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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books…
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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (original 2003; edition 2003)

by Azar Nafisi

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9,813214294 (3.61)388
Member:Southernlit
Title:Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Authors:Azar Nafisi
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2003), Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:ethnic, touching, foreign, abuse

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Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (2003)

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English (206)  Italian (3)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (213)
Showing 1-5 of 206 (next | show all)
Azar Nafisi is an English Literature professor in Tehran. No longer able to work because she refuses to wear the head scarf, she invites a select group of her female students to meet at her home once a week to study great works of English literature. The works are wonderfully familiar: The Great Gatsby, Lolita, Daisy Miller, Pride and Prejudice, and others. Through these readings, and the group of young women who read them, Azar weaves a fascinating tale about the lives of women in Iran after the revolution, but also the history of that revolution, and her own history as well. The reader feels that he/she is also part of the group, rereading these books with Nafisi, an excellent and insightful teacher, whose understanding of these novels is profound and inspired. ( )
1 vote Marse | Jul 12, 2015 |
About a group of women in Iran who studied and discussed forbidden books with a university teacher in her home. It doesn't really read like a memoir, and was not what I expected. I was picturing an intimate story about the women's lives and interactions with each other, facilitated by their book group. What I got was a bunch of essays on Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James and Jane Austen, with asides to Saul Bellow, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Gustave Flaubert, the Bronte sisters and more; Iranian politics, religion and the oppression of women. Once I let go of my expectations, I did enjoy this book. It gave me a clearer picture of the Iranian perspective and attitudes toward Western culture. I remember thinking to myself at times: well, no wonder they see us that way! (Though I am well aware not all Iranians share the opinions depicted in the book).

My main criticism is that it jumps around a lot, moving from one subject to the next without much warning and going suddenly from the present back to the author's experiences at the beginning of the Revolution. This can get confusing and detract from the focus of the book. Also, it is a bit dry and can make you feel like you're back in school; especially if you are unfamiliar with the books discussed. Due to the many works mentioned in this book, I have added more than a dozen titles to my TBR list, of classic literature I felt guilty for not having read yet!

from the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Jul 11, 2015 |
Immediately after finishing this book, I didn't think much of it. I found the writing style disjointed and the tone somewhat arrogant. But, over the next few days, I came to appreciate the book more. What I loved was the message about the importance of reading, and the importance of fiction in opening our minds and our hearts. This was a very powerful tribute to reading and to the power of the imagination. Somewhat disjointed, as I said, but reflective of the chaos of the time. ( )
  LynnB | Jun 2, 2015 |
A must for every bookclub member! Phenomenal read. It gets a little slow at times. Loved the author's link of the literature read (I love Gatsby) and the parallels she drew to the uncertain anc changing regime in Iran. ( )
  Swissmama | Apr 8, 2015 |
A memoir of Nafisi's time as a university professor and later a kind of private teacher of a select group of dedicated students in late-20th century Iran. Important and reaffirming about the ways literature can be an aid to survival in difficult times, though also a testament to in what ways it is not enough. After about the halfway point, I really had to push myself to keep going, not because of the subject matter--though one could hardly read this book without being affected by those details--but because I found the narrative hard to follow and the discussion of reading and books too little and too far between. I sometimes read for pages and pages without seeing any connection to the literature purportedly informing a section of the book. This I could have dismissed (many books about reading become more books about life, and that is fine and fitting), but the other confusion was really hard to push through. I kept losing sense of where we were in time, of how certain events related to others, of who was who. I also keenly felt my lack of knowledge about the recent history of Iran, which I'll say is my fault, but it still seems like some more contextualization of political events might have enriched the memoir. Reservedly recommended, as I think this falls into a category of books that should probably be read despite any flaws. ( )
  lycomayflower | Apr 2, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 206 (next | show all)
The charismatic passion in the book is not simply for literature itself but for the kind of inspirational teaching of it which helps students to teach themselves by applying their own intelligence and emotions to what they are reading.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Guardian, Paul Allen (Sep 13, 2003)
 
[A]n eloquent brief on the transformative powers of fiction--on the refuge from ideology that art can offer to those living under tyranny, and art's affirmative and subversive faith in the voice of the individual.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Times, Michiko Kakutani (Mar 15, 2003)
 
A spirited tribute both to the classics of world literature and to resistance against oppression.
added by jburlinson | editKirkus (Feb 15, 2003)
 

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Azar Nafisiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Flothuis, MeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
To whom do we tell what happened on the Earth, for whom we place everywhere huge Mirrors in the hope that they will be filled up And will stay so? -Czeslaw Milosz, "Annalena"
Dedication
In memory of my mother, Nezhat Nafisi
for my father, Ahmad Nafisi,
and my family: Bijan, Negar and Dara Naderi.
First words
In the fall of 1995, after resigning from my last academic post, I decided to indulge myself and fulfill a dream.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 081297106X, Paperback)

An inspired blend of memoir and literary criticism, Reading Lolita in Tehran is a moving testament to the power of art and its ability to change and improve people's lives. In 1995, after resigning from her job as a professor at a university in Tehran due to repressive policies, Azar Nafisi invited seven of her best female students to attend a weekly study of great Western literature in her home. Since the books they read were officially banned by the government, the women were forced to meet in secret, often sharing photocopied pages of the illegal novels. For two years they met to talk, share, and "shed their mandatory veils and robes and burst into color." Though most of the women were shy and intimidated at first, they soon became emboldened by the forum and used the meetings as a springboard for debating the social, cultural, and political realities of living under strict Islamic rule. They discussed their harassment at the hands of "morality guards," the daily indignities of living under the Ayatollah Khomeini's regime, the effects of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, love, marriage, and life in general, giving readers a rare inside look at revolutionary Iran. The books were always the primary focus, however, and they became "essential to our lives: they were not a luxury but a necessity," she writes.

Threaded into the memoir are trenchant discussions of the work of Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and other authors who provided the women with examples of those who successfully asserted their autonomy despite great odds. The great works encouraged them to strike out against authoritarianism and repression in their own ways, both large and small: "There, in that living room, we rediscovered that we were also living, breathing human beings; and no matter how repressive the state became, no matter how intimidated and frightened we were, like Lolita we tried to escape and to create our own little pockets of freedom," she writes. In short, the art helped them to survive. --Shawn Carkonen

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:57:41 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Prof. Nafisi resigned from her job as professor of English Literature at a university in Tehran in 1995 due to repressive government policies. For the next 2 years, until she left Iran, she gathered 7 young women, former students, at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss works of Western literature forbidden by the new regime. They used this forum to learn to speak freely, not only about literature, but also about the social, political, and cultural realities of living under strict Islamic rule.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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