Letters from Iran: Zahra Abtahi: Censorship (part I: in literature)


Censorship (part I: in literature)

Censorship in Iran is not something related to a specific government and cannot be referred only to post-revolution time. Even before Islamic Republic, it existed. In Shah’s time (in the other words: Pahlavi Period) books and newspapers were under the exact lenses of censorship, though it was done mostly on political terms such as anything related or written about Shah’s family or his actions, Communism, critics on US actions in Iran and so on. But not on what is now known as “unethical themes”.

But, what is “unethical themes”?

As all of us know, it is something absolutely relative. But in a general term it can be classified as every word, sentence, or scene related to sexual relationship, homosexuality, nudity, sexual organs, complicated relationships and any other things that can be put here.

Have all these themes been censored?

 Yes and no. Mostly the power of the publication or author or translator is considered during this complicated process. Sometimes the censor man’s taste is conducted. In some presidential period like Khatami Government there was more freedom, in others’ less.

Hossein Azarnoush, a famous translator, one day wrote in his Google Reader:

(In the original book, it was written: “then we had sex“, I changed it into: “then we had fun” they told me to change it into: “then we had dinner“!

We’ve seen bunch of times in bunch of books these familiar punctuation: ?     but here, it means there was a word(s), sentence(s), or even a paragraph which is censored. I was reading “tours et detours de la villain fille” (translated in Persian as: dokhtari az Peru) last week, and the number of ?. Was so much that you got confused several times what’s going on. Even in teens books such as twilight or Harry Potter you can see censorship. I clearly remember, Vida Eslamieh, HP’s translator into Persian used the phrase “got close” instead of “kissed each other”.

  If you look at this phenomena from the other angles, it can be a nice fun; both for translators and readers! For translators to find the other words for forbidden parts or just simply put ? instead, and for readers to guess  what’s going on or not simply go for the original texts.

For English books, it’s around two years I, as a reader, have chosen the latter.


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