Reading Lolita in Iran


The NY Times has a piece about Azar Nafisi's memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran, which sounds fascinating. Nafisi, who now teaches at Johns Hopkins, recounts her experience of teaching during the heyday of the Islamic revolution there.

A snippet:

Ms. Nafisi and her students themselves discovered ? often after being warned, arrested or in some cases beaten and jailed ? that there were no boundaries between the public and the private in the Islamic Republic of Iran: the government and its morality police told people what they could read, what they could wear, how they should behave. "The colors of my head scarf or my father's tie were symbols of Western decadence and imperialist tendencies," Ms. Nafisi writes.

"Not wearing a beard, shaking hands with members of the opposite sex, clapping or whistling in public meetings were likewise considered Western and therefore decadent, part of the plot by imperialists to bring down our culture." She adds that being accused of being Westernized in Iran in the 1980's could result in years in jail, even execution.

Having grown up in Iran before the mullahs came to power, Ms. Nafisi writes of living in "two different time zones simultaneously." She had grown up in a prominent family (her father had been mayor of Tehran; her mother was one of the first six women elected to Parliament, in 1963), she had been educated in Switzerland and England, and she had lived in the United States. She returned to Iran in the late 1970's, just as the revolution was cresting, and by the time her daughter was born several years later, "the laws had regressed to what they had been before my grandmother's time": the age of marriage was lowered to 9, adultery and prostitution were to be punished by stoning to death, and "women, under law, were considered to have half the worth of men."

Unlike her generation, Ms. Nafisi says, her students did not have a past to compare with the present. "Their memory was of a half-articulated desire, something they had never had. It was this lack, their sense of longing for the ordinary, taken-for-granted aspects of life, that gave their words a certain luminous quality akin to poetry."

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  1. your posts are getting to friggin long nick. just a brief synopsis and the link are fine. how about a little editorial discretion?

  2. I disagree. Keep doing the long posts, Nick. In fact, the longer the better — especially, when the link takes us to the New Yawk Times that wants Name, Rank, Serial Number, DNA, Eye Scan, Fingerprint, and a pint of blood before you can read their article.

    No thanks.

  3. Anon is already registered at the standard sites. Anonymously, of course.

  4. And when they say, “…prostitution and adultery are punishable by stoning to death…” please be aware that by declaring Baha’i weddings invalid, those two immediately became guilty of ‘adultery’ and the wife -excuse me, the woman- guilty further of ‘prostitution’, hence setting up many of the recent deaths of Baha’is in Iran… solely because their Faith is anathema to the clerics! It can’t be ‘the Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future’, because that means they, God’s chosen clerics, are wrong about scoffing and denying our Lord Who redeems us has returned! (II Peter 2:1-5)

    Its a really frightening turn, when the thought-police have that much power, over YOU…

  5. They used to toss virgins into volcanoes, too. Long time ago. I thought we got over that.

  6. I like what Nick wrote, and think it was to the point. Very good. Thanks

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