It’s the range of reactions to one’s body of work, or any single piece, that tells a lot about the work. We shouldn’t want just praise. We should try to see why people respond the way they do, what their expectations are, what the range means. I tell my students all the time: don’t want a good review; accumulate all reviews and responses, and see what the range of responses says about your work. (Does anyone ever put the bad, by the way. A mature way to go, maybe. But hard…) Anything theoretical, anything innovational, anything that truly challenges the structure, that uses the registers, is automatically going to alienate. Many don’t want this. Most want comfort, convenience.
This all said, a lot of response to my stuff has been, well, positive. But there has also always been a lot of ‘don’t know what to say’. It’s not indifference but a type of bewilderment. Another good one, which to me demonstrates the success of my venture: a few librarians in Paris apparently voicing their frustrations because they didn’t know how to categorize my works: literally, not knowing, which shelves to put the books on: literature etrangere (foreign literature), but it’s written in French! or… French literature, or Francophone, or…
The real challenge to institutions, to practices, to conventions, to received ideas and imprinted modes of operation, to conceptions of the world and ideas, about how to circulate in it, should be met with a type of bewilderment. The best response then: a mix of bewilderment/not knowing what to say and really positive reviews + a a few nasty critical reviews.
Reviews over the years range from small publication to interviews to radio shows celebrating nomadisms of different kinds. From a review of Kobolierrot and interview in Stoody.com in 2000 to parts of Tractatüus Philosophiká-Poeticüus being taught by Hamid Dabashi in his Core Curriculum class at Columbia University in 2000; from a brief but cool article in The Wave in Queens in May 2006 on my lecture/workshop linking art and poetry, to an article in e-zine L’E-Novateur, a leading French-language e-zine of the time covering the literary, artistic and cultural scene, with a review of Erre in 2006. From a feature in Artpress, one of France’s leading magazines covering contemporary art and literature, on my oeuvre under the tile: “Who is the Other” in June 2006, to an Afterword by Gregg Horowitz in the new edition of Tractatüus Philosophiká-Poeticüus published by UpSet Press in 2015.
Here then, a select number of blurbs, reviews, reactions and critiques… And on a range of the literary works…
>> “…Is he French, Iranian, American, or is he French, Persian or English. Is he a land or a language? Cacophonies, he is, of countries that can no longer protect their borders against this nasty little intruder…Colonialism collapses in his triangulated rising out of a childish laughter at the stern look of the oedipal…
His writing is a celebration, a joyous occasion. A feast, a festival, a parade, fireworks on the Fourth of July, Eiffel Tower at 12:01am on January 1st of the year 2000, a carnival in Brazil, Mardi Gras. Bakhtin’s wet-dream. Dostoyevski cured. Proust after a healthy fuck. Kafka in orgasm. Kleist having killed himself and been born again. Hedayat in Zoroastrian Heaven….
Amir parsa: the polyvocal defiance of the subject. His, ours, everyone’s. The polylocal embracing of not/being there… He writes for a tomorrow that will never come because “arrival” is no longer among its illusions. The vertiginous gusto of his narrative is the reeling roll of that future as we can only imagine to hear it now…
It is the sight of a promise that he intimates that blinds and frightens me. There is thus something quite unsettling about his vision that blinds me, something figurative, uncanny, paralizing a nightmare, reading as allegory a hope. He is abusive of our trust in terra firma. He seems to be teaching us how to fly – with words….
His, if anything, is a post-national read, a post-categorical writing, a post-immigrant thought. He is post about anything and everything…”
– Hamid Dabashi, Professor, Columbia University and author of Theology of Discontent and Iran: A People Interrupted
>> “Nothing less than a phenomenon” – Artpress, France (by Marc-Albert Levin), spring 2006
>> “Un vagabond voyageur, un écrivain jongleur de mots, un théoricien-créateur jusqu’à la pointe de la plume… tous les genres littéraires se mêlent les uns aux autres dans une harmonie parfaite. C’est une langue nouvelle que nous découvrons…. Son œuvre intéresse déjà la Sorbonne parce que c’est du jamais vu.” – Stoody.com
“A traveler-troubadour, a writer juggler of words, a theoretician-creator to the bone… All literary genres are intertwined in perfect harmony. It is a radically new language that one discovers… unprecedented…” – Stoody.com
>> “Un feu d’artifice lexical qui s’achèvera 50 pages plus loin. Heureux qu’il n’ait pas duré davantage, on en ressort Presque vide, un peu soûl d’avoir entendu le soliloque aux leitmotiv obsédants de cette marionette-prophète qui nous prend à parti, nous harangue comme une foule indolente pour y voir clair dans le monde, dans son histoire et son écriture…”
“Ses mots, souvent travesties, empruntés à un dictionnaire introuvable… forment autant de percussions, esquissent un vrombissement compact et presque trop riche, composant au bout du compte un livre-univers cocasse et triste, vivant et désespéré.” – Salmagundi (France)
“Lexical fire-works that end 50 pages later: happy that it didn’t last more, one comes out of it drained, a bit drunk and dazed from hearing the soliloquy of this marionette-prophet who challenges us, harangues us like an indolent mass trying to see clearly in the world… His words, taken from an inexistent dictionary, constitute so many worlds, so many rhythms, and fashion a compact throbbing that’s almost too rich, constructing a book-universe that’s at once hilarious and sad, living and despaired” – Salmagundi (France)
> “Multilingual to the bone, intimate with the cultures, the idioms and the intricacies of his many worlds… An extraordinary artist of marvelous range and depth…” – Peter Awn, Feu Professor and former Dean, Columbia University, and author, Satan’s Tragedy and Redemption
>> “Amir Parsa is that rare creature – a beautiful writer who engages public audiences with academic issues, and academic audiences with public issues. He spins words in ways I’d not have thought possible: clever and demanding, light and dark, beautiful and ugly… His thinking is on display in his writing in ways few achieve: instead of telling us things, Parsa takes us on journeys with him. Usually, my response to great writing is to want my writing to be as accomplished as it is; in Parsa’s case, I want to write like he does. That is, indeed, the invitation he extends to his readers–come, walk with me, think with me. And I’m never sorry when I say yes to him.” – Anahid Kassabian, Professor, University of Liverpool and author, Hearing Film: Tracking Identification in Contemporary Hollywood Film Music
>> “Magnifique… renouvelle profondément la tradition de la rencontre poétique avec l’autre.” – Dominique Jullien, Professor, UCSD, and author, Proust et ses modèles
“Marvelous/magnificent… Profoundly renews the tradition of the poetic encounter with the Other.”
>> ” Writing is rather like trying to pin down a globule of mercury. The pressure of the nib causes it to split and sluice into unexpected rivulets, tracing surfaces in surprising ways: shivering and quivering before reforming in fragmented miniature mounds. Few writers make more interesting globular dynamics than Amir Parsa. Under Parsa’s influence, the punctum of the pen yields islands invisibly connected beneath the water. Seen from the surface, apparently self-contained and isolated, but underneath, secretly linked in the shifting sands of a coastal shelf. Viewed from one perspective as wounds in the water, viewed from another as the beginning of healing: both views are like memory or history. True artistry emerges from and results in such perspectival shifts, allowing design and accident their ineluctable due.”
– Ryan Bishop, The National University of Singapore, author, Modernist Avant-Garde Aesthetics and editor, Baudrillard Now
> “Drive-by Cannibalism in the Baroque Tradition is an underground classic, an anthropological fiction that, when all is said and done, will stand out as a grand revelatory portrait of our madness and follies” – Radio Tahrir, New York.
>> “Tractatüus Philosophiká-Poeticüus is formidable and frequently baffling, a lyrical riddle and a riddling maze… as alluring as it is obscure and as seductive as it is mysterious, like a rare jewel distantly glimmering among grim shadows of night…
“A restless passionate voyage of mind and consciousness, intellect and spirit through the imperious (and dangerous) illusions of reality to the cleansing (and salvific) realities of art…
“…No book for casual or indifferent reader. Like an ocean wave, TPP overwhelms you with its excesses, its cogent convolutions and its subtleties, and its swift spiraling currents will either submerge you hopelessly or, if you are vigorous enough, beckon you toward blithe undersea treasures.”
– Frank Hazard, writer
> “…This mesmerizing text… so often so beautiful, is also painfully elusive… Devastation on the edge of humor. Comedy on the brink of sanity. An impetus toward expression beating relentlessly against fear and repression. The overwhelming desire for connection to reach beyond unspeakable cruelty.” – Jessica Deutsch, poet and writer
>> “Amir Parsa feasts on language like an ascetic kept away from the banquet too long. He does so with pirouettes and reversals that bring to mind elements as disparate as mystical ruminations and modern jazz. Cacophony metamorphoses into symphony, and what was once harmonious conceals a festering nest of anarchist sentiments. Part court jester, part urban guerrilla, part philosopher, and demented netoyen, Parsa expresses his unabashed love for language in and for itself, plot merely the—very loose—frame for his dizzying verbal flights. This is true, whether it is his fiction or his poetry you encounter. He spins and whirls through words and their worlds. Or maybe it is the reverse. Or both are equally true. However you parse Parsa, to read him is to have a hallucinatory experience. I just hope the DEA doesn’t get wind of him.”
– Luis H. Francia, author of Museum of Absences
>> “I have rarely, if ever, come across a writer who shares Parsa’s convictions and enthusiasm for both what literature can do and what it should do as an art form and as a form of social and political discourse… What is perhaps most impressive, though, is his exploration of form and language, and his commitment to the creation of works that require great investment of intellect not just from the writer, but from the reader. He writes in at least three languages (sometimes in the same book), and explores the intermingling of history, language, philosophy, revolution, and memory while maintaining a commitment to ensuring that his works remain at heart literary endeavors. His Tractatüus Philosophiká-Poeticüus follows the path of the 1978 Iranian Revolution and uses this context to create a story of adventure and wandering that explores life and literature in a narrative and poetic intermingling of ideas. His L’opera minora is at its most simple level a beautiful physical document. A large-format, finely crafted, and masterfully designed book, it uses three languages and a wide array of visual art to produce a book that seems to create its own genre and explore innovative ways in which words and images can interact together in the creation of a cohesive work. Drive-by Cannibalism in the Baroque Tradition, while following a rather more traditional narrative progression, continues to illustrate his ability to create elements of a story only to explode them in hopes of arriving at a form that is uniquely his own. These efforts are successful, and it is a body of work that, while widely diverse in scope, always adheres to his fundamental commitment of creating something with a purpose.”
– Charles Buice, Former Senior Editor, The Paris Review
>> “Amir Parsa is one of the most gifted and unique writers producing works today. Through an impressive body of work, including the English-language Tractatüus Philosophiká-Poeticüus and Drive By Cannibalism in the Baroque Tradition, Mr. Parsa’s imagination, his use of language and his ability to puncture the balloons of societal and political follies, make reading his works a thrill and a challenge. It is a body of work that forces readers to become cognizant of what can be done with the written word and to have an appreciation and an understanding of the ways words regulate realities and lives. His books are brilliant performances that make one utilize mental and emotional “muscles” that one had never used before and that one wishes to continue using. . Like Shakespeare, like Dante, like Beckett, each of whom brought forth a completely different style of manipulating language, Mr. Parsa’s work reveals an entire new path: that there’s a whole other way to manipulate the literary ensemble that creates our very understanding of reality. In all of his works, very different formally and structurally and even stylistically, Mr. Parsa never lets go of a certain cadence in his writing: a cadence that blows you away, and constantly has you excitedly asking: how does he do this, how does he do this?” – Clareann Lomber, writer and director, theatre and film.