Azar Nafisi Is History's Greatest Monster

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Via Arts and Letters Daily comes this story about a Columbia University professor's lonely war against Reading Lolita in Tehran. The popular (boosted big time by interest in the Middle East after 9/11) book, sez Hamid Dabashi, is a spool of orientalism that sends crotches throbbing to invade the old Caliphate.

"By seeking to recycle a kaffeeklatsch version of English literature as the ideological foregrounding of American empire," wrote Mr. Dabashi, "Reading Lolita in Tehran is reminiscent of the most pestiferous colonial projects of the British in India, when, for example, in 1835 a colonial officer like Thomas Macaulay decreed: 'We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect.' Azar Nafisi is the personification of that native informer and colonial agent, polishing her services for an American version of the very same project."

In an interview published on the Web site of the left-wing publication Z Magazine on August 4, Mr. Dabashi went even further, comparing Ms. Nafisi to a U.S. Army reservist convicted of abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. "To me there is no difference between Lynndie England and Azar Nafisi," he told the magazine.

It's an interesting academic tiff (and yet another bit of bad press for Columbia— just what they needed) but does anyone (besides the prof) think Nafisi's book is something other than sympathetic and harmless?

Back in 2003, Chuck Freund reviewed Nafisi's book and Persepolis with an eye to how both books flout the Mullahs.

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  1. That hed is such a lie. Jimmy Carter is history’s greatest monster.

  2. Pfft. Godzilla is history’s greatest monster. Pay attention!

  3. Well, I don’t know about orientalism, but I think it’s pretty sexist to look at a women’s book club that met under extraordinary circumstances with an actual professor of English literature and immediately think, “Dilettante kaffeeklatsch.”

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