Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
We all have dreams—things we fantasize about doing and generally never get around to. This is the story of Azar Nafisi’s dream and of the nightmare that made it come true.
For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. They were all former students whom she had taught at university. Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular; several had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they began to open up and to speak more freely, not only about the novels they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. 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.
Nafisi’s 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. In those frenetic days, the students took control of the university, expelled faculty members and purged the curriculum. When a radical Islamist in Nafisi’s class questioned her decision to teach The Great Gatsby, which he saw as an immoral work that preached falsehoods of “the Great Satan,” she decided to let him put Gatsby on trial and stood as the sole witness for the defense.
Azar Nafisi’s luminous tale offers a fascinating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from Tehran and gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women’s lives in revolutionary Iran. It is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, written with a startlingly original voice.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Intriguing Story, Dissapointing FormatUser Review - Overstock.com
Azar Nafisi is an inspiring teacher and lover of literature. Her memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran weaves her favorite fictitious novels together with her life and the lives of her students. As we learn about famous 18th century literature such as Lolita, One Thousand and One Nights, The Great Gatsby, Daisy Miller, Pride and Prejudice, and many others, we make connections to the average Iranian womens life under the Islamic Republic. Nafisi retires from her job as a professor at the University of Tehran because of a rule requiring women to wear veils while teaching. She then starts her own book study with her most dedicated students. As they study fiction, we learn about their lives. They shed their veils and share their personal experiences of discrimination, time in jail, family problems, and internal battles between what truly is wrong and what the government deems wrong. We see their struggle to understand and survive this injustice. Through Nafisis descriptive stories, she attempts to give the reader a one-of-a-kind insight into the discrimination, prejudice, and unfairness faced by herself, her students, and all women in Iran. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a memoir told by stories. Nafisis approach leaves the novel disjointed and random, making her stories seem irrelevant. While everything eventually connects back to the main theme of the novel: the confiscation of one individuals life by another (33), this is not clear to the reader throughout the memoir. Iranian women go from being as free as any man to having almost no rights whatsoever in such a short period of time. It is unsettling and difficult for all of them. Though poorly organized, the topic o...
Review: Reading Lolita in TehranUser Review - Lisa (Harmonybites) - Goodreads
This did lure me in and eventually beguile me, but certainly not from the first. Nafisi warns from the introduction that she would be changing details of the people presented not just to shield them ... Read full review