Wednesday, February 13, 2008

BOOK: Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

in their shoes challenge, themed reading challenge

Isn't it interesting how, even if you don't plan it, the books you read go in themes? Reading Reading Lolita in Tehran so soon after Persepolis makes me feel I have just taken a course in Iranian women and the effect of the revolution on their lives. And it certainly makes me appreciate my freedoms and the rights we have to think and live and dream in North America. Added to the Iranian history are the books discussed in Reading: Lolita, The Great Gatsby, Jane Austen's, and Henry James, all of which I have read in just the past year or so (except James').

in 1995, Nafisi started a small discussion group with a few young women after she was fired from her University job as English Literature professor. In the safety of her home they discussed, argued, and dreamed. Nafisi's book is divided into four sections: Lolita, Gatsby, James and Austen, and each section uses those books and authors to parallel and support her discussion of life during the revolution.

There were parts of the books I really liked, most notably the direction comparisons in Austen's books to their lives, and her student's trials and tribulations. There were a lot of big themes and ideas: modern novel, revolution, reformers, democracy, imagination and some sections I am sure my eyes read over but my brain did not comprehend. Nafisi is into 'real literature' and her references and allusions went over my head on many occassions. Her passion and honesty and intelligence come through, and it was a good book, but it was a hard read in that the ideas take some thought and when my poor brain was getting tired, the book dragged. But when I would pick it up full of energy, I would enjoy it. Luckily it was broken into little chapters within the sections, making it easier to pick up and put down.

Here's an interesting post written by doppleganger at 50 books about the famous cover of Reading Lolita in Tehran. I think that post was where I first got the inkling to want to read this book. (I hope I credited that article and post alright)

ps: I need my spellcheck and soon.


  1. Interesting review, radergirl3. You made me realize why the book seemed to drag...heavy books require some brain power!!

  2. I almost read this as a reading group read a couple of years ago but I never could get around to it before it was due back to the library.

    Books like this one do take a lot of brain power, guess I wasn't up for it lol.

  3. trish - It did require some brain power, and I was too tired for that, and it could have been shorter. It was good though.

    tink - I read it in bits and pieces and never in bed, it would have put me to sleep! A classic nonfiction read - good, and interesting, but too much thinking. I like my reading to be lighter I guess, but I'm still glad I read it.

  4. I really enjoyed this book, but as you said, some parts seemed to go over my head. I think in part it was because I was not familiar with all of the literature she discussed in the book. Her book did convince me to add Lolita to my shelves, but I still haven't been able to bring myself to read it. Great review, by the way!

  5. I've got Lolita and Reading Lolita all cued up and ready to go. I didn't know the latter also discussed Gatsby and Austen. I'm not fans of either (never read James), so that makes me nervous.

  6. wendy - Certainly the literature I was familiar with was more interesting,and the James stuff was 2/3 of the way through when I was getting tired of it. But good overall, especially for seeing life in Iran.

    john - I'm not the hugest Austen fan either, but I'd rather read the analysis of her books by people who love it and read so much into it, than read it myself. The Gatsby stuff allowed her to discuss the American dream and how they saw in in Iran, and how the revolutionists used it to show the decadent west. There is not as much about the books as I've made it sound. It was quite philosophical, and that's the stuff that flew over my head.

  7. There were parts of this book I had difficulties with, as well, since I don't read a lot of the type of serious literature the author discussed. but I still enjoyed it very much!

  8. Great review! I'm posting a link on my review to yours - thanks!


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