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Reading Azar Nafisi's "Reading Lolita In Tehran" - My Thoughts

This is not exactly a review but a bunch of thoughts I had when reading Azar Nafisi's brilliant Non - fiction, "Reading Lolita in Tehran". I am not exactly a fan of non - fiction and rarely do I pick up heavy books - that make you think about the world that you live in. But this book was one of the suggestions that popped up on Goodreads since I d read two non fictions - John by Cynthia Lenon and Wonderful Tonight by Pattie Boyd recently.



Photo Credit - http://azarnafisi.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/book_lolita.jpg

Honestly, I am the person that judges a book by its cover and the title (Midnight's Children taught me not to do this but old habits die hard right?). So the title stuck me the most and I had to, had to read it. It sounded intelligent, devoid of conventions and fell into the "rules defying" category of sorts. Even with me being an ambivert, the idea of defying rules amuses me. This is why I figured , I had to add this to my reading challenge (oh I have taken two challenges - one on goodreads and one I found on 9gags for the year. Since my professional life is busy and there is nothing flourishing in my personal life, I have resorted to books. I feel like a heroine from a chick flick ! Or probably a sidekick .. But whatever lets stick to the book now). So here are some thoughts I came across in the book that felt very interesting to me.


1. Nafisi's Feminist opinions
Ms. Nafisi comes off as a natural intellect who is not afraid to spread and force her opinions onto others but in a good way. How can forcing opinions be good, one might ask. Because her opinions seemed very right to the situations she and her countrymen were going through. And because, I have recently found out that I am a staunch feminist and her opinions reflected mine. In Iran, when the so-called "revolution" took place under the leadership of Ruhollah Khomeini, women were forced to cover themselves and operate behind their veils. And therefore, Nafisi's feminist opinions did seem right to me in the context of the book.

2. Captivated Thoughts
I wish Nafisi were my English lecturer. I would have definitely finished that book I have been writing in mediocre english for the past two years! She was the sort of professor who would encourage everyone - even the shy ones to talk out loud what their thoughts on their subject novels were. Inspite of it being a male- chavunist economny (they actually jailed girl children that they thought "tempted" men with their one lose strand of hair or that one birth mark on their hands), Nafisi encouraged her book club to read such novels as Lolita which were banned at the time in their country. These small group of girls she had chosen for literary discussions would give wings to their captivated thoughts while at Nafisi's club. The way each of them form their own opinions around the characters, the books, the authors is very inspiring. Even at such young ages, they come across as little women who could give fodder for thoughts to any political leader in their country.

3. The pleasure of reading 
I know back in the 80s nobody could access the internet like we do today. But I dont think this is why the author explored the pleasure of reading ! Nafisi takes us through such turbulent, traumatic experiences of her own in the war-fed Tehran. I dont think I would be able to find the beauty in reading if I were in such a place (god forbid!). The woman finds peace in reading books and it kind of gives you all pleasant emotions to read how beautifully comforting it is for one to read in such situations. She takes us through so many novels - those kinds that you wouldnt possibly want to read in an already busy and soul sucking life (yours is not? Ok well.. Only mine then ! ). I would have never thought analyzing characters of a book would be such a fun activity.

4. Observing people to see if they match any of the characters of the book you read 

Yeah ! This happens . When I first watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S (which is called "Best Friends Forever" by Comedy Central India. WHY CC WHY would you ruin such a perfect title for us?) or Desperate Housewives or even Two and a Half Men, I could somehow find a piece of the characters in the people near and dear to me (also in those that werent so near and dear to me). So when I saw how Naifisi could relate the characters from her books to the people around her, it kind of made me realize that I miss that ! I want to read and analyze like Nafisi does. Thats the goal!

5. Tea and Turkish Coffee
I love caffeine in all its forms (except for Latte). I love the way Nafisi describes how important tea is to them, how it s a piece of tradition to them to have tea in all important occasions. I wanted to drink tea whenever there was a reference in the book about tea. Such powerful was the quality of Nafisi's prose.

She also describes her mother's Turkish tea in two different scenes and I really want to try this out now. I have a lot of traveling goals for my life (man life is short!) and now I have added Turkey to my list because I want to try their coffee.

6. How narrow-mindedness can actually deprive one of the happiness around them
There is a mock trial in this book. The Republic of Iran vs The Great Gatsby. It is so intense. There is one student (most of the students in his class siding by him) who has problem with Nafisi discussing Gatsby book. He has a notion that this corrupts minds. This American culture is very wrong and opposite to their beliefs. How one love story was made a political drama - is the crux of this trial. I was amazed to see how these young minds were actually making Gatsby look like a Machiavellian novel - how they made the characters look so evil, to see them dissect the characters and present them as pieces of cultural mockery! It disturbed me on certain levels. Because this is how your mind works when you are oppressed to such a level that you start thinking that regressive ideas are the solutions to every problem!

7. Earth is a pale blue dot 

Sometimes we get so caught up with our lives that even small problems are amplified to the degree that they scare us. After reading this novel and having been introduced to a nation , starved of proper idols and obsessed with the self-righteous ones, It made me think that the earth is a pale blued dot after all. We all have highs and we all have lows but unless everything is controlled by a bunch of political outfits, we are fine. Damn Nafisi! Got me all philosophical (but seriously thank you Azar Nafisi, for a wonderful ride down a poetic lane ).



Photo Credits - http://img.saraivaconteudo.com.br/Clipart/Images/20100810_AzarNafisi_0005_Saraiva.jpg

Here are some of the very powerful quotes from the book - 

1."Our world in that living room with its window framing my beloved Elburz Mountains became oursanctuary, our self-contained universe, mocking the reality of black-scarved, timid faces in the city that sprawled below"

2. "Is it possible to write a reverent novel", said Nassrin,"and to have it be good? Besides, thecontract with the reader is that this is not reality, its an invented world. There must be some blastedspace in life", she added crossly,"where we can be offensive, for Gods sake".

3. "The highest form of morality is not to feel at home in ones own home."

4. "It is amazing how everything can fall into a routine"

5. "And so began the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran versus The Great Gatsby"

6. "One can believe James's claim to an "imagination of disaster"; so many of his protagonists are unhappy in the end, and yet he gives them an aura of victory. It is because these characters depend on such high degree on their own sense of integrity that for them, victory has nothing to do with happiness. It has more to do with a settling within oneself, a movement inward that makes them whole"


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