Lasse Thoresen: “Illusory Distinctions” (Op. 57, No. 4) for Six Solo Voices or Mixed Chorus
Music by Lasse Thoresen (*1949)
Words by Mahvash Sabet (*1953)
Adapted from the original Persian by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani (*1948)
English Adaptation: George Ronald, Publisher, Ltd., Oxford.
Copyright © 2013, Bahiyyih Nakhjavani. Reprinted by permission.
Mahvash Sabet wrote Illusory Distinctions in prison, from where it was smuggled out along with other poems and eventually published as Prison Poems. She was imprisoned for ten years and subjected to torture because of her active engagement in the work of the Bahá’í Faith in Iran. Despite the inhuman circumstances to which she was subjected, she chose to respond with love—an almost superhuman love—rather than with hate. While her attitude seems to go against all normal emotional reactions under such horrid circumstances, the poem set to music throws light on her vision of cosmic unity through which such a loving perspective is made possible. Having met her, I can testify that the kind of love she makes the core issue of the poem is not simply a literary fiction, but a lived reality—something fully incarnated in her personality.
After a few years out of prison during which she received several prizes for her poems, she was again incarcerated on false charges as part of a campaign to arrest Bahá’ís, intellectuals and environmentalists in Iran. All her belongings and the house in which her husband lives and works, were confiscated. This news created in me the strong urge to set this poem of hers into music.
I dedicate this piece to her, and to all who suffer unjust imprisonment.
Oslo, August 29, 2022