Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I finished “Reading Lolita in Teheran” yesterday. What do I think?...I think the author is a really intelligent, passionate woman- a bibliophile to the core. But these same qualities are also her stumbling blocks as a writer.

Basic Storyline: Life for women in Iran changes drastically after the Islamic Revolution; stripped of their rights, cloaked in black these women look to books and literature for an escape to the world beyond reach. Even this is fraught with danger as western literature has been denounced as decadent by the regime. These women get over their anger and resentment and quickly adapt to the new system. They form new friendships, some of them clandestine and learn to enjoy what little freedoms they have. A very human story with an universal appeal.

Azar Nafisi-the author of the said book took the above mentioned storyline, added a PhD dissertation on her favorite books to it, dazzled us with her brilliance and left us quite confounded and confused at the end. We are too caught up in analyzing Nabokov and trying to figure out how Austen is relevant to the sexual politics of the Shiaite clerics in Iran that we forget that is supposed to be a book about the lives of women under a totalitarian regime. Once in a while the true feelings of the writer, her hopes and fears do come out (specially towards the end)but most of the time, the experience was that of reading a text book written by a brilliant mind focused on giving American Universities reading material for their next Liberal Arts course. It also has questions for the inquisitive reader and some suggested reading material at the end– the perfect pretentious novel cum text book…doesn’t get better than that does it.

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