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Censoring an Iranian love story : a novel (edition 2008)

by Shahriyār Mandanīʹpūr

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2231751,802 (3.69)31
Member:DieFledermaus
Title:Censoring an Iranian love story : a novel
Authors:Shahriyār Mandanīʹpūr
Info:New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Iranian, 21st Century, Metafiction

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Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour

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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
It's hard to pin down my thought on this book. I recognize I am very unfamiliar with real Iranian literature, so it's difficult to distinguish between cultural characteristics and the author's style.
It is a metanarrative, in which the narrator explains why certain choices are made in the love story (the internal story) and explains a lot of the Iranian culture as it relates to literature. This dialogue is really interesting (even though it gets tedious in the middle, it picks up again) to help a Westerner like myself. It also adds humour to the novel because of the absurdity of some traditions and conventions. As the book progresses, the narrative and internal story crisscross, which is more challenging to wrap my mind around -- the lines between the two stories really blurs. Overall the interaction between the narrator and his story is intriguing from a writer's perspective and that of a storyteller.

I don't actually like Sara; she is coquettish but stubborn and arrogant...? I don't really know how to describe her, but I didn't really empathize with her. I think that's alright, though, because Dara and the narrator are the main characters, and they're more likeable.

The most similar author to which I can liken this book is [a:Thomas King|25892|Thomas King|http://www.goodreads.com/assets/nophoto/nophoto-M-50x66.jpg]. His [b:Green Grass Running Water|46277|Green Grass, Running Water|Thomas King|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320433170s/46277.jpg|45411] blurs the lines between the metanarrative and narrative and also subtlely and artistically points out absurdities in (native Canadian) culture. Actually, I can see an interesting comparison study being possible between these two stories. ( )
  LDVoorberg | Apr 7, 2013 |
3,5 en fait.
J'ai beaucoup aimé l'idée, les références et la façon d'utiliser l'humour pour parler de la situation dans son pays natal. Toutefois, le procédé m'a paru un peu lourd par moments. ( )
  Moncoinlecture | Apr 4, 2013 |
A sharp, witty tour de force. The novel is at least in part a reflection of Iranian culture and society, with its immense gulf between the public and the private and where people are adept at not saying what they really mean and not meaning all that they say. Clever, funny and depressing - all at the same time. ( )
  KimMR | Apr 2, 2013 |
Censoring an Iranian Love Story is just that – as the author tries to tell a love story set in modern-day Iran, he continually has to edit it, crossing out unacceptable bits, changing the plot and mulling over what euphemisms to use. His story follows Sara and Dara (whose names are something like Dick and Jane) as they uneasily meet and get to know each other. They’re opposed by societal strictures forbidding strange men and women from getting together and restricted family lives. The past of both, especially Dara, is one of repression and frustration. The changing fortunes of their friends and family are also related. The author frequently alludes to Persian classics, Western literature and pop culture – he’s clearly writing for a Western audience and often explains various references. In the metafictional, unbolded story, the author thinks about his difficult career, muses on how to write his story and tangles with the censor Mr. Petrovich, named after the detective in Crime and Punishment. The writing flows well, there are a number of humorous and ironic bits and the metafictional concept is interesting but somehow it failed to fully cohere for me. I really enjoy metafictional novels but while individual parts were engrossing, I didn’t have the usual desire to pick it up. ( )
1 vote DieFledermaus | Nov 14, 2012 |
Here’s a good novel of an Iranian novelist whose careful writing of a love story must pass inspection from the powerful censor at the Ministry of culture and Islamic Guidance. This novel has an original, playful style. The author addresses his characters directly, but sometimes they have a will of their own. The love story-within-a-story doesn’t amount to much, but it’s clear from this novel’s viewpoint that how could it? Every possible scene of the man and woman trying to get to know each other must be carefully scrutinized and watered down. It’s fun to read the actual assorted typeface in this novel, especially to read through the author’s strikethroughs in his story to see how truly beautiful the story could be if given the chance. The (real) author notes state that Mandanipour, now a visiting professor at Harvard, has himself been unable to publish his books in Iran due to censorship. What I found most interesting was the plight of modern Iranians in the oppressive Islamic state. Quite a fascinating read. ( )
  GCPLreader | Jan 17, 2011 |
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Epigraph
The tale of he who a treasure map found that out some gate should you take leave there sits a dome, if your back to the dome you turn and your face fronting Mecca, and an arrow you slight, whither the arrow falls a treasure trove lies. He went and arrows he let fly, so much so that he despaired, he did not find. And this news reached the King. Long-range archers arrows let fly, indeed naught was found. WHen to his Holiness he appealed, unto him it was inspired that we did not bid to pull the bow-string. Arrow in the bow he set, there before him it fell.

Shams Tabrizi (D. 1248)
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To Robert Coover, Karen Kennerly, Sara Khalili, James Kimmel, and Jane Unrue, without whose faith and fellowship writing this novel would not have been possible
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307269787, Hardcover)

Book Description 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.

"Wheatfields or Apple Orchards": An Essay by Shahriar Mandanipour

At book readings, authors are often asked, Why do you write? One says, I write to inform and enlighten people. Another explains, I write because it is my socio-political responsibility. One more declares, I write for myself. Yet another suggests, I write for the sake of literature and the beauty of language. And one writer dares, I write to achieve immortality. Their many different answers each contain a story, because they are storytellers. And I, too, have a story of my own.

I need to begin back in fourth grade. Until then, my mother would always write my school compositions for me. But one day when I came home for lunch, she had gone out, and I was forced, for the very first time, to write my composition myself. In Iran, it is customary for teachers to select the subject of composition assignments based on the season of the year. At the time, it was Autumn—describe the Fall, instructed the teacher. I had little time before the afternoon school session began, and so I sat down to write. After struggling through the first few sentences, suddenly I saw myself writing words that I had never thought of before. Furiously, I wrote of a field whose wheat stalks have turned golden and are ready to be harvested. I wrote of a shepherd sitting in the shade of a tree and playing his flute while his sheep bleat and graze nearby. In this vein, I wrote and wrote until suddenly I realized I needed to hurry back to school.

Before that afternoon, whenever the teacher made me read my compositions in front of the class, I had mostly received a B or B-minus. But on this day, I was sure I would earn an A-plus. For the very first time, I shot up my hand to read my composition. I read of the melody of the shepherd’s flute, of how happy the sheep are, and of the golden wheatfield that is ready for the harvest. But as soon as I read this sentence, the teacher started to growl. "Wheatfields are not harvested in the Autumn!" she shouted. I continued to read anyway. I was proud of the words I had written, about how the wind blows in the golden wheatfield, and about how the golden wheat stalks, ready, eager, to be plowed, to dance. "You stupid boy, wheatfields are not plowed in the autumn," she snapped again. She gave me a C-minus.

Years have passed since that day. I have published ten volumes of short stories and novels. I have managed to cross over the walls of a sterner censorship than my teacher’s that afternoon in Iran. And now that I have also crossed over the threshold of fifty, I know how I’d answer that question about why I write. I write to bring a wheatfield to harvest in my own words, in my own autumn. If I have succeeded, or will succeed, it will be because perhaps there are some who may benefit from the crop. Each grain of wheat is a word and each word a grain toward a story. In the Islamic account of Adam and Eve, the two are driven from heaven to earth after eating not an apple but grains of wheat. What the first pair of lovers ate in Eden eat isn’t important. What is important is for each of us—all the storytellers of the world—to bring our own apple orchards, or wheatfields, to harvest, in our own time and our own seasons.

Perhaps there will be those who will eat from them, and are driven to heaven. —Shahriar Mandanipour

(Translated from the Farsi by Sara Khalili)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:05 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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