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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books…

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (original 2003; edition 2008)

by Azar Nafisi

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10,575235269 (3.61)419
Title:Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Authors:Azar Nafisi
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2008), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Literature, Non-fiction, Middle East

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Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (2003)


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Showing 1-5 of 227 (next | show all)
A splendid book, though never as good again as the first chapter. Interesting as lit crit as well as social comment re Iran. ( )
  KayCliff | Jun 21, 2017 |
Touching. The memoir is told in the most interesting of ways, for one who enjoys English literature. A lovely blend of the classic fiction taught in a classroom and the everyday lives - trials and fears and horrors and realities - of life as a woman in Iran. Excellent. ( )
  J9Plourde | Jun 13, 2017 |
Avoidable. Boring, this was just a torture to get through. Cold and lacking insight, it was not really a portrayal of Iran as it was a lecture on books. ( )
  Soulmuser | May 30, 2017 |
Of two minds on this one: first, Nafisi's memoir as it concerns her scholar's observations of the early years of the Iranian Revolution, is very good. I learned plenty about the atmosphere, the shifting degrees of oppression, brutality toward women, especially as it effected students and professors. The dystopian feel to their existence I think is portrayed well, including the misleading, propagandized reports they get about the Iran-Iraq War. What was less enjoyable for me were the elements of literary criticism, which, though related to her illicit reading group, discussed authors such as Henry James, for whom I have no attraction. Even the titular discussion of Lolita, a book I've read and admire, felt more like a distraction from the narrative. Good memoir for the historical perspective and personal hardships. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Feb 28, 2017 |
I have such mixed feelings about this work. On one hand, there were moments when I was swept up in the narrative and feeling every breath of Nafisi's prose, and there were passages that worked to bring life and reading together in a way that made me see why the books were so necessary to the narrative. On the other hand, there were moments where I felt like I'd stepped into an undergraduate literature survey and was being lectured at, and there were also moments where I felt bored and/or frustrated with what felt like a lack of organization, and a very fragmented narrative.

I suppose my largest frustration comes from the way that the discussions of literature were integrated so fully in some ways, and then ignored so completely in the ways that (I felt) mattered. There'd be whole passages from Nabokov, Fitzgerald and the other authors represented, along with explanations, explications, and discussions of the literature, as one would find in any good classroom covering the books. But, why were these discussions necessary in such complete detail here? Essentially, that's what I was left wondering. Perhaps some of the bits and pieces would be more necessary for a reader who is unfamiliar with the works--I'm really not sure, since I have read them--but my interest was in knowing how and why these books in particular mattered so much to the women at the center of the story. What was clear was why reading mattered, but why these books in particular? And how did they impact the women who were fully enmeshed in Tehran and its customs, as opposed to the academic author? This, I'm not at all sure of, though I'd expected it to be a large part of the work.

At too many points, I felt like I was reading the equivalent of a journal put into prose, and that the only moves beyond that journal were attempts to explain the author's feelings about Austen, Nabokov, etc. But, for that, I could have read books about these authors and their books, as opposed to this memoir that I believed would allow for connection to another world and society, and to show the reach of these books. Yet, in the end, I'm afraid I was sorely disappointed.

What can I say? Would I recommend this book? Probably not. Would I read another work by Nafisi? Again, probably not. ( )
1 vote whitewavedarling | Nov 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 227 (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 (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Azar Nafisiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dumas, Marie-HélèneTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Flothuis, MeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
García de la Hoz, María LuzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lambert, J. K.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saltzman, AllisonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serrai, RobertoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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"
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.
What we search for in literature is not much reality but the epiphany of truth.
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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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