From one of Irans most acclaimed and controversial contemporary writers, his first novel to appear in Englisha dazzlingly inventive work of fiction that opens a revelatory window onto what its like to live, to love, and to be an artist in todays Iran.
The novel entwines two equally powerful narratives. A writer named Shahriarthe authors fictional alter egohas struggled for years against the all-powerful censor at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Now, on the threshold of fifty, tired of writing dark and bitter stories, he has come to realize that the world around us has enough death and destruction and sorrow. He sets out instead to write a bewitching love story, one set in present-day Iran. It may be his greatest challenge yet.
Beautiful black-haired Sara and fiercely proud Dara fall in love in the dusty stacks of the library, where they pass secret messages to each other encoded in the pages of their favorite books. But Irans Campaign Against Social Corruption forbids their being alone together. Defying the state and their disapproving parents, they meet in secret amid the bustling streets, Internet cafés, and lush private gardens of Tehran.
Yet writing freely of Sara and Daras encounters, their desires, would put Shahriar in as much peril as his lovers. Thus we read not just the scenes Shahriar has written but also the sentences and words hes crossed out or merely imagined, knowing they can never be published.
Laced with surprising humor and irony, at once provocative and deeply moving, Censoring an Iranian Love Story takes us unforgettably to the heart of one of the worlds most alluring yet least understood cultures. It is an ingenious, wholly original novela literary tour de force that is a triumph of art and spirit.
DEATH TO DICTATORSHIP, DEATH TO FREEDOM
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.
In front of the main entrance of Tehran University, on Liberty Street, a crowd of students is gathered in political protest. With their fists raised they shout, Death to captivity! Across the street, members of the Party of God, with clenched fists and perhaps chains and brass knuckles in their pockets, shout Death to the Liberal . . .
The antiriot police, armed with the most sophisticated paraphernalia, including stun batons purchased from the West, stand facing the students. Both groups try, before they come to blows, to triumph over their opponents by shouting even louder. Drops of sweat ooze from faces and specks of spit spew from mouths. Fists, before pounding on heads, rise without miracle ...
Shahriar Mandanipour's English-language debut is an expansive, wry and funny examination of censorship in Iran. More than reportage or straightforward romance, Mandanipour offers a contemporary interpretation of one of the oldest themes. Though love may not be absolutely transcendent in this story, its pursuit presents a rewarding collage of history, magical realism and intrigue.
(Reviewed by Karen Rigby).
Full Review (790 words).
Shariar Mandanipour's varied life began in the city of Shiraz, where he was born in 1956. In the 1970s, he participated in protests against the authoritarian rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi; in the 80s, he volunteered in the Iran-Iraq war; and, since 2009, he has served as the chief editor for Asr-e Pandishanbeh (Thursday Evening), an Iranian literary magazine. According to Harvard University's biographical note, "this magazine was banned in Iran; in response, Mandanipour has taken considerable risks by speaking out against this injustice, giving interviews to Voice of America and other controversial (in Iran) media outlets."
Mandanipour's publications include numerous essays; a novel for children that won ...
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