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Censoring an Iranian Love Storyby Shahriar Mandanipour
Synopses & Reviews
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.
If conducting a love affair in modern Iran is not a simple undertaking, then telling the story of that love may be even more difficult. In a country where mere proximity between a man and a woman may be theprologue to deadly sin, where illicit passion is punished by imprisonment, or even death, telling that most redemptive of human narratives becomes the greatest literary challenge. Shahriar Mandanipour evokes a pair ofyoung lovers who find each other - despite surreal persecution and repressive parents - through coded messages and internet chat rooms; and triumphantly their story entwines with an account of theircreator's struggle. Inventive, darkly comic and profoundly touching, Censoring an Iranian Love Story celebrates both the unquenchable power of the written word and a love that is doomed, glorious, and utterly real.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Shahriar Mandanipour, a contemporary and controversial Iranian writer, presents his first novel written in English. Seamlessly entwining two related narratives, Mandanipour unfolds the tale of an Iranian writer attempting to pen a love story set in present-day Iran. Similar to Romeo and Juliet, the writer's two lovers struggle to endure against powerful external forces. Unfortunately, though, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance furiously attempts to censor the writer's work.
About the Author
Shahriar Mandanipour has won numerous awards for his novels, short stories, and nonfiction in Iran, despite his being unable to publish his fiction from 1992 until 1997 as a result of censorship. A noted film critic in Iran, he was editor in chief of Asr-e Panjshanbeh (Thursday Evening), a monthly literary journal, from 1999 until early 2008. He came to the United States in 2006 as the third International Writers Project Fellow at Brown University and is currently a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University. His work has appeared in PEN America, The Literary Review, and is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review. He is currently living in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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