01 November 2010

81. Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books - Azir Nafisi

This is a woman's memoir of her life as a female English Literature professor at the university of Tehran during the revolution and subsequent times.

Ms. Nafisi spends a lot of time comparing the political and social factions within Iran and how the different groups of people associated with those factions reacted to different events.

Many of the friends and acquaintances she had were University type folks. There were the leftist Marxists, the Islamics and many others. These groups interacted with each other while discussing literature throughout all the regime changes and cultural transformations in their country. Sometimes this was easier and sometimes it was on the verge of criminal to even discuss certain books.

I found it interesting how many women were concerned with wearing the veil when the Islamic folks took over. Not because they didn't respect the religion or looked down upon those who chose to wear the veil, but because they had lost thier freedom to choose, and therefore they had become irrelevant in society. Imagine going from a respected English Lit professor at the countries number one university to feeling, and actually being, irrelevant.

The stories Ms. Nafisi relates are very interesting. They don't shed any new light on what I percieved to be the way of life in an Islamic state, but they do open my eyes a bit as to how the opression from the new powers above the women was seen and dealt with at personal levels.

I especially liked when Ms. Nafisi, her fellow university professors, and her students put The Great Gatsby on trial. They did not try Fitgerald. They did not try Gatsby the charachter. They had a trial for the novel itself to see if it had a place within their society. That was very interesting.

While I did find the book interesting at times and enlightening in a few instances, I did not find it to be all that great. It seemed dry and slow and lacked any kind of spark to keep me reading. I thought it was repetetive in many of the stories and ideas Ms. Nafisi was attempting to pass on.

It was not a bad book at all, but I expected much more for some reason.

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