Publication written by 2011 DPDF Migration and Gender Studies Fellow Marie Otsby:
In the literature of the Iranian-American diaspora, the memoir genre has become a predominant lens through which Western audiences “read” contemporary Iran. While many bestselling life narratives have relied on hostage crisis-era tropes of gendered repression and subsequent liberation in exile, new amalgams of style and theme, distortions of perspective, and complicated renderings of the “subject” are now beginning to cross borders. One of these is Shahriar Mandanipour’s 2009 novel, Censoring an Iranian Love Story, which this paper examines as an auto-fictional commentary on the memoir genre that both arises from and responds directly to censorship using a self-referential and layered text. Through three central dialectics—ambiguous violence, encoded desire and resistance to diachronic historicization alongside the nation—this paper demonstrates how Mandanipour’s auto-fictional and often magical realist attempts elude what Gillian Whitlock terms the transnational “economy of affect” that publicizes, protects and ultimately drives the reception of memoir across borders.