News from the international book scene: Female characters are not permitted to laugh in books sold at the Tehran International Book Fair, which opened this week in the Iran capital.
The word “laughing” (for female characters), along with “dance,” “dog,” “meditation,” and “cigarette” (only if a female is holding one), is censored at the book fair, where more than half a million Iranians load up on literature daily. That’s more than the total number of attendees at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which claims to be the biggest in the world, according to the Guardian.
Despite the large audience, I’m guessing that any acceptable literature featuring female characters will have to be limited to the novella form or shorter—certainly nothing long enough for a heroine to enjoy herself. Bridget Jones’ Diary is definitely out. Even the buttoned-up Victorians may not make it through book fair censors. Pride and Prejudice is like the Women Laughing Alone With Salad of 1813, and Jane of Jane Eyre considers becoming one man’s unmarried mistress. But let’s hope it does; in 2006, Lisa Jardine and Annie Watkins surveyed more than 400 women to find that Jane Eyre is the world’s most significant book for English-language women. As in life-changing, paragraph-quoting.
“Many of our women respondents last year explained that they used novels metaphorically,” explain Jardine and Watkins. “The build-up to an emotional crisis and subsequent denouement in a novel such as Jane Eyre might have helped negotiate an emotional progress through a difficult divorce, or provided support during a difficult period at work, or provided solace when things seemed generally dull.” Hopefully they get their jokes somewhere else.