Title: Censoring an Iranian Love Story
Author: Shahriar Mandanipour
Release Date: May 5, 2009
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Satire
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the publisher’s website:
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.
I have to say, Censoring an Iranian Love Story might be the most creative book I have ever read. Mandanipour manages to combine so many different elements into this book – it can be different things to different people, while being many things to one person.
On the surface, Censoring an Iranian Love Story is a story-within-a-story. The author writes himself writing a book. So there are two stories within this novel: the overarching story of an author struggling with censorship in Iran and the plot of the book he is writing. As the novel progresses, the two stories move closer and closer together until they are intertwined.
I really liked reading about censorship in Iran. The censorship process is extremely interesting and I was very curious about what they find offensive. The author’s war with the censor, Mr. Petrovich, was hilarious at times. While being extremely informative, the entire thing was a satire on censorship.
I found the story of Dara and Sara, the story within a story of Censoring an Iranian Love Story, to be the more compelling of the two. Though they were merely characters within a book within a book, I became emotionally connected to their story. Mandanipour did an excellent job of writing sympathetic characters.
I really enjoyed Censoring an Iranian Love Story. I thought it was very unique. Though it was slow at times, it was an entertaining novel that I definitely recommend if you are interested in subjects such as censorship or devices within a novel.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book to review.