UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Censoring an Iranian Love Story

Author offers a satiric perspective on his country’s history, foibles and tyranny

By Patricia Clarke

Censoring an Iranian Love Story
By Shahriar Mandanipour
(Vintage) $15.95


An Iranian who tries to write a love story has a unique problem: because of the morality police, his characters are not allowed to meet.

Shahriar Mandanipour faces the problem in Censoring an Iranian Love Story by writing two stories. The love story Mandanipour’s alter ego is struggling to write within the morality guidelines is printed in bold face. It has lines crossing out everything that might arouse sexual feelings, such as references to leaves “dancing.” The other, in light face, comments on life in Iran today and on the writer’s frustrating encounters with the bureaucracy, with censorship and with his own characters, who complain about the storyline and eventually spin out of control.

Dara and Sara, named for the Dick and Jane of Iran’s pre-Revolution primary readers, are the censor-plagued lovers, but taking equal parts in the story are the writer himself and the government censor, who is named for the detective in Crime and Punishment and who falls in love with the fictional Sara and demands that the writer kill off Dara. Checking the text with the censor during the writing is essential, Mandanipour explains. While the constitution allows printing and publishing freely, “Unfortunately [it] makes no mention of these books being allowed to leave the print shop.”

In the story, Dara and Sara spot each other at a student protest. “Getting beat up and thrown in jail,” the author comments, “have always been among the required credits for [university] students.” The two exchange coded messages in library books. To meet and talk in public is forbidden. They outwit the morality police, among other ways, by meeting in a hospital emergency waiting room unnoticed among the countless victims of Tehran’s appalling traffic and their wailing relatives.

The love story itself, hampered as it is by the censor, is pretty dull. What’s worth reading is Mandanipour’s witty and satiric perspective on his country, its history, literature, foibles and tyranny.

Mandanipour, who has lived in the United States since 2006, had written a number of novels and other works in Iran. This is his first to appear in English. Written in Farsi and translated by Sara Khalili, it has not been published in Iran and is not likely to be.


Patricia Clarke is a writer and editor in Toronto. She recently visited Iran.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Environment

Song leader, police and gate blockers in front of the Kinder Morgan gates. Photo by Kimiko Karpoff

A Kinder Morgan protest in photos and song

by Kimiko Karpoff

A faith leader reflects on protesting the pipeline with the Water Protectors from the Tsleil-Waututh nation.

Promotional Image

Editorials

The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. Photo: Lindsay Palmer

Observations: #MeToo

by Jocelyn Bell

Our hope is that by giving voice to these #MeToo stories, a new conversation about sexual misconduct can begin.

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Playing by Heart

by Observer Staff

United Church music director Kara Shaw was born prematurely, became almost totally blind and was later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Today, the 28-year-old showcases her unique musical ability, performing piano on local and national stages.

Promotional Image

Society

June 2018

Why some women of colour are hesitant to say #MeToo

by Jacky Habib

Three women share their stories in the hope of creating safe spaces they never had.

Environment

May 2018

A Kinder Morgan protest in photos and song

by Kimiko Karpoff

On April 28, 2018, faith leaders from many traditions, including the United Church, stood in solidarity with Water Protectors from the Tsleil-Waututh nation to protest the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in Burnaby, B.C.. Kimiko Karpoff captured the day in pictures.

Faith

June 2018

After 93 years, this will be the United Church's last General Council meeting

by Mike Milne

When the United Church meets in July, top priorities will be a streamlined governance structure and Indigenous ministries.

Justice

June 2018

#MeToo in the United Church

by Trisha Elliott

9 women share their stories of harassment and sexual assault in the United Church.

Columns

May 2018

On grief and the healing power of gardening

by Paul Fraumeni

A writer reflects on how growing tomatoes is helping him find peace while dealing with the loss of loved ones, including his son.

Editorials

June 2018

Observations: #MeToo

by Jocelyn Bell

Our hope is that by giving voice to these #MeToo stories, a new conversation about sexual misconduct can begin.

Promotional Image