The Iranian Unconscious: Psychoanalysis in Tehran
reudian psychoanalysis may have lost ground in the West, but not, according to Gohar Homayounpour, in Tehran, where “today’s sexuality is still Freud’s sexuality”. Over the past five years of ushering patients on to her couch in the Iranian capital, Homayounpour has analysed more than enough Oedipus complexes and incestuous dreams to inspire this short, perky, Persian-hued homage. Indeed, as she notes, Freud’s sexual theories have a distinctive strain in Tehran, where the collective fantasy is “anchored in an anxiety of disobedience that wishes for an absolute obedience. The sons, while desiring to rebel, know unconsciously that if they do so they might get killed, and so in a way they settle for the fear of castration”.
Is Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran the novel that Homayounpour, as she tells us, promised her own father? The diary he recommended she write instead? We are never quite sure, but whatever the precise blend of fact and fiction, as the book advances and an agreeably varied selection of Tehranis troop through - a combative francophone painter; a butch lorry driver who is scared of the dark; someone’s moll who informs her, “I have a very analyzable character” - it becomes clear that Homayounpour’s literary goal is less to map the Freudian unconscious of her patients, their repressed wishes and memories, than to shine a light on a subject that interests her even more. The book, as she writes in her introduction, is “a note to myself”.