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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books » User review

Insight and frustration

  • Nov 29, 2008
Rating:
+1
Nafisi's memoir is a mixed bag. Her device--using the great novels she has studied and taught throughout her career as pegs for a memoir about modern Iran--is effective, but her professorship constantly gets in the way. She is bent on forcing her students and readers to see novels her way and to see her world through her lens. That said, she also offers a great deal of insight on what it means to live under the Islamic dictatorship that is post-revolutionary Iran, and many of her quotes from literature are telling and profound.

Because of her privileged position and above-the-fray stance, she never experienced the worst of the repression, though she clearly suffered from the constant control imposed most cruelly on women. Still, while wearing a veil, not exposing hair, not wearing make-up, not consorting with non-relative men ... is harsh, neither is it torture. Those tortured and murdered and threatened with both are people she knows as students and intellectuals who took many more chances than the author. They were the ones who stood up more forcefully to the regime. That makes this more an in depth news summary than a personal tragedy.

As for her expressed literary tastes, they are fine and important enough within the context of her university life, but ultimately pretty predictable and dull. I was much more excited about this book half way through than when I finally slogged through to the end, having invested too much time to lay it aside in favor of other worthies in the stack beside the bed.

If you share the author's love of James, Nabokov, Austen, et. al., you will doubtless find this far more worthwhile than did this reviewer.

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More Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Me... reviews
review by . July 06, 2010
When I first started Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, I was excited to discover for myself what this #1 New York Times Bestseller was all about, and as a big fan of memiors, the "Memoir in Books" intrigued me.  However, never having read Nabokov's Lolitia, which is referred to in the first of four sections, I didn't immediately connect with the book.  I even wondered whether I should continue reading or search for something new, but I was incredibly glad …
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
interesting look into a different culture
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2010
Interesting perspective from a different cultural standpoint.
Quick Tip by . December 02, 2009
Another book that deserved all the popularity and praise. A rare glimpse into the other side of Tehran -- the bohemians, feminists, etc.
review by . April 23, 2009
"Reading Lolita in Tehran" is an account of the education of a select group of women in Iran during the Islamic revolution. It is certainly interesting to see the changes in the culture as the extremist regime comes to power and forces the women to "lose themselves" to the dominant culture. These women start to wear the veil and give up the freedoms and the things that make them individuals.      This book is interesting with respect to women's rights, middle eastern culture, …
review by . April 12, 2009
Reading Lolita in Tehran" (RLT) is a Persian variation on "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." Both are about surviving cruel, arbitrary tyrants.     There was a brilliant essay on RLT in the July 19, 2004 "Washington Post" entitled "Sorry, Wrong Chador." At the time, Nafisi's book had not even been translated into Persian, but Iranians still had opinions about it:     "The problem, several Iranians said in interviews, is that Nafisi left Tehran seven …
review by . September 12, 2006
"Reading Lolita in Tehran" (RLT) is a Persian variation on "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." Both are about surviving cruel, arbitrary tyrants.    There was a brilliant essay on RLT in the July 19, 2004 "Washington Post" entitled "Sorry, Wrong Chador." At the time, Nafisi's book had not even been translated into Persian, but Iranians still had opinions about it:    "The problem, several Iranians said in interviews, is that Nafisi left Tehran seven …
review by . September 02, 2006
"Reading Lolita in Tehran" (RLT) is a Persian variation on "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." Both are about surviving cruel, arbitrary tyrants.    There was a brilliant essay on RLT in the July 19, 2004 "Washington Post" entitled "Sorry, Wrong Chador." At the time, Nafisi's book had not even been translated into Persian, but Iranians still had opinions about it:    "The problem, several Iranians said in interviews, is that Nafisi left Tehran seven …
review by . July 28, 2006
"Reading Lolita in Tehran" is an account of the education of a select group of women in Iran during the Islamic revolution. It is certainly interesting to see the changes in the culture as the extremist regime comes to power and forces the women to "lose themselves" to the dominant culture. These women start to wear the veil and give up the freedoms and the things that make them individuals.    This book is interesting with respect to women's rights, middle eastern culture, and …
About the reviewer
Cecil Bothwell ()
Ranked #685
Writer, publisher, Asheville City Council member, builder, gardener.
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An inspired blend of memoir and literary criticism,Reading Lolita in Tehranis a moving testament to the power of art and its ability to change and improve people's lives. In 1995, after resigning from her job as a professor at a university in Tehran due to repressive policies, Azar Nafisi invited seven of her best female students to attend a weekly study of great Western literature in her home. Since the books they read were officially banned by the government, the women were forced to meet in secret, often sharing photocopied pages of the illegal novels. For two years they met to talk, share, and "shed their mandatory veils and robes and burst into color." Though most of the women were shy and intimidated at first, they soon became emboldened by the forum and used the meetings as a springboard for debating the social, cultural, and political realities of living under strict Islamic rule. They discussed their harassment at the hands of "morality guards," the daily indignities of living under the Ayatollah Khomeini's regime, the effects of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, love, marriage, and life in general, giving readers a rare inside look at revolutionary Iran. The books were always the primary focus, however, and they became "essential to our lives: they were not a luxury but a necessity," she writes.

 

Threaded into the memoir are trenchant discussions of the work of Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and other ...

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Details

ISBN-10: 081297106X
ISBN-13: 978-0812971064
Author: Azar Nafisi
Genre: Religion & Spirituality
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
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