Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Feelings for Reading Lolita In Tehran

  As I've mentioned in my last blog post, I've read Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, an entrancing and brave memoir set in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

  People in my Facebook and Twitter only had good things to say about this book when I posted a picture of it online (some take selfies, some take pictures of their food, I take pictures of my books). I stumbled upon this copy at a local Booksale branch in my area for P127. That's less than what, three dollars?

  The general idea of the story: In  Revolutionary Iran, Nafisi- an English literature professor- selects seven of her most dedicated students to read (forbidden) Western classics in her living room. In a country where books such as Lolita, Pride & Prejudice, The Great Gatsby are deemed a threat to Islam "morals", Nafisi  quietly yet vividly defies these fundamentalist ideas as she deconstructs and discusses these books in its own terms.

  It's impossible not to be inspired and sympathize with Nafisi and her students as these literary works provoke their own reflections and yearning for a better life- inside and outside Iran. I wish I could mention more about how each literary classic became more meaningful in these women's lives and how brilliantly they discussed it in parallel to their struggle in Iran (or perhaps also in parallel to Iran itself- or other countries fighting oppressive regimes) but I recommend that you read this book and immerse yourself in Nafisi's intimate and painterly account as a woman and an Iranian citizen.

  There is this part in the book which I find hugely relevant (at this point I should say it's a bit of a spoiler haha) and I'm sure it's relevant for everyone else out there. In this chapter, Nafisi decides to seek counsel with one of her close confidantes, a man who she refers to as the magician (read the book to find out why- good stuff right there). She was offered a teaching job at the University of Tehran. This was the time when wearing the veil was in the process of being imposed on women. As much as she loved teaching, accepting the job would mean compromising her principles. She couldn't possibly do the latter! The conversation goes back and forth between her and the magician. Until the magician points out:

   So now you too have joined the crowd, he said more seriously- what you've absorbed from this culture is that anything that gives you pleasure is bad, and is immoral. You are more moral by sitting at home and twiddling your thumbs. If you want me to tell you it's your duty to teach, you've come to the wrong person. I won't do it. I say teach because you enjoy teaching: you will nag less at home, you will be a better person and probably your students will also have fun and maybe even learn something.

At that point in the book, I've begun to reassess my life yet again.

If anyone wants to borrow my book. However, I must warn you I have this habit of underlining phrases and paragraphs with a pencil.

On a random note, I've bought books from Booksale even though I have yet to read Swan Thieves. And I bought another journal I didn't need.

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