Reading Lolita in Tehran–Azar Nafisi

I know, I know.  Every serious reader read this years ago.  I’ve had it on my to-do list for those same years and was recently pushed to move it to the top of the list.

And now was the right time to read it.  I’m in the throes of empty nesting, mid-life crisising, writing and suffering from the anxiety of what that means and does not mean, and thinking a lot about the globe.  Nafisi’s class project, to create an imaginary space where there is freedom, is similar in spirit to the project I began a year ago with this blog.  To recapture my joy of reading and to reclaim an act that had become a chore in the service of my work.

Reading about her “girls” is painful.  Reading about the deaths and the public celebrations of them is not as painful as hearing her scientific observation of them and of her own reactions.  I thank God in all his names that I have never had to live this way.

I love her magician, who helps her discover herself and her mind.  We all need one.

My one complaint is about the cover.  Nasifi is clear that it was an act of rebellion to let random hairs escape.  When the girls were together, they shed their veils.  Veils were for outside, prescribed and prescriptive.  So why do we see so much hair on the two women veiled on the cover?  These women exist nowhere in the book and every time I picked up the book I grimace before I began reading.  Are we, readers in the West, so soft or bigoted that we will not read or buy a book about the kind of repression that effaces/defaces one’s individuality?  We had to make these women individuals?  It’s a small complaint, however, that has more to do, I’m sure, with publishing and its business than the text the cover encloses.  But I can’t stop thinking of the book as a whole.  Its outside should reflect its inside or else it risks becoming itself a repressive veil.

Reading this book made me more conscious of my reading practice and of my freedom to walk through the streets as myself.  And to read uncensored.

Finished 9/14/12

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