Throughout their long partnership as a Lied Duo, Ivonne Fuchs and Anna Christensson have always looked for a fresh approach and new ways to tie this more traditional genre to the present, which led them to ask Svante Henryson to compose a song cycle relating to Franz Schubert’s Winterreise. Svante Henryson was inspired to use 24 poems from Mirrors of Absence by Faraj Bayrakdar in their Swedish translation by Jasim Mohamed. Characterised by strong rhythms and melodies from the world of art music, rock and jazz, Henryson’s setting creates compelling friction between words and music, with veiled references to Winterreise.  Faraj Bayrakdar, a Syrian journalist, author and poet, was born in 1951 in the village of Ter Macleh, not far from Homs. Accused of being a member of the unauthorized Party for Communist Action, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was held incommunicado and subjected to torture for nearly seven years.  Noted down on cigarette papers, Bayrakdar’s verses were smuggled out and published in Paris. PEN Inter­national campaigned to have the poet released. In 2000, he was released under a presidential amnesty. And in 2005, Faraj Bayrakdar emigrated to Sweden.  Mirrors of Absence, a collection of Bayrakdar’s poetry from the prison years, features 101 verses that are linked like a chain. The poet vividly describes the darkest night. As The Prisoner in Cell 13, he transports us to the Saidnaya military prison, a journey that illustrates the unthinkable related in a language of darkness and stone.  He speaks of sorrow and longing for freedom. No bitterness, but accusations ring out: “If the gods truly were gods, they would never settle for a lesser sacrifice than that demanded by a tyrant”. 

1064 Mirrors of absence

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