1/04/2008

Reading Lolita in Tehran


Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azir Nafisi

I am getting ready to present this book to one of my book clubs, the one made of mostly of English teachers ( no stress there !) . Buzz from co-workers is , they didn't like it. Which makes me think they didn't " get it". This is how I am going to present ( let me know what you think) :

1)I will pass out a small piece of paper to each member of group. Instructions : " If a religious minded, oppressive, terroristic regime came and shut down our schools, told you that you could no longer work, shop, drive , or leave the house by yourself, what 5 books would buy- quickly !- if these were all the books you had to live with, for the rest of your life - before they closed down all the bookstores."
2)After they write down their 5 books, we will then share with the group. I am hoping some interesting choices will be made. Generate some discussion.
3)Which will lead me into discussing this novel........

........because that is what this book is about. The author is a female college professor , who used to live in Tehran, and she did exactly that. Ran to her local bookstore and bought all the books she could, as they were being shut down. She then decides to defy authority and run a secret book club, made up of some of her former students, where they will meet and discuss forbidden western texts.

Granted ,this novel is uneven. She dwells way too long on her titular book, Lolita, and does not give me as much thought as I want on the others ( and they are some of my faves, Huck Finn, Gatsby). I kept asking myself, why so much on Lolita ? The best I could come up with , is that to her ( a Muslim non-westerner) , maybe Lolita seems the ultimate in Western decadence ( all those tabu topics) , and thus, the ultimate in freedom of expression.

Not a breezy read, but a thought-provoking one. What books would you pick ?

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