We all have dreamsthings we fantasize about doing and generally never get around to. This is the story of Azar Nafisis dream and of the nightmare that made it come true.
For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. They were all former students whom she had taught at university. Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular; several had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they began to open up and to speak more freely, not only about the novels they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Their stories intertwined with those they were readingPride and Prejudice, Washington Square, Daisy Miller and Lolitatheir Lolita, as they imagined her in Tehran.
Nafisis account flashes back to the early days of the revolution, when she first started teaching at the University of Tehran amid the swirl of protests and demonstrations. In those frenetic days, the students took control of the university, expelled faculty members and purged the curriculum. When a radical Islamist in Nafisis class questioned her decision to teach The Great Gatsby, which he saw as an immoral work that preached falsehoods of "the Great Satan," she decided to let him put Gatsby on trial and stood as the sole witness for the defense.
Azar Nafisis luminous tale offers a fascinating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from Tehran and gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of womens lives in revolutionary Iran. It is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, written with a startlingly original voice.
USA Today - Stephen J. Lyons
..an inspiring account of an insatiable desire for intellectual freedom in Iran before, during and after the 1979 revolution that ... began a period of fervent anti-Americanism in the country.
The New York Times - Michiku Kakutani.
... an eloquent brief on the transformative powers of fiction — on the refuge from ideology that art can offer to those living under tyranny, and art's affirmative and subversive faith in the voice of the individual.
The Washington Post - Jonathan Yardley
The story of the nymphet Lolita and her guardian/rapist Humbert Humbert strikes different chords in different places, thus reminding us of the limitless power of literature ...
Booklist - Kristine Huntley
Nafisi's determination and devotion to literature shine through, and her book is an absorbing look at primarily Western classics through the eyes of women and men living in a very different culture.
This book transcends categorization as memoir, literary criticism or social history, though it is superb as all three. Nafisi has produced an original work on the relationship between life and literature.
And, without once sinking into sentimentality or making overly large claims for the relative might of the pen over the sword, Nafisi celebrates the power of literature to nourish free thought in climes inhospitable to it.
Geraldine Brooks, author of Nine Parts of Desire
It is at once a celebration of the power of the novel and a cry of outrage at the reality in which these women are trapped. The ayatollahs don’t know it, but Nafisi is one of the heroes of the Islamic Republic.
Her memoir contains important and properly complex reflections about the ravages of theocracy, about thoughtfulness, and about the ordeals of freedom.
Bernard Lewis, author of What Went Wrong?
A memoir about teaching Western literature in revolutionary Iran, with profound and fascinating insights into both. A masterpiece.
Jacki Lyden, National Public Radio, author of Daughter of the Queen of Sheba
... mesmerizingly, she reveals the shimmering worlds she created in those classrooms, inside a revolution that was an apogee of kitsch and cruelty. You will be taken inside a culture, and on a journey, that you will never forget.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Daniel Sure Dry, But Great For Understading Although I must admit that this book is rather dry and I missed some journal deadlines for my High School class by nearly a week, it is a great book for gaining valuable insight into the tyranny the people of Iran have had to live through, and... Read More
Rated of 5
by Jenny Hard and dry reading I had to read this book for an English class in college and I didn't like it at all. I could never get into the readings or the stories she told. It's just not what I would consider a decently written memoir. We also had to read the Complete... Read More
Rated of 5
by Jack Terrible If you want to die of boredom read this book. It takes months to read, and it's so dry and confusing. Seriously it's about a book club. Who would read a book about a book club? This author is a disgrace!
Rated of 5
by Umanach Reality These books are not clearly understood by those who did not live in Iran , That was life for many Iranian men and women after revoloution, it was not big deal; people gave their lives for freedom that never made it off the ground. Reading behind... Read More
Rated of 5
by Tom Berman Awful This was one of the worst books I have ever read. Nafisi continuously tries to impress the reader of her knowledge of literature. This attmept loses the reader in a meaningless void of names. Her style is wordy and impossible to like.
Rated of 5
I was extremely surprised when I read of even ONE person who was disappointed with this book (although if someone didn't understand the basis of this novel, I can see how they would be confused). The author's poignant prose actually reads like... Read More
From one of Irans most acclaimed and controversial contemporary writers, his first novel to appear in Englisha dazzlingly inventive work of fiction that opens a revelatory window onto what its like to live, to love, and to be an artist in todays Iran.
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