Ever since the 1979 revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, Western culture and literature has become wholly reviled in Iran and especially forbidden for women to explore. However, that did not stop Azar Nafisi from gathering a small group of women to her home every Thursday to lead a discussion group on such banned Western classics as Pride and Prejudice and Lolita.
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Place of Birth:
M.A., Ph.D., Oklahoma University, 1979
|Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books|
Azar Nafisi, Azar Narfisi
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." And author Susan Sontag deems it "a stirring account of the pleasures and deepening of consciousness that result from an encounter with great literature and with an inspired teacher."
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|Nafisi talked to Newsweek about another classic she discussed with her students, F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age classic The Great Gatsby. "Great works of fiction always go against the prejudices of their own author," Nafisi reflects. "Fitzgerald may have loved the rich, and may have ruined his life in courting them. But in the book, Tom and Daisy Buchanan are, as Fitzgerald says, careless people. And this points up the similarities to the Islamic Republic: Tyrants become careless people. They become people who don’t see others."|
|Nafisi's Inspiration||Favorite Writers and Reads|
"Lolita became a symbol of what had happened to us: A man takes over a 12-year-old girl's life and turns her into a dream of lost love," Nafisi explains to Book magazine. "It's exactly what the ayatollahs did to us.... Nabokov understood that to be shaped and cut according to someone else's desires is the biggest crime of totalitarian societies."
|Alice's Adventures in Wonderland|
"I always start my classes on literary criticism with Alice stories," Nafisi told us in our interview. "Alice shows us how curiosity, a desire to go beyond our everyday habits and routine, can open up wondrous worlds to us and give us the power to turn the most ordinary into the most extraordinary." Read our interview with Nafisi to learn more about her favorite writers and reads, including: