Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Nafasi writes a beautiful memoir of her time in Iran during and after the revolution. As we all know, things went from bad to worse for intellictuals once the Shah was overthrown. And for women, things got worse still. Throughout this period, Nafisi and her students undertook a clandestine study of several of the masterworks of Western literature.
I’m fascinated by Iran, and the Muslim world as a whole. I see in Nafisi’s story a microcosm of some important broad questions about how education, freedom, and the role of women can co-exist with some of the particularly virulent strains of Islamo-fascism that currently hold sway in the middle east.
My only complaint here would be that there’s slightly too much navel gazing on occasion, surrounding what it felt like to look at a certain tree, etc. But overall, this is a fascinating glipse into a world that as an American, as a male, I could never otherwise peek inside. And it’s a world in which scholars are heroic; risking everything in order to teach and acquire knowledge.
This book describes the kind of quiet bravery that I wish we could hear more about from the Muslim world.