This month’s selection, Reading Lolita in Tehran, was chosen as a follow-up piece to the August selection of Lolita.
I had read this book eight years ago, and was looking forward to a light reread. No such thing with this book. The author undertook a brave assignment–self-guided– to secretly teach eight students from her former classes at the university in Iran where she taught. They came to her house, and they read and discussed western literature—banned in Iran.
At first I was confused which girl was which. But early on Nafisi describes each one, so I made a little sketch of the group, and that helped . . .
She centered her course using four authors and novels—Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; Henry James’ Daisy Miller; and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
The author intertwines the literary discussions with the real lives of these young women of Iran around the year 1995. It would be difficult to separate the two actually. How could anyone discuss the marriage prospects of a fictitious young woman in Austen’s England with a very real girl in the room who is being forced into an unwanted marriage?
The mood of the book is sad but hopeful. These girls are taking big risks in attending the little classes at Nafisi’s home.
It’s almost a byline that the discussions of narrative and character of the books studied are intriguing. One doesn’t want to stop reading. Nafisi is a good guide for us through the four novels selected.
The book was printed in 2003–and is probably as fresh now as it was then.
Next month——–Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.