Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour, translated by Sara Khalili
“Censoring an Iranian Love Story” is unlike any other book I’ve read. I suppose it could be compared to the movie within a movie aspect of “The Princess Bride,” if “The Princess Bride” was, at its heart, about the difficulty of literature in Iran.
The main character of “Censoring an Iranian Love Story” is actually a fictionalized verion of the author himself. If I am not mistaken, he was living in the US by the time he wrote this novel (written in Farsi and translated to English), but it is written as himself still in Iran trying to make his living as an author. The story itself is composed of Shahriar attempting to write not just an Iranian love story, but one that will actually get published and distributed, one that will get past the government censors.
We actually read Shahriar’s story as he writes it, that of two lovers named Sara and Dara and their attempts to meet under the oppressive regime. Large portions of their story are crossed through and rewritten as Shahriar attempts to write what will be deemed an ‘acceptable’ love story. In many places Shahriar explains why he has crossed out passages, often venturing into Iranian history, politics, and historic literature and culture.
I found “Censoring an Iranian Love Story” absolutely fascinating, providing a look at Iranian society such as I’ve never seen before. It was by no means a fast read, but definitely a worthwhile one, and particularly timely given the recent Iranian election.