April 12, 2003


'Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books' by Azar Nafisi (Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post, 4/10/2003)
Under the rule of the mullahs, "life in the Islamic Republic was as capricious as the month of April, when short periods of sunshine would suddenly give way to showers and storms," [Azar Nafisi] writes ...

She decided to continue to teach, but in secret....

"I had explained to them the purpose of the class.... I mentioned that one of the criteria for the books I had chosen was their authors' faith in the critical and almost magical power of literature, and reminded them of the nineteen-year-old Nabokov, who, during the Russian Revolution, would not allow himself to be diverted by the sound of bullets. He kept on writing his solitary poems while he heard the guns and saw the bloody fights from his window. Let us see, I said, whether seventy years later our disinterested faith will reward us by transforming the gloomy reality created of this other revolution."...

To live in the Iran of the mullahs was to be "victims of the arbitrary nature of a totalitarian regime that constantly intruded into the most private corners of our lives and imposed its relentless fictions on us." It was absurdism carried to an absurd degree: "The chief film censor in Iran, up until 1994, was blind" ... The class that Nafisi organized was therefore "an attempt to escape the gaze of the blind censor," a place where "we rediscovered that we were also living, breathing human beings; and no matter how repressive the state became, no matter how intimidated and frightened we were, like Lolita we tried to escape and to create our own little pockets of freedom."...

[Nafisi] is grateful to the Islamic Republic, she says, because it taught her "to love Austen and James and ice cream and freedom."

Submission to tyranny is not peace. Peace is found only in freedom; tyranny is but a perpetual war of the tyrant against the enslaved. This is why Mr. Morrison's "unbridled support for peace" was, in fact, an unbridled support for perpetual war; and why heroines like Azar Nafisi, who resisted tyranny, are the true supporters of peace.
Posted by Paul Jaminet at April 12, 2003 9:35 AM

But she wasn't teaching traditional religious

values! I don't see how you can reconcile

that with your posts yesterday.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 12, 2003 2:16 PM

Harry - can you link to the contrary post? I'm not sure what you're talking about.

Posted by: pj at April 12, 2003 3:12 PM

Orrin's post of 8:57 yesterday and subsequent


(Sorry, if I start learning to use the capabilties

of the computer, I will be given more work to

do, and I have plenty already.)

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 12, 2003 9:22 PM

Harry - Freedom is a Christian value. She's teaching it. Ergo, I'm pleased.

P.S. - I reserve the right to hold views inconsistent with Orrin's.

Posted by: pj at April 12, 2003 10:12 PM

It is now, sort of, when no stress is applied,

but it didn't use to be. If you think it is, try

asking for an accounting from the Cardinal-

Archbishops of Boston or Los Angeles.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 14, 2003 10:41 PM