Nov 16, 2007

Reading Lolita in Tehran

A Memoir in Books
by Azar Nafisi

Reading Lolita in Tehran is about a group of women in Iran who studied and discussed forbidden books with a university teacher in her home. It doesn't really read like a memoir, and was not what I expected. I was picturing an intimate story about the women's lives and interactions with each other, facilitated by their book group. What I got was a bunch of essays on Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James and Jane Austen, with asides to Saul Bellow, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Gustave Flaubert, the Bronte sisters and more; Iranian politics, religion and the oppression of women. Once I let go of my expectations, I did enjoy this book. It gave me a clearer picture of the Iranian perspective and attitudes toward Western culture. I remember thinking to myself at times: well, no wonder they see us that way! (Though I am well aware not all Iranians share the opinons depicted in the book).

My main criticism is that it jumps around a lot, moving from one subject to the next without much warning and going suddenly from the present back to Nafisi's experiences at the beginning of the Revolution. This can get confusing and detract from the focus of the book. Also, it is a bit dry and can make you feel like you're back in school; especially if you are unfamiliar with the books discussed. Due to the many works mentioned in this book, I have added more than a dozen titles to my TBR list, of classic literature I felt guilty for not having read yet!

Rating: 4/5 ........ 356 pages, 2003


More opinions at:
Things Mean a Lot

6 comments:

Literary Feline said...

I enjoyed the more personal stories from this book quite a bit. It was very interesting to me, not being familiar with the culture or Iran's history. I do think not being familiar with some of the books discussed hurt my enjoyment of the book. And like you, I came away from it with a longer wish list. :-) Great review!

Dana said...

You have described my feelings about the book 'to a tee'. Great reveiew!!!. I also enjoyed the mosre personal stories.

Satan himself said...

Seems we are on the same boat :)

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http://notzfromunderground.blogspot.com/
http://booksaretoburn.blogspot.com/

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you describe the book very well, great review! :)

Charlene Martel said...

I liked this book but agree it did jump around quite a bit. For further reading, there is a book called "Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran" by Fatemeh Keshavarz. It gives an alternate view of the culture which is almost exactly the opposite of Azar Nafisi's account.

I am never sure about posting links to others blogs. So, give it a couple of days for my new indexing system to be in place and then you can see what I thought of them too. If you can't wait that long, they are in April of 2007 in the archives :)

Great review!

Jeane said...

Thank you, Charlene! I would appreciate reading another point of view about the same culture. The title makes me think it is a direct reaction to Reading Lolita.