Censoring an Iranian Love Story – Shahriar Mandanipour

Title: Censoring an Iranian Love Story
Author: Shahriar Mandanipour
ISBN: 9780307269782
Pages: 304
Release Date: May 5, 2009
Publisher: Knopf
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.

Comments

  1. Did you find the “story within the story” difficult to follow? It sounds sort of convoluted, I think its too hot for convoluted and I’ll wait until fall when my brain is functioning again!

    Great review, its on my wish list now!

  2. Did you find the “story within the story” difficult to follow? It sounds sort of convoluted, I think its too hot for convoluted and I’ll wait until fall when my brain is functioning again!

    Great review, its on my wish list now!

  3. Although this book sounds interesting, I haven’t yet been compelled to track down a copy.

  4. Although this book sounds interesting, I haven’t yet been compelled to track down a copy.

  5. Sounds interesting.

  6. Sounds interesting.

  7. Hey Swapna! I got locked out of my google account and I am finally back after a two month break.. I’m sure you’ve been actively reading.. need to catch up on the books you’ve been devouring. Looks like you are having a fun summer in Oxford as well!:) Enjoy!

  8. Hey Swapna! I got locked out of my google account and I am finally back after a two month break.. I’m sure you’ve been actively reading.. need to catch up on the books you’ve been devouring. Looks like you are having a fun summer in Oxford as well!:) Enjoy!

  9. Wow! One of the most creative books you’ve ever read is very high praise!

  10. Wow! One of the most creative books you’ve ever read is very high praise!

  11. Sounds interesting. I will have to add it to the list. :)

  12. Sounds interesting. I will have to add it to the list. :)

  13. Sounds neat. I was drawn to the title right away.

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

  14. Sounds neat. I was drawn to the title right away.

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

  15. what a great review! makes you want to run find it!

  16. what a great review! makes you want to run find it!

  17. This sounds like one I should add to my list; thanks

  18. This sounds like one I should add to my list; thanks

  19. I have heard about this book several times, you put me over the edge, it’s on my list to read!

  20. I have heard about this book several times, you put me over the edge, it’s on my list to read!

  21. This sounds so interesting, and so different from my usual reading. I’ll look for it, maybe at my library.

  22. This sounds so interesting, and so different from my usual reading. I’ll look for it, maybe at my library.

  23. What a fantastic title! I’ve been reading a lot about Iran lately, and this sounds like a great book to read next.

  24. What a fantastic title! I’ve been reading a lot about Iran lately, and this sounds like a great book to read next.

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