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Love, Iranian Style

James Wood in the New Yorker on Shahriar Mandanipour's Censoring an Iranian Love Story:

The author jokes about how Iran is subconsciously practicing “the late Roland Barthes’s theory of the Death of the Author,” and likens this control to political torture and disappearance: “So it is that many stories . . . in maneuvering their way through the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance either are wounded, lose certain limbs, or are with finality put to death.”...

...the novel’s insistent argument [is] that a modern Iranian love story can hardly be written at all, because it is contaminated not only by the fact of censorship but by the idea of censorship, and bound by literary conventions. ... In one of his many mischievous authorial interventions, Mandanipour notes that ancient Sufi love poetry often likens the body of a woman to a cypress tree, her eyes to those of a gazelle, her breasts to pomegranates, and so on. He implies that this level of figurative ornament is a kind of self-censorship by simile. So the tale of Sara and Dara is not only scored by the censor’s markings; it is constantly lapsing into cliché and conventional euphemism, because direct erotic language is not possible. “Sara’s lips resemble plump ripe cherries with their delicate skin about to split from the heat of the sun,” the author writes, knowingly.

Read the full piece here

James Wood in the New Yorker on Shahriar Mandanipour's Censoring an Iranian Love Story:

The author jokes about how Iran is subconsciously practicing “the late Roland Barthes’s theory of the Death of the Author,” and likens this control to political torture and disappearance: “So it is that many stories . . . in maneuvering their way through the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance either are wounded, lose certain limbs, or are with finality put to death.”...

...the novel’s insistent argument [is] that a modern Iranian love story can hardly be written at all, because it is contaminated not only by the fact of censorship but by the idea of censorship, and bound by literary conventions. ... In one of his many mischievous authorial interventions, Mandanipour notes that ancient Sufi love poetry often likens the body of a woman to a cypress tree, her eyes to those of a gazelle, her breasts to pomegranates, and so on. He implies that this level of figurative ornament is a kind of self-censorship by simile. So the tale of Sara and Dara is not only scored by the censor’s markings; it is constantly lapsing into cliché and conventional euphemism, because direct erotic language is not possible. “Sara’s lips resemble plump ripe cherries with their delicate skin about to split from the heat of the sun,” the author writes, knowingly.

Read the full piece here

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