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Reading "Lolita" in Tehran
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The inspirational tale of eight women who defied the confines of life in revolutionary Iran through the joy and power of literature. 'That room for all of us, became a place of transgression. What a wonderland it was! Sitting around the large coffee table covered with bouquets of flowers ! We were, to borrow from Nabokov, to experience how the ordinary pebble of ordinary life could be transformed into a jewel through the magic eye of fiction.' For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Azar 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. Shy and uncomfortable at first, they soon began to open up and 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. 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. / An important and moving memoir about female rebellion through the power of literature. / This reissue will include a new interview with Azar Nafisi. / Sold over 52,000 copies in paperback in the UK alone and a million copies worldwide. / Named Book of the Year 2004 in Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and Observer. / Spent more than 117 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list and has been translated into 32 languages.

About the Author

Azar Nafisi is a professor at John Hopkins University. She has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal among others, and is the author of 'Anti-Terra: A Critical Study of Vladimir Nabokov's Novels'. She lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and two children.

Reviews

Nafisi was a professor of literature at Allameh Tabatabai University in Iran, but after years of frustration following the Iranian revolution, she decided to leave her teaching post and follow a dream: to bring together several of her best and brightest female students to talk about literature banned from her country, including Lolita, Daisy Miller, and The Great Gatsby. The seven women who comprised this group were from a variety of backgrounds and belief systems; however, they eventually grew together, sharing their joys and heartaches, their fears and hopes. Nafisi uses the books that they discuss to highlight their experiences, such as the oppression of Lolita by her lover and the hope that the women would become adventurous like Daisy Miller. The author explores her feelings about her marriage, the traditional beliefs that hold her down, her love for Iran, and, eventually, her and her family's decision to emigrate to the United States. Reader Lisette Lecat does a fantastic job, truly making this audio come to life. For all collections.-Danna Bell-Russel, Library of Congress Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

'Through her tales of discussing Henry James and Nabokov over cream cakes and coffee, we get a highly unusual insight into the youth of society about which we know little.' Sunday Times, Book of the Year 'Anyone who has ever belonged to a book group must read this book!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. The Ayatollahs don't know it, but Nafisi is one of the heroes of the Islamic Republic.' Geraldine Brooks 'I was enthralled and moved by Azar Nafizi's account of how she defied, and helped others to defy, radical Islam's war against women. Her memoir contains important and properly complex reflections about the ravages of theocracy, about thoughtfulness, and about the ordeals of freedom -- as well as a stirring account of the pleasures and deepening of consciousness that result from an encounter with great literature and with an inspired teacher.' Susan Sontag

This book transcends categorization as memoir, literary criticism or social history, though it is superb as all three. Literature professor Nafisi returned to her native Iran after a long education abroad, remained there for some 18 years, and left in 1997 for the United States, where she now teaches at Johns Hopkins. Woven through her story are the books she has taught along the way, among them works by Nabokov, Fitzgerald, James and Austen. She casts each author in a new light, showing, for instance, how to interpret The Great Gatsby against the turbulence of the Iranian revolution and how her students see Daisy Miller as Iraqi bombs fall on Tehran Daisy is evil and deserves to die, one student blurts out. Lolita becomes a brilliant metaphor for life in the Islamic republic. The desperate truth of Lolita's story is... the confiscation of one individual's life by another, Nafisi writes. The parallel to women's lives is clear: we had become the figment of someone else's dreams. A stern ayatollah, a self-proclaimed philosopher-king, had come to rule our land.... And he now wanted to re-create us. Nafisi's Iran, with its omnipresent slogans, morality squads and one central character struggling to stay sane, recalls literary totalitarian worlds from George Orwell's 1984 to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Nafisi has produced an original work on the relationship between life and literature. (On sale Apr. 1)Forecast: Women's book groups will adore Nafisi's imaginative work. Booksellers might suggest they read it along with some of the classics Nafisi examines, including Lolita, The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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