Book Review: Reading Lolita In Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Link for the paperback @ Amazon--price is $10.20, Kindle is $8.10:
Published by Random House Trade Paperbacks 2003/384 pages
Professor Azar Nafisi chose 7 of her best students (women) from the University of Tehran in Iran, to meet with her in her own home 1 morning a week to discuss literature. The authors and literature they discussed were: Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita), Henry James (Daisy Miller), Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice), Gustav Flaubert (Madame Bovary) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby). The group touched on several more authors, a lengthy list is in the back of the book. The theme of their discussions was the relation between fiction and reality---their reality under the Islamic Republic of Iran. Throughout the book life under the Islamic regime is portrayed in the lives of these women. The 1 morning a week when the women walk through the threshold of the door to Azar's home, the women disrobe their outer garments, but they also disrobe their pent up feelings of despair and even anger. The women are all of various temperaments and personalities, and each of them different in how strictly they follow the Sharia law. Azar writes of these women both as her students and as their friend. Azar Nafisi writes of their home lives, ambitions, dreams, education, and manner in which they survive in a world where women are considered less than 1/2 the worth of a man. Azar writes of the war between Iran and Iraq that was from 1980 until 1988, and of the bombs which fell near her home. Eventually Azar and her family immigrated to America.
This is an absorbing book, in that I was blown away by the standards set by mere men in a policed fanatical regime, Iran. I take so much for granted living in America, I take it for granted because I've never lived anywhere else, I've traveled to other countries, but I've never lived where I am told how I must dress (or face possibly jail) in order to not sexually arouse man. Not only are the women told how to dress---to cover up most of their bodies; but they cannot eat an apple or ice cream in public, it might sexually arouse a man. The marriage age has been lowered to 9. How could a 9 year old girl be married, and further more be married so that she would produce children.
I loved the writing style of Azar Nafisi. She is an artist creating beauty with words.
"We were to borrow from Nabokov, to experience how the ordinary pebble of ordinary life could be transformed into a jewel through the magic eye of fiction."
Azar writes of a magician she visits, another man. I'm still not understanding what this was all about. At the end of the book she alludes to the fact that in retrospect maybe it was not a real relationship, maybe it was like a dream.