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Striking Home!

 
 

Censoring An Iranian Love Story

   

 

'In the air of Tehran, the scent of spring blossoms, carbon monoxide, and the perfumes and poisons of the tales of One Thousand and One Nights sway on top of each other, they whisper together. The city drifts in time.'

 

Love in the Time of Censorship.  Censoring An Iranian Love Story is a novel with a marvelous metaphorical and graphical comeback – taking the black strikes that are the tools of the censor’s trade and using them instead as an element to reveal, to peek under the veil...some tongue-in-cheek Iranian version of Nabokov’s “thunderous stet” to his would-be editors!  The book takes fiction and reality, love and art, and the author’s attempt to maneuver language to evade censorship (this in contrasting type to the main love story) and with these elements creates a story about the very impossibility of writing about love without an erotic language and then the very impossibility of life under censorship.  But somehow, impossibly, love.  The writer in the novel (Mandanipour’s literary alter ego) says: “...I, with all my being, want to write a love story.  The love story of a girl who has never seen the man who has been in love with her for a year and whom she loves very much.  A story with an ending that is a gateway to light.  A story that...will not make my reader afraid of falling in love...My dilemma is that I want to publish my love story in my homeland.”

 

The lovers are the impossibly named Sara and Dara.  Dara, who has seen Sara in the public library and has fallen in love with her, courts her with secret coded messages, dots in her library books that she has to decipher...'On page sixty-six Sara realized that the purple dots were not random and that in fact they had been placed with great precision under certain letters in certain words...next Thursday when you go to the public library, borrow The Little Prince if you like....' and so a literary and romantic tour of Tehran through the streets they walk, the places they are able to meet in secret -- museums, emergency rooms...

 

The book inevitably brings to mind Azar Nafisi’s wonderful non-fiction memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran.  Some of Mandanipour’s postmodern touches feel forced (a hunchback, a talisman-seller that keep appearing) but yet the calculated layering of narratives somehow works.  The novel is a witty and layered riposte -– humor striking back at censorship, love overriding tyranny.  James Wood, writing in The New Yorker, found it “...gentle and charming...full of lively comedy, despite the darkness of its theme.”

 

Shahriar Mandanipour, an award-winning writer in Iran, was unable to publish his fiction from 1992 until 1997 because of censorship.  He came to the United States in 2006 as a Fellow at Brown University and is currently a visiting scholar at Harvard University. This novel was written in Farsi while at Brown, and translated by Sara Khalili.  Censoring An Iranian Love Story can only be read in secret in Iran.

 

 

Read: Censoring An Iranian Love Story, Shahriar Mandanipour

 

Read: Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi

 

 

 


 

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