Quite a day yesterday. I never got dressed! Spent the entire day in my sweats, reading and competing with the cat for nap champ. I didn’t even go outside. Got a lot of reading done but I still may not finish the book in time. I’ll have to push hard tonight as well. The book is Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. It’s a memoir of her experiences as a teacher of English lit in post revolutionary Iran. Much like Primo Levi tells his story using the elements as the fabric in The Periodic Table Nafisi reflects the events of the last 25 years in Iran in the mirror of the literature she loves. This is a story about how dogmatic ideological totalitarianism tries to crush the human spirit and how it never can completely win. And how when ideas (Islamic Fundamentalism in this case) become more important than individuals those ideas can be used to justify the most horrible acts. Novels like Lolita and Daisy Miller are banned because their characters are not “moral” and don’t fit the ideal of the Islamic Republic, even though the stories really are condemnation of the vacant lives of their characters. Nafisi makes the point that a novel is not moral or immoral, but is a window into another world where we must make our own judgements about the lives of the characters. Nafisi gives us a wonderful story of young women (and some men) keeping their intellectual spirits alive in the worst of conditions. She also presents, for me at least, a history of the Islamic Revolution in Iran as well as some great insights to great literature.
And now I must get ready for work.

13 thoughts on “

  1. you’re reading the book for a particular reason, then?  sounds like an interesting book.  and the way you spent yesterday sounds ideal.  i need a day like that.  i’ve been on the go too much.  my body needs a rest.

  2. Iran fascinates me.  They’ve had a taste of western culture (for better or worse)… and they also have a large well educated middle class.  I was ticked that Bush made his provocative remarks about them being in his evildoers club.  Seems like they’re struggling to be moderate, and talk like Dubyas just gives the hardline clerics more fuel to denounce us and moderation in general.  And this comment has a very slim connection to your book review so I’ll just shaddup now. 😛

  3. What’s frightening is that we have a government that would really like a Christian Republic every bit as stifling as Iran’s version. There’s so little difference between Bush/DeLay/Frist and the Ayatollahs of Teheran. They all believe in a “single-thought” society.

  4. I think novels are windows into the minds of the authors as well, as if that’s really profound.  But really, a person’s choice of what to write about says quite a bit about that person’s experience, personality, etc.  I like that part of it.  The same is true for non-fiction, but in a different way.  That book sounds interesting to me, since I know an Iranian family who came over here 30 years ago, and had, and has, nothing to do with Islam.

  5. are those electric keys in the background of the painting?  that cracks me up.  pretty, though, is it yours?

    i haven’t read a book since… shit, how old are my kids?  i did manage to finish daisy miller in one herculean vacation-related effort a month or so ago, so at least i’ve got that much going for me.

  6. Sleep.  you lucky man, how I envy you.
    I can’t read anything that requires extreme amounts of time or thought.  Too many interruptions, etc.
    I bought Queen Noor’s book and a book on the Ottoman Empire nearly a year ago, and still haven’t managed to finish either one.

  7. Electric keys???
    The lower left is a wierd pespective thing, looking over the edge of the counter at the floor and the doorway out to our deck. The upper right is wine bottles.
    Thanks, I did the art, with Photoshop from a shot I took yesterday.

  8. oh wiiiine bottles, sure.  i see it now.  no seriously, the volkswagen has this electronic key thing, with buttons that randomly set off the car alarm and frequently fall off.  it’s a wonderful thing, technology.  anyway, if you just look at the shiny parts of the bottles, that’s what they look like – black with a little round button in the center even. 

    art.  sure.  i get it.

  9. I should also credit my oldest, the future art director, for arranging the still life so artfully when we were putting groceries away.

  10. while reading your most recent comment, my elbow, upon which my head was balanced, slid off the desk and landed on the keyboard, hurting my arm, and messing up the computer becuase i apparently slammed into the perfect (and secret!) combination of keys for the “open seventeen unnecessary windows and then freeze them all” function. 

    i just thought you’d care.

  11. Hey, thanks for replying to me so quickly.  I’ve got a better idea of my career options now, and I’m thinking through them all in a highly organized and “slamming myself on keyboard in secret combination”-type manner.  Hopefully, it’ll all work out in my favor.  In any case, I leave it up to the Gods of Half-Mexicans.  I figure there’s gotta be more than one…

    What sort of book group are you reading that for?  It sounds like an interesting book, but I tend to read books that are in a series.  That way I don’t have to think as much…or something.  (see what I mean?)

    good luck with the rest of the book tonight,

  12. I never asked, but now I’m curious. What is solipsistic about Reading Lolita in Tehran….or, how do they use that jazzy word? on a side note….ain’t the pajama life the best?

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