Sometimes, the soft literary citizens of liberal democracy long for prohibition. Coming up with anything to write about can be difficult when you are allowed to write about anything. A day in which the most arduous choice has been between “grande” and “tall” does not conduce to literary strenuousness. And what do we know about life? Our grand tour was only through the gently borderless continent of Google. Nothing constrains us. Perhaps we look enviously at those who have the misfortune to live in countries where literature is taken seriously enough to be censored, and writers venerated with imprisonment. What if writing were made a bit more exigent for us? What if we had less of everything? It might make our literary culture more “serious,” certainly more creatively ingenious. Instead of drowning in choice, we would have to be inventive around our thirst. Tyranny is the mother of metaphor, and all that.
Among other things, Shahriar Mandanipour’s novel “Censoring an Iranian Love Story” (translated by Sara Khalili; Knopf; $25) is a tough reply to such maundering. Mandanipour, a distinguished Iranian novelist and short-story writer, was prohibited from publishing his fiction in his native country between 1992 and 1997. He came to the United States in 2006, as an International Writers Project Fellow at Brown University, and stayed in America. This novel, his first major work to be translated into English, was written in Farsi but cannot be read in Iran. His book is thus acutely displaced: it had to have been written with an audience outside of Iran in mind, but in a language that this audience would mostly not understand; it depends on translation for its being, yet its being is thoroughly Iranian, lovingly and allusively so, dense with local reference. And it takes as its subject exactly these paradoxes, for it is explicitly about what can and cannot be written in contemporary Iranian fiction.
Más en Love, Iranian Style (A new novel pits passion and repression) escrita por Shahriar Mandanipour. James Wood: The New Yorker. 29 de junio.