Reading Lolita in Tehran is a memoir of books read by Literature professor Azar Nafisi’s literature class during the revolution (1978-1981) up until her departure in 1997. Divided into four sections “Lolita”, “Gatsby”, “James”, and “Austen”, this memoir explores the lives of the students in a private literature class and the books that brought them all together. This is an inspired blend of memoir and literary criticism, and a moving look at the power of art and its ability to change and improve people’s lives.
I really enjoyed this book; the blend of literary criticism and memoir was really what hooked me. I especially loved the first part that focused on Lolita and the themes of oppression, authority figures trying to assert their dominance through events and a runaway convict. It was just an interesting insight from these Iranian students. It really made me want to read Lolita again and try to see what more I can get out of the book; luckily for me I might get that chance soon with the Literary Exploration book club.
I didn’t feel as strong of a connection with the other parts of this book, but I think I was just blown away by the insights into Lolita that the others didn’t have the same impact. The Great Gatsby looked at dreams and adultery all from the Iranian prospective. While Gatsby is about the American dream it was interesting to see it from a totalitarian mindset. James looks at some works of Henry James during the time of the Iran-Iraq war and the government who wants to control the liberal-minded. Lastly Austin looks at Jane Austin novels as well as the idea of abusive husbands, blindness and empathy.
This book comes together really well; you get to know these Iranian students and as well as explore some interesting ideas about the books from a perspective completely different to your own. While I would have preferred more literary criticism, I really got a lot of joy from reading this. There is a strong feminist theme throughout this book (since most of the students were women) that I suspect was the main draw card for many of the female readers of this book, and rightly so, this was an interesting look at these women. But for me, it was all about the books