Summary and book reviews of Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour

Censoring an Iranian Love Story

by Shahriar Mandanipour

Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour X
Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2009, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2010, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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About this Book

Book Summary

From one of Iran’s most acclaimed and controversial contemporary writers, his first novel to appear in English—a dazzlingly inventive work of fiction that opens a revelatory window onto what it’s like to live, to love, and to be an artist in today’s Iran.

The novel entwines two equally powerful narratives. A writer named Shahriar—the author’s fictional alter ego—has 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 Iran’s 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 Dara’s 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 he’s 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 world’s most alluring yet least understood cultures. It is an ingenious, wholly original novel—a 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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About This Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Censoring an Iranian Love Story, the first novel published in English by the award-winning Iranian writer Shahriar Mandanipour.


About This Book

From one of Iran's most acclaimed and controversial contemporary writers comes a dazzlingly inventive work of fiction. Censoring an Iranian Love Story opens a revelatory window onto what it's like to live, to love, and to be an artist in today's Iran.

The novel entwines two equally powerful narratives. A writer named Shahriar-the author's fictional alter ego-has struggled for years against the all-powerful censor at the Ministry of...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

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Media Reviews

Christian Science Monitor

If you like the intellectual challenge of the metafiction of J.M. Coetzee or Paul Auster, or the sheer spiraling loopiness of Charlie Kaufman films such as “Adaptation,” then grab a copy and prepare to enjoy a meditation on culture, modern Iran, and the power of what is left out.

Publishers Weekly

[A]n intriguing multifaceted romance steeped in Iranian culture. Kudos to Khalili for a wonderfully fluid translation of an intricately layered text."

Kirkus Reviews

Complex, witty, clever and entertaining.

Booklist

Starred Review. A charming, canny, and rambunctious novel of courage and freedom against all odds.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Iranian author Mandanipour, currently a visiting scholar at Harvard, could not publish in Iran during much of the Nineties; readers will welcome his first full-length book in English. Highly recommended.

Author Blurb Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent
An exciting and original work – a beautiful novel.

Author Blurb Rabih Alameddine, author of The Hakawati
With the many books about Iran flooding the shelves, it is a joy to come across Censoring an Iranian Love Story, which offers a perspective that is neither sentimental nor nostalgic, romanticized nor demonized. Looking at his country and its inhabitants through a fiction writer’s authentic spectacles, Shahriar Mandanipour has written a novel that is witty, smart, funny, and honest. It is an important book for our times.

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Beyond the Book

Shariar Mandanipour
Shahriar MandanipourShariar 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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    From "one of Iran's most important living fiction writers" (The Guardian) comes a fantastically imaginative story of love and war narrated by two angel scribes perched on the shoulders of a shell-shocked Iranian soldier who's searching for the mysterious woman haunting his dreams.

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