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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books | [Azar Nafisi]

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. They were all former students whom she had taught at university. Some came from conservative and religious families; others were progressive and secular; several had spent time in jail.
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Publisher's Summary

For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. They were all former students whom she had taught at university. Some came from conservative and religious families; others were progressive and secular; several had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they began to open up and to speak more freely, not only about the novels they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Their stories intertwined with those they were reading, Pride and Prejudice, Washington Square, Daisy Miller, and Lolita, their Lolita, as they imagined her in Tehran.

Nafisi's account flashes back to the early days of the revolution, when she first started teaching at the University of Tehran amid the swirl of protests and demonstrations. In those frenetic days, the students took control of the university, expelled faculty members and purged the curriculum. When a radical Islamist in Nafisi's class questioned her decision to teach The Great Gatsby, which he saw as an immoral work that preached falsehoods of "the Great Satan", she decided to let him put Gatsby on trial and stood as the sole witness for the defense.

Azar Nafisi's luminous tale offers a fascinating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from Tehran and gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women's lives in revolutionary Iran. It is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, written with a startlingly original voice.

©2003 Azar Nafisi; (P)2004 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

"This book transcends categorization as memoir, literary criticism, or social history, though it is superb as all three." (Publishers Weekly)
"Nafisi's determination and devotion to literature shine through, and her book is an absorbing look at primarily Western classics through the eyes of women and men living in a very different culture." (Booklist)
"Remarkable...an eloquent brief on the transformative power of fiction." (The New York Times)
"A spirited tribute both to the classics of world literature and to resistance against oppression." (Kirkus Reviews)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.7 (557 )
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3.8 (211 )
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  •  
    Jeanne Laguna Woods, CA, United States 11-26-05
    Jeanne Laguna Woods, CA, United States 11-26-05 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    215
    4
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    Overall
    "Well worth it!"

    This book is a combination of literary criticism, personal history and cultural insight. I learned so much about Iran and its recent history through the lives of the individuals I met, as well as by looking at western literature through Persian eyes. And that in itself taught me something about western literature and culture. I was sorry to get to the end of the book.

    The narrator was pleasant, unobtrusive.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diana Kamuela, HI, United States 09-25-05
    Diana Kamuela, HI, United States 09-25-05 Member Since 2013

    I find a reason to laugh everyday!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    76
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    204
    17
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    1
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    Overall
    "A feast for literature fans"

    I read just about every work referenced in the book so it was extra enjoyable. I almost felt part of the reader's group. I feel I understand that ancient part of the world a little better. I read it last year and still think about it regularly. Haunting. I'm thinking about reading it again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tracy New Boston, NH, USA 08-19-05
    Tracy New Boston, NH, USA 08-19-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    2
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    "fantastic book"

    Fascinating look into Iranian life.
    I had never been interested in reading the classics before listening to this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly Huntersville, NC, USA 07-26-05
    Kimberly Huntersville, NC, USA 07-26-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    "Not what I expected..."

    I couldn't get past the first hour of this book. I have never abandoned an audiobook before, but this was painful. Within the first hour, the author had rehashed the same information over and over again, until I finally retreated. Normally I love the little details of a story, but her attention to detail went above and beyond the normal. I was so disappointed as I had heard good things about this book.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hilary New York, NY, USA 06-15-05
    Hilary New York, NY, USA 06-15-05
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Feel like being back in college"

    A well written book. I liked the parts about Iran, but I found the literary criticism and analysis very tedious. It felt like being back in school. . . If you are going to read this book, you should first be sure to read the books that she weaves into the story, Lolita, Gatsby, etc.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emmy Mandeville, LA, USA 06-14-05
    Emmy Mandeville, LA, USA 06-14-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    38
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    25
    11
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    "Enjoyable, but hard to get into."

    For some reason I found the beginning of this so slow. It was just introductions of people, descriptions of places, and some basic history. Necessary, but kind of boring. It does get better, eventually, but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people have trouble wih the first hour or so.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pam Virginia, USA 05-19-05
    Pam Virginia, USA 05-19-05 Listener Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    54
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    134
    8
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    Overall
    "Better than a dry history"

    Not knowing much about Iran, I feel I learned alot about the Iranian people and the revolution from this book. Nafisi weaves a great narrative with personal stories about herself and her friends and students. I personally could have done with less of the literary review that was omnipresent and a bit detailed at times. I agree with another reviewer that the narrator's voice gives life to the story, but her accent (it was almost pretentious in the pronounciation) did get a little grating toward the end. Definitely worth a listen if you want to know more about life in Iran for almost two decades after the revolution.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cyrus USA 01-30-05
    Cyrus USA 01-30-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    1
    1
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    0
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    Overall
    "Not really relevant to Iran"

    I have to agree with the article in the Washington Post entitled "Sorry, Wrong Chador": this book has very little to do with Iran today, and is really about Nafisi herself.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    benefit NC 04-05-10
    benefit NC 04-05-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    59
    8
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    Overall
    "Riveting...great reader"

    This is a feast of an audio book with a terrific reader--one of the best ever--and a spellbinding story. Fascinating from cultural, literary, and philosophical standpoints. We were spellbound. The author really knows how to tell a story...and so does the reader.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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