'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.
Iranian Love Story
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.”
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,
inevitably brings to mind Azar Nafisi’s wonderful non-fiction
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.”
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.
An Iranian Love Story
can only be read in secret in Iran.
An Iranian Love Story, Shahriar Mandanipour
Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi