Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi

In part, my lukewarm reaction to this book is due to my dislike of Ms. Nafisi who appears to be rather erratic emotionally.  An intellectual drama queen, if you will.  The writing is beautiful, and one cannot help sympathizing with the women of Iran, the youth of Iran.  There is just something about Ms. Nafisi’s personality that rubs me the wrong way.  Something in me just wanted to smack her.

I was born in 1979, the year of the revolution.  Imagine if I was an Iranian woman living in Iran.  I would have grown up a child of the revolution, never having known what life was like without the veil.  My formative years would have been during the Iran-Iraq War when bombs and missiles were common things.  From what I can remember, my first conscious awareness of the outside world (we all know how insular a child’s outlook is) began when I was about ten.  When I was ten, in Iran, the war was over and Khomeini was dead, but things were no better.  The post-war crack down was in full swing, and, given the laws in Iran, I could have already been married to some stranger old enough to be my grandfather.  Nothing had changed but the color of the veil.  Nothing has changed but the color of the veil.

Books are my passion.  I cannot imagine going an entire day without reading something.  The mere thought of banning a book is anathema to me.  All of those closed minded religious zealots who talk about banning books like Harry Potter because it supposedly fosters witchcraft and devil worship enrage and baffle me.  I think I would go mad in such a place.  Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 made all too real, in a way.  Freedom of the imagination, to borrow a phrase from Nafisi, is important, especially in difficult times.  Ms. Nafisi, at least, had ways of obtaining her precious books so that she had a means of escape through her imagination, but think of all the women and girls of Iran who had no such access.  Have no such access.  Who, in fact, would not have been able to read them if they had because they had been married off at nine with little to no education.

Reading over this, I realize that I seem to be trivializing Ms. Nafisi’s ordeal, and that of her students, and I don’t mean to do that, but I can’t help but see her as almost spoiled, intellectually, when I think of less privileged women/girls in Iran.

Being a nerd myself, I felt an immediate urge to read Nabakov’s An Invitation to a Beheading, of which I’d never heard until now.  Of course, it seems to be the only Nabakov novel my local library doesn’t have.  I’m not a big fan of the Russian classics due to their lingual complexity, but this one intrigues me, nonetheless. 

Off topic, slightly, I’ve always wondered if the language is really that complex in the original Russian, or does it just seem that way when translated?

Anyway . . .

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books is an interesting read, but I had no trouble putting it down over the holiday.  However, it has caused me to add a few more classics to my To Be Read list.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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