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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books…

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Azar Nafisi (Author)

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9,478None305 (3.61)357
Title:Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Authors:Azar Nafisi (Author)
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2004), Paperback, 356 pages
Collections:Your library, Illinois library, Read

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Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (2003)

autobiography (164) biography (246) book club (94) books (158) books about books (147) books and reading (41) censorship (71) culture (51) education (59) feminism (118) fiction (132) history (60) Iran (880) Iranian (44) Islam (230) literary criticism (89) literature (297) memoir (1,161) Middle East (283) non-fiction (928) own (69) politics (64) read (115) reading (132) religion (69) Tehran (75) to-read (182) unread (113) women (296) women's studies (114)

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3.5 stars

Azar Nafisi was born in Iran, but studied in the U.S. She moved back to Iran with her husband and experienced the Iranian Revolution, as well as the war with Iraq before they left again. Her last few years in Iran, she formed a group of women who got together secretly to discuss English literature, a subject Nafisi used to teach.

It was good, but I could have don't without the literary criticism of the books. I really did enjoy hearing about the women's lives, though, as well as Nafisi's experiences during the Revolution and the war. ( )
  LibraryCin | Dec 31, 2013 |
I was unable to finish this book before book club but no one did. I went back to read it later. It is a good description of culture/politics in Iran during the revolution and the Ayatolla.
"Forcing religion makes the decision to be faithful meaningless." This book is a memoir in books. The author was a professor in Tehran during the civil war and the Islamic morality squads. ( )
1 vote Kristelh | Nov 16, 2013 |
Cherish your ability to read, write and thrive.

Most memorable part: putting Lolita on trial. I think that scene will stay with me as long as my memory works.
  VeritysVeranda | Sep 29, 2013 |
I tried SO HARD to read this book.

I didn't even read enough of the book to write an adequate review of why I didn't like the book. She was too..wordy. Which, sounds impossible for an author to be in their book but she was.

There is no way to drudge through 3 full pages of what decor was in her living room. I know there were many limitations she had to use in order to keep identities safe but did she have to write such a boring book to do so?

  tealightful | Sep 24, 2013 |

I dragged myself through Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi as part of the Freshman Reading Experience at the school where I work. The students I met with didn't even make it that far.

I wonder a lot about this book. The students Dr. Nafisi spend so much time with are obviously important to her. And, from a sociological standpoint, their struggle to create a personal space in the midst of one of the most oppressive regimes on Earth certainly has value.

But Dr. Nafisi's attempt to bring that struggle to life through the works of Nabokov, Fitzgerald, Austen and James left me cold. Reading Lolita in Tehran struggled to find its own identity- not quite enough about books and their ideas to captivate me, not quite enough a personal memoir to become open and accessible. Perhaps it is the most accessible book of its kind, but that is being damned by faint praise.

The thing RLiT lacked most was a definitive moment of choice. It was, instead, a study in the daily struggle of life in a totalitarian state. Of course, this makes it true in a way literature can rarely afford to be true. I think of Saul Bellow's Dangling Man as the distillation of the Superfluous Man, and in RLiT, Nafisi repeatedly refers to herself as "irrelevant," a superfluous woman in a country violently opposed to her kind of womanhood.

This lack of "moment" christianized into repetition and self-referentialism. Some of her stories are repeated with little variation. Some of her ideas (like her irrelevance) are referenced several times before they are expanded on and explained. While the book mostly flows forwards chronologically, it takes occasional leaps that make it difficult to follow.

It didn't help my experience that I listened to most of the book while taking a trip for work. The audiobook is atrocious; the narrator speaks so slowly that the less than 400 pages of the book take 16 hours to trudge through. ( )
  jscape2000 | Aug 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 196 (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)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Azar Nafisiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Flothuis, MeaTranslatorsecondary 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.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:33 -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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