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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 2008)

by Azar Nafisi

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10,328234278 (3.61)408
Member:ruminyauee
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
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Tags:Literature, Non-fiction, Middle East

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Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (2003)

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» See also 408 mentions

English (223)  Italian (5)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  English (232)
Showing 1-5 of 223 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Nov 17, 2016 |
This is a very interesting book. I was fearful when it was picked as our book group choice. I read the Amazon blurb and I thought, Nabokov, Fitzgerald, Austen and, horror of horrors, Henry James. How am I going to maintain interest in a book largely about books by these writers, none of whom, I would say that I am particularly knowledgeable about, or, indeed, interested in. But it proved easier than I feared. The book is much more about the author and her group of women and the nightmare of trying to live as an educated woman in Iran in the period after the Islamic Revolution. We have heard all about the repression, the Revolutionary Guards, et al, but this book individualises the problems and also points out the very real oddities (the presence of vast numbers of "illegal" satellite dishes). The weakness, for me, of the book was the lack of any real narrative thread, it jumps around too much, albeit over a limited period and I struggled to keep track of many of the individual women. Overall a worthwhile read, which I am sure will stimulate an interesting discussion at book group. ( )
  johnwbeha | Oct 6, 2016 |
Very well written Memoir about women's life under a totalitarian oppressive regime, with emphasis on western literature. It shows how the basic rights of theses women were taken away from them by the regime, and by their male counterparts (fathers, brothers and husbands). However, it neglects in my opinion the role of many women in imposing this way of life also on other females, due to their personal belief in this regime. I think it is a little bias to show women as victims whereas they may be complicit. ( )
  LaraSaad | Jun 20, 2016 |
This was an interesting memoir describing life in Iran during the revolution. The descriptions and emotions were heart-wrenching. The main confusion I had was the connections the author made to the books I hadn't read previously or had read so long ago I forgot the details the author was relating. I also had trouble at times with the back-and-forth time jump during the memoir. This book was definitely worth the read since it was a place and time that I didn't know much about. ( )
  jguidry | May 31, 2016 |
Read this, please. Yes, there was education and culture before the Taliban. Yes, religious oppression exists, but there are always brave souls who resist and endure, and by doing so they rise above the oppression. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 223 (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 (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Azar Nafisiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Flothuis, MeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serrai, RobertoTranslatorsecondary 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.
Quotations
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)

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