Advertisement They soon formed a special bond, Ms. Yet in her books she makes fun of everyone, including the clerics themselves. Everything that had been so familiar was taken away. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. Azar Nafisi's remarkable new book, ''Reading Lolita in Tehran,'' is a memoir of the author's life in Iran from the late 70's to the late 90's, but it is also many other things. As I move towards the front door, I register a piece of sky through the side window. In the West, sometimes it has been distorted, sometimes it has been overemphasized, but I think that it still remains a challenge.
If you don't enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won't be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. Nafisi, who had been part of the Iranian student movement in her youth, describes watching the revolution gather speed and run amok, and she blames ''the Iranian people and the intellectual elites'' for ''helping to replace the Pahlavi dynasty with a far more reactionary and despotic regime. I had this experience at Rutgers University; I had it in San Francisco, where my student Azin was sitting in the front row as I gave a talk on my book. Nafisi stay in Tehran for another decade and a half? Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular; some had spent time in jail. Nafisi's informal classes conducted in the living room of her Tehran home. It was a spacious room, sparsely furnished and decorated. As I read Dickens or Austen or Mark Twain or Virginia Woolf, their books became ambassadors from the new world that I was traveling to.
People appreciated Hannah Arendt and Karl Popper as if they were their fellow citizens. I recommend this highly, not only for its own sake, but also as an invitation to read or reread many of the world's Great written stories. My place was always in the chair with its back to the window, which opened onto a wide cul-de-sac called Azar. Iran in the 1970s and 80s consisted of a population of women that were very well-educated. If you don't enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won't be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. We all have dreamsthings we fantasize about doing and generally never get around to. As I write the title of each book, memories whirl in with the wind to disturb the quiet of this fall day in another room in another country.
Overall I am very pleased with Reading Lolita in Tehran. A theme that is repeatedly presented to us in this book is resistance. A literary critique of Russian lit. Some of the revolutionaries, who at the beginning wanted to expel people like me from the universities, have been expelled from their places of work—these people are now calling for secularism and democracy. Her beauty was saved from predictability by a pair of miraculous dimples, which she could and did use to manipulate many an unsuspecting victim into bending to her will.
I finally found in print what I've been long grasping for in people: a better definition of womanhood, a verbalization of the fear that comes with being female, and a reminder of the poetry that comes hand-in-hand with our humanity. In the novel, you have to be true to yourself, you have to be funny, and critical, and self-critical, and allow even the villains to have a voice. Yes—I think that this connection to my home and to myself through literature is one of the most constant things in my life, something that I will always have. My grandmother never took off her veil until the day she died, and she lived a long life. Rather, she extends a more therapeutic solace: Great literature is there to make you feel better, regardless of how oppressive the political world can be. Her decision was a voluntary act. That has become my obsession since I came to the U.
They can empathize with women in Iran because when they read about women living in Iran, they realize that those women are not very different from the women living in the States—they both dream about a future for themselves and for people around them; they fall in love, are jealous, are betrayed, love music, love poetry, love to hold hands. Some of the revolutionaries, who at the beginning wanted to expel people like me from the universities, have been expelled from their places of work—these people are now calling for secularism and democracy. Their stories intertwined with those they were reading—Pride and Prejudice, Washington Square, Daisy Miller and Lolita—their Lolita, as they imagined her in Tehran. Nafisis account flashes back to the early days of the revolution, when she first started teaching at the University of Tehran amid the swirl of protests and demonstrations. One is that my purpose in writing this book was not to talk about just politics. They were never victims; Iranian women have never acted as victims. First of all, one thing that bothered me was that, since the Iranian Revolution, since 1979, all of a sudden these different countries that have very different backgrounds and histories and traditions like Malaysia, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia—all of them are now reduced to one component, which is religion.
Then suddenly, you feel a large drop on your right arm. One of the signs of feeling at home for me is not feeling at home, not being complacent. So whose Islam are we talking about? When I was in Iran teaching, when it came to ideas and imagination, there was no east or west there. And while I understand she wanted to work through that. And then imagine us again with all this confiscated, driven underground, taken away from us.
But unfortunately I felt that the dominating images of Iran were those that the government had talked about. It seems as though the experience of life in a totalitarian state that is structured along religious lines is central to his novels. To begin with, many women had trouble accepting the new Islamic based regime that had taken over. It is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, written with a startlingly original voice. The kinds of philistine and narrow-minded arguments and debates that go on here in some circles did not really exist there.
How do they create for themselves open spaces through their imaginations? It is at once a celebration of the power of the novel and a cry of outrage at the reality in which these women are trapped. I chose seven of my best and most committed students and invited them to come to my home every Thursday morning to discuss literature. To be more specific, resistance by women against the new government that has been inaugurated. Have I made it clear enough that people, no matter where they come from, all like to be free? Through my highschool years 1985-88, I had a pen pal from Tehran through my Spanish class. They were never victims; Iranian women have never acted as victims.
They are, according to the law of the land, dressed in black robes and head scarves, covered except for the oval of their faces and their hands. About Reading Lolita in Tehran Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Azar Nafisi, a bold and inspired teacher, secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. And Iran has existed for at least 2,500 years. Now, of course, I worry about reading Lolita in Washington, D. This is the same kind of mechanism that is working now in the Islamic Republic. About Reading Lolita in Tehran We all have dreams—things we fantasize about doing and generally never get around to. It documents the experiences of women in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.