Iran

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In 1956, Inge Morath (1923-2002) traveled to the Middle East for Holiday magazine. She wore the traditional chador and traveled alone most of the time. "It was difficult to photograph there as a woman," she later recorded. In this body of work, Morath's subjects range from politics and religion to work and commerce, from the shah's palace to the nomad's tent to Zoroaster's sacred shrine. She photographed Iran with the keen vision of an anthropologist, examining religious rituals, costuming, work, sport, music, ...
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Overview


In 1956, Inge Morath (1923-2002) traveled to the Middle East for Holiday magazine. She wore the traditional chador and traveled alone most of the time. "It was difficult to photograph there as a woman," she later recorded. In this body of work, Morath's subjects range from politics and religion to work and commerce, from the shah's palace to the nomad's tent to Zoroaster's sacred shrine. She photographed Iran with the keen vision of an anthropologist, examining religious rituals, costuming, work, sport, music, art and theater in order to document "the continuity--or lack of it--between past and present," as she later put it. Morath's work in Iran presaged her later work in Spain, China and Russia, creating an extensive document of the clash between modernity and tradition in the postwar Middle East. Retrospectively, Inge Morath: Iran recalls a land and a culture that have been profoundly transformed since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. It is a window into the past that provides a singular and timely perspective on Iran in the present.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9783865216977
  • Publisher: Steidl, Gerhard Druckerei und Verlag
  • Publication date: 11/24/2009
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 10.20 (w) x 12.80 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Azar Nafisi

"Inge Morath was born in Graz, Austria, in 1923. As a young woman, she joined the just-founded Magnum agency as an editor, and then in 1951 began taking her own photographs. After assisting Henri Cartier-Bresson as a researcher for two years and working independently throughout that time, she became a member of the agency in 1955. Throughout her life, Morath was a prolific diarist and letter writer, and in her extensive travels in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, China and the USSR, she kept copious written notes along with her many photographs. She married Arthur Miller in 1962 and settled in New York and Connecticut, though she continued to travel and publish photographic essays, pursuing both assignments and independent projects until her death in 2002."

Biography

There are certain works of western literature that most students in the United States will probably read at some point in their college careers. Pride and Prejudice. The Great Gatsby. Lolita. On American shores, these books are generally considered classics -- must-reads for anyone with the slightest interest in literature. Of course, this is most assuredly not the case in the Tehran, Iran. Since the 1979 revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power and began the anti-Americanism that caused Western culture to essentially be purged from Iran, such titles became all but forbidden. To teach them in the classroom -- especially one containing female students -- would be a genuine and punishable act of rebellion.

When Azar Nafisi was teaching literature at the University of Tehran, her syllabus was the least of her problems. Imagine living in a society in which it is an offense for a woman to show so much as a strand of hair in public. Now imagine how a woman who was encouraged by her father to explore her own personal history and engage in the art of story telling as a young girl might react to such a society. Nafisi was an independent, free-thinking woman living under a repressive regime. She was also an avowed fan of western culture: the films of the Marx Brothers, the plays of Shakespeare, the music of the Beatles, the literature of Jane Austen, Henry Miller, and Vladimir Nabokov. No longer able to adhere to the stringent rules of Islamic society, Nafisi refused to wear her veil in class and was summarily expelled from the University in 1981.

However, Nafisi's dismissal did not put an end to her teaching career. She returned to her profession in 1987, but had not lost her taste for testing the limits of the system. She would ultimately resign from her post for good in 1995, seeking a more creative means to educate. Nafisi secretively gathered a group of seven women, all former students of hers, to read and discuss those very novels that were deemed inappropriate for women in Iran.

For two years, Nafisi and her small class gathered together at her home on Thursday mornings where they would study Pride and Prejudice, Washington Square, Daisy Miller, and, of course, Lolita. And as the women explored and analyzed these classics, discussing the books in an open forum with a teacher who encouraged the women to express themselves freely, they also opened up about their own lives. Together they talked about their dreams, their failures, and the changes for which they wished.

Azar Nafisi's literary experiment would become the subject of her breakthrough debut memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran. The book poetically recounts both those liberating Thursday mornings and the Ayatollah's rise to power fifteen years earlier.

Reading Lolita in Tehran has deservedly become something of an instant classic. Due to its lyricism, and the courage at the core of the story, the book has won Nafisi nearly universal praise. The New York Times called it "an 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."

Since 1997, Nafisi has lived in the United States, where she continues to teach. She also continues to write, having op-ed pieces and articles published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, and The New Republic. Meanwhile, Reading Lolita in Tehran continues to inspire readers, grateful that Azar Nafisi had the courage to step out from behind the veil.

Good To Know

In her interview with Barnes & Noble.com, Nafisi talked about some of her favorite memories, interests, and the ways she likes to unwind:

"When I was barely five, every Friday (Iranian weekend) morning my father would take me for a long walk, near the suburbs of Tehran. Our destination was a small fountain. He had bought me a special cup, which I would fill once we reached there. All through our walk he regaled me with stories. We also made up stories, sometimes about our own lives, and sometimes about fantastic creatures and worlds. This ritual, which lasted for a few years, still shines in my memory. Every once in a while in my imagination I search for that very small fountain that had seemed to me so enormous and bountiful."

"My father's especial way of relating to us influenced the relation between my brother and me. My best memories of my brother are when we took our books to fancy parties my parents made us go to and the way we whispered and created a magical edge to the pattern of everyday reality. We carved a private intimate world of our own to which no one could enter without knowing our secret magic word. It remained with me when I had my own children. My best hours in Iran were spent with my husband and two children, teasing and making up stories. We spent long hours during the war watching films by the Marx Brothers and laughing until we cried."

"When I was in college I, like so many other students, became involved in the student protest movements, but somehow I could never rid myself of certain 'bourgeois' habits: reading works by those authors called 'bourgeois,' or seeing 'bourgeois' films were among some of my unforgivable sins."

"The first time I visited Washington, D.C., was during one of the antiwar demonstrations. At one point a painter friend of mine and I stole our way toward the National Gallery. There was tear gas in the streets and the museum was to be closed early. My friend and I were playing hide-and-seek, trying to evade the guards and prolong our stay, when suddenly I came across Dali's The Last Supper. There I stood, transfixed until I was forced out of the museum.

"Years later, when I made another pilgrimage to the National Gallery, I found many other paintings that I admired more than The Last Supper, but I almost always make a point of paying a special visit to that particular painting. Dali is not my favorite painter, but that day, and that moment, I realized with a shock of the existence of a sense of beauty and dignity that went beyond any transient concern, especially a political one. Through what other means can we reaffirm mankind's highest sense of individual integrity and strength, overcoming not just life's obstacles but death's absolute dominion?"

"Whenever I am really nervous and sometimes unhappy, I take out some scoops of coffee ice cream, mix it with coffee and nuts (either walnuts or almonds) and immerse myself in the soothing cool of the coffee ice cream going down my throat. When an idea comes to me for writing, this nervousness reaches its heights and along with it my consumption of ice cream, coffee, and nuts."

"After a particularly hard day, I like to watch Seinfeld, Law and Order, (not Criminal Intent) and mystery films, especially the British mysteries. The most reliable news show I watch is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart! I also love the classic movies on Turner Classic Movies."

"I love paintings. Sometimes I steal an hour or so and go to the Phillips Collection, which is close to my work, and watch and watch. I like to watch only a few paintings at a time and focus on them for a while and then move on to others. Every once in a while I go to the National Gallery in D.C. to pay homage to the one Da Vinci they have. In order to remember a painting or a view, I look at it for a long time, then close my eyes and try to reconstruct the image in my mind, then open my eyes and look again."

"I love going to theater, especially with my family, and three friends with whom we share a great deal. I also love reading poetry and sometimes Shakespeare aloud when I am alone. I hold the book in my hands and move around the house, reading and reading, thinking, If this is not a miracle I don't know what is."

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    1. Hometown:
      Potomac, Maryland
    1. Education:
      M.A., Ph.D., Oklahoma University, 1979

Table of Contents


Inge Morath: Iran recalls a land and a culture that have been profoundly transformed since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. It is a window into the past that provides a singular and timely perspective on Iran in the present.
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