Reading Lolita in Tehran

Topics: Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi, Iran Pages: 2 (698 words) Published: February 8, 2008
Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran is a powerful memoir that gives an intimate glimpse into the lives of a group of Iranian women who struggle to survive as the forces of misogyny quickly close in. These women, who have the audacity to gather and discuss famous works of the literary canon with noted female protagonists, scrutinize the stories down to their very subtleties, drinking in all the sentences, as if their observations were a reflection of their own predicaments. These observations are conveyed with such brilliance and ease by Nafisi, that the reader stops viewing each event as it occurs and instead, starts to experience them. Ultimately, this memoir functions on three levels: as a book about a book club, an analysis of major works of literature and as discourse about the hypocrisies and issues that plagued their lives. After returning home from the United States, Nafisi witnesses the Iranian revolution and the rise of fundamentalist Islam. She often talks about the two different Irans that she knows – the first Iran from a time of normalcy, when holding hands with the opposite sex and laughing out loud wasn't an offense and the second Iran accustomed to silent horrors like murder, arrests, and executions, all in the name of Islam. All the while, this transformation is charted by repressive attempts to make women invisible, by covering them from head to toe. Hiding behind the hand of Islam, the government adapts crazy ideas of immodesty and soon, simple matters such as stray hair and wearing nail polish, even under gloves become punishable offenses. And punishment, as we learn, is typically brutal. To escape this violence, Nafisi immersed herself in her world of books where she cherishes the democratic ideals found in Western novels like Lolita. As a teacher, she must face students who have been polarized by the political forces that surround them and must defend herself against the idea of the West as corrupt and absolutely evil. One particular...
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