Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, recently freed after six years in Iranian captivity, revealed a clandestine literary act during her speech at the 2023 Booker Prize ceremony. The theme of her speech underscored the transformative power of books during her harrowing solitary confinement.
Unveiling a Literary Rebellion:
During her confinement, Zaghari-Ratcliffe received a lifeline—books from her family after five months in solitary. She described the liberating moment when the guard handed her the books, emphasizing how literature became her escape from the confines of her claustrophobic cell.
A Forbidden Tale in Farsi:
Zaghari-Ratcliffe narrated an intriguing incident where a cellmate received a Farsi-translated copy of Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by post. Despite the book being banned in Iran, the inmates ingeniously concealed it in newspapers to evade surveillance cameras.
The Birth of a Secret Library:
Inspired by the clandestine arrival of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her fellow inmates decided to establish a “secret library” within the prison ward. As a gesture of solidarity, they bequeathed books, preserving their stories for future prisoners who might find solace in literature.
Books as Lifelines:
In her poignant narrative, Zaghari-Ratcliffe highlighted the profound impact books had on her mental well-being. She expressed gratitude for the escape they provided, citing Leo Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ as another literary companion that transported her back to London during moments of despair.
Freedom Through Imagination:
Reflecting on her return to the UK in 2022, she acknowledged how books, alongside imagination, became vital tools for mentally transcending the oppressive walls of Evin prison. They served as a means to create a world when she couldn’t physically escape.
Booker Prize Highlights and Tribute:
The Booker Prize ceremony also saw Paul Lynch win for ‘Prophet Song,’ exploring the consequences of a new secret police in Ireland. The event paid tribute to the late Dame Antonia Byatt, with a reading from her acclaimed novel ‘Possession’ by Bridgerton actress Adjoa Andoh.
Literary Endeavors Beyond Prison Walls:
Dua Lipa, a London-born singer, showcased the Booker Prize Foundation’s prison initiative, the Books Unlocked project. This program, in association with the National Literacy Trust, brings literature to prisons, promoting the transformative power of books beyond the confines of captivity.
In reshaping the narrative of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s literary journey, the article highlights the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring power of literature in the face of oppression.
Re-reported from the article originally published in The newschainonline