Reading Lolita in Tehran


“For nearly two years, almost every Thursday morning, rain or shine, they came to my house, and almost every time, I could not get over the shock of seeing them shed their mandatory veils and robes and burst into colour. When my students came into that room, they took off more then their scarves and robes. Gradually, each one gained an outline and a shape, becoming her own inimitable self. Our world in that living room with its window framing my beloved Elburz Mountains became our sanctuary… We read Persian classical literature, such as the tales of our own lady of fiction, Scheherazade, from a Thousand and One Nights, along with Western classics – Pride and Prejudice, Madam Bovary, Daisy Miller, The Dean’s December and, yes, Lolita”.

In her introduction to Reading Lolita in Tehran – a memoir in books, Azar Nafisi recreated a world full of hope doomed to remain with the realms of sorrow. Gathering a motley crew of students from the University of Tehran (which Nafisi resigned from), both Nafisi and her students took great risks of being discovered at their regular literature class reading banned classics.

First published in 2003, Reading Lolita in Tehran gave first hand account of what it was like to live in revolutionary Iran. A remarkable book about books, Reading Lolita illustrates Nafisi’s talent and magic of pinning each word down to have depth and meaning, nothing is wasted, nothing is written for the sake of writing. Her talent lies in her courage and her ability to construct without compromise or false memory, a time within her memory of how there really were moments of fearless living.

Reading Lolita in Tehran – a memoir in books written by Azar Nafisi is published by Fourth Estate publications.

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