's brother Saeed and his wife Fahimeh had disappeared in Tehran.[10] For the last few years before the Revolution, due to their political tendencies (Saeed toward People's Mujahedin of Iran and Majid toward [[Organization of Iranian_People%27s Fedai Guerrillas), the two brothers did not talk to each other. In September 1987, Naficy decided to write and publish his thoughts of Saeed. This resulted in In Search of Joy: A Critique of Death-Oriented & Male-Dominated Culture in Iran (در جستجوی شادی: نقدی بر فرهنگ مرگ‌پرستی و مردسالاری در ایران) in 1991. Naficy sought to criticize the death-oriented thoughts and stoic lives of many of Iranian leftists who struggled against the Shah's regime in the 1970s. He wanted to show that they had many things in common with the people who saw Khomeini as their saviour. They struggled for a communal joy, but they considered joy a sin for themselves. They longed for freedom, but they idolized their own school of thought and refused to have any conversation with others. They praised women, but their eyes could not bear the glare of female faces. They mainly wanted to take political power, and left everything else to the future.

A good example of this can be found in his second collection of poems "After the Silence" (پس از خاموشی), consisting of one hundred and eleven poems that he wrote over the course of a four month artistic explosion from December 22, 1985, to April 23, 1986, in Los Angeles. Most of the poems in this collection were written about the Iranian situation.

In the collection of poems called "Sorrow of the Border" (اندوه مرز), published in 1989, the proportion of poems reflecting the new situation has increased drastically. In a very long poem dedicated to his newborn son, Azad, not only do the poet depict his bilingual world by including quotations in English into the body of the Persian text, but he also sees his son as his own new roots growing in the second homeland.

In his 1991 collection, "Poems of Venice" (شعرهای ونیسی), the reader finds different aspects of life at Venice Beach, where Majid lived for seven years. A turning-point in this long journey from the realm of self-denial to acceptance and adjustment is when he wrote a long poem on January 12, 1994, called "Ah, Los Angeles" {آه لس‌آنجلس). It starts with these lines:

Ah, Los Angeles!
I accept you as my own city,
And after ten years
I am at peace with you.

The City of Venice erected a stanza of this poem in the public space on the intersection of Boardwalk and Brooks Avenue in 2000.[11]

Twenty-first century work[edit]

Muddy Shoes is the first collection of Majid Naficy's poetry in English, was published in April 1999. It contains fifty poems written in exile from 1986 to 1994, drawn from Naficy's previous books, After the Silence, Sorrow of the Border, and Poems of Venice. It covers both periods of his life in America, when he was still rummaging in the ruins of the lost revolution in his homeland, Iran, and when he finally came to terms with his new situation in Los Angeles. A postscript added to the poems describes these changes in detail.

Fred Dewey writes in a foreword to the book: "The poetry of Muddy Shoes is born of great suffering yet affirms deep dignity and respect for that wider experience of the world, brought here through danger and carved out of solitude and reflection."

Louise Steinman writes in LA Weekly: "In 1999, Beyond Baroque Literary Center published Muddy Shoes, Majid's first collection of poems translated into English. Soon after, Majid read from his work at the downtown Central Library (where I program the reading series). Azâd sat in the front row of the auditorium, swinging his legs, busy with his Gameboy. Majid walked to the stage of the Mark Taper Auditorium. A small tape recorder hung from a strap around his neck. He put on earphones and pressed the 'start' button. Until then, few in the audience realized that Majid, who doesn't use a cane, is legally blind. He never glanced down at a page, but instead prompted himself with his own voice, his calm, uninflected phrases following the rise and fall of his breath on tape. The audience was mesmerized."[12]

Father and Son is a collection contains twenty five poems created by a father who lives in exile. The first poem is written before his son was born and the last just before he becomes a teenager. It was published by Red Hen Press in October 2003. The Persian version of Father and Son (پدر و پسر) was first published by Baran Publisher in Sweden in 1999 and then by Shahrvand Online in Canada in 2017.

After reading the book the famous Iranian poet Simin Behbahani wrote to Naficy in a letter dated January 11, 2002 from Tehran: "You have been able to invite the simplest and most unadorned words and emotions to poetry to which until now they had not found their way. You have used techniques and vocabularies which have opened the way to all aspects of life in poetry. Bravo to you!"[13]

I Write to Bring You Back is written in memory of Naficy's first wife, Ezzat Tabaian, abducted on September 19, 1981 and executed on January 7, 1982 in Tehran by Khomeini's regime. It is divided into two parts and one postscript. In the first part, the author has a monologue with Ezzat fifteen years after her death. Through this multi-linear narration, the reader discovers the events from the time of Ezzat's captivity until her death as well as a quick description of the 1979 Revolution. It explains how Naficy comes to terms with his loss through a process of artistic creativity. The first part of I Write to Bring You Back is available as a personal essay titled "Love and the Revolution" online.[14] The second part contains thirteen poems that the poet has written for Ezzat after her execution reflecting on love, death, revolution, loss and grief. The postscript is an indictment of the killers of his wife. He rejects revenge or forgiving. Instead he seeks justice through an independent court.

"The Story of a Love: A Series of Twelve Poems" is a series of poems written in the course of a love relationship from July 1995 to May 1996. It was first published by Javan in Columbus in 1999.

Majid Naficy received his PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at University of California in 1997. A year later, University Press of America published his doctoral dissertation "Modernism and Ideology in Persian Literature: A Return to Nature in the Poetry of Nima Yushij". In his dissertation Naficy examines the role of modernism and ideology in the works of the Persian poet, Nima Yushij (1895-1960), and concludes that Nima employs nature, both, as an ideological device against the artificiality of classical poetic outlook and prosody, and as a source of inspiration for creating his nature poetry.

Anthologized work[edit]

Naficy's poetry and prose have been anthologized in many books including "Poetry in the Windows" edited by Suzanne Lummis, "Poets Against the War" edited by Sam Hamill, "Strange Times My Dear: The Pen Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature" edited by Nahid Mozaffari and Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, "Lounge Lit: An Anthology of Poetry and Fiction" by the Writers of Literati Cocktail and "Rhapsodomancy, Belonging: New Poetry by Iranians around the World" edited by Niloufar Talebi, After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life edited by Tom Lombardo, "Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing" edited by Ilan Stavans, "Revolutionary Poets Brigade Anthology" edited by Jack Hirschman and Mark Lipman, "Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here" edited by Beau Beausoleil and Deema Shihabi, "Others Will Enter the Gates: Immigrant Poets on Poetry, Influences, and Writing in America" edited by Abayomi Animashaun, "Wide Awake Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond" edited by Suzanne Lummis, "The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles" edited by Neelanjana Banerjee, Daniel A. Olivas and Luis J. Rodriguez and "Open Doors: An Invitation to Poetry" edited by Jie Tian, Irena Praitis, and Natalie Graham.

He was the first writer in residence in Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica in 2009-10, and the judge for Interboard Poetry Community contests in 2009. Majid has received awards in two poetry contests, "Poetry in the Windows" sponsored by the "Arroyo Arts Collective" as well as "Poetry and Recipe" organized by "Writers at Work" in Los Angeles.


Majid Naficy is one of the six poets featured in the film Poetry of Resilience directed by the Oscar-nominated documentary film-maker Katja Esson.[15]

He was the first writer in residence in Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica in 2009-10.

Majid Naficy is one of the six poets featured in the 2011 film Poetry of Resilience[16] directed by the Oscar-nominated documentary film-maker Katja Esson.[15] In January 2014, his Portrait was aired on VOA in Persian.[17]

A performance of Naficy's work was included in a 2019 exhibit of artist Shirin Neshat titled "I Will Greet the Sun Again" at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles.[18]


  1. "Peykar: Thought and Struggle". Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  2. "Encyclopedia Iranica: A Case Study in Distance Learning Systems: The Free University of Iran". Retrieved 2018-04-01.
  3. "The Organization of Struggle for the Emancipation of Working Class". Weekly Peykar. Tehran: Peykar. 1979-08-13. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  4. "Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran : Mohammad Taqi Shahram". Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  5. "The Zigzags of the Counter-Revolution (that is, Khomeini's regime) and Their One-Sided Reflections Within the Ranks of the Revolution (زیگزاگهای ضد‌انقلاب و انعکاس یکجانبه‌ی آن در صف انقلاب)". Weekly Peykar. Tehran: Peykar. December 16, 1979.
  6. "Iran-Iraq War Is Not in the Interests of the Massess of Two Countries (جنگ ایران و عراق بنفع توده‌های دو کشور نیست)". Weekly Peykar. Tehran: Peykar. September 23, 1980.
  7. "Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran : Mohammad-Ali Samadi". Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  8. "Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran : Alireza Sepasi-Ashtiani". Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  9. "Iraninan.com Archives". Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  10. "Iroon: Khomeini's Visit". Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  11. Louise Steinman (February 7, 2001). "Poet of the Revolution". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  12. "Poet of the Revolution". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2018-04-01.
  13. "Shahrvand". Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  14. "Love and the Revolution". Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Poetry of Resilience". Retrieved 2018-04-01.
  16. "Poetry of Resilience". Retrieved 2018-04-09.[dead link]
  17. Portraits: Majid Naficy - English version. VOA Portraits. January 30, 2014. Retrieved 2018-04-01 – via YouTube.
  18. "The Logic of Poetry and Dreams - Majid Naficy". The Broad. November 7, 2019. Retrieved 2018-04-01.

See also[edit]

Other articles of the topic Poetry : Steve Venright, The B.L.P., Serafim Kalliadasis, Anthology, Robert Floris van Eyck, Flame (rapper), Thi'sl
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