Monday, May 3, 2010

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Published: 2003
Pages: 380
Genre: Memoir
Azar Nafisi is an English literature professor who lived in Iran during the time of its revolution. Expelled from her job at the university because she refused to wear the veil, Azar rounded up seven of her female university students and started a discussion group with them. Every Thursday, they gather to talk about the works of many popular authors and how the novels relate to their lives as women in Iran.
I'm not a usual reader of memoirs, so I was curious and somewhat excited to delve into this genre. I started this book with the assumption that I would be enjoying it very much, considering it's written by an English literature professor. I'm sad to say, though, that Reading Lolita in Tehran didn't live up to my personal expectations.

I must say that the summary (including the one I've written above) is a tad misleading. I thought that Azar's reading group would be the main focus of the novel, and as the reader we would be granted special access to sit there and observe the discussions going on. To a certain extent this was true - there were multiple instances where I got to read about the connections between Austen and the women's personal lives; between Nabokov and the Iranian revolution. But the bulk of the novel centered on the political turmoil going on, which is a topic that I don't enjoy to read about.

That being said, I also felt that it would have been useful to have a bit of Iranian history knowledge before attempting to read this book. Because I have none whatsoever, I consistently felt lost and confused! I skimmed through almost all of the passages about politics, which is a shame because that is what gives this book its foundation. I almost feel like doing some research about this topic and then picking up this book again, because I didn't fully grasp it and I really, really want to. Without a doubt, Reading Lolita in Tehran has potential - but not everyone will be able to appreciate it.

Recommendation: For those who are familiar with the politics going on in Iran, you'd be able to enjoy the book for sure. If you aren't a fan of non-fiction/memoirs and are not interested in this topic, I don't suggest you read it.


Aths said...

I'm sorry you couldn't enjoy this as much as you wished. But I totally get your point. It's hard keeping up with the political happenings in one's own country, much less another one. I am no biggie in Iranian politics, but Marjane Satrapi's books gave me a good insight. Plus, Zahra's Paradise is another good resource.

I just got this book recently, and am eager to dive in. I'll however keep your review in mind, while I read it, so that I know what the book is about.

Good review!

Juju at Tales of said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Juju at Tales of said...

Thank you for the honest review. I'm sure I would have been lost too.

Anonymous said...

I tried to read this book, but reading "Lolita" in Teheran was just a reason to show a pose "I was kicked out from the post of university lecturer and I'm going to start a revolution". Too little on literature, too much on politics.

Nymeth said...

I can see your point, Emidy. Having read a few other books on Iran before this one did help me appreciate it more.

Emidy said...

Aths - Haha, I'm not into politics at all! But you might like Reading Lolita in Tehran. In the end, it's a good book.

Juju - Honesty is always good!

lisksiazkowy - That's exactly how I feel. There isn't enough about literature, in my opinion.

Nymeth - I should have done that! I'm sure I would've liked it a lot more.

Mrs. DeRaps said...

I've also read this book and felt a bit disconnected from it. But, I think my problem was more from not having read much Nabokov. This was a challenging book, and not in a good way.

Emidy said...

That's another thing that I was going to mention! I found it hard to follow the book because I haven't read most of the books that she talked about.

Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

Eh, I'm sorry this wasn't exactly what you were expecting, but at least you finished it! It's definitely not my type of book (Iran politics = ick, sorry. I'm shallow.), but thanks for the great review. :)

Emidy said...

Jenn - Yes, I'm glad I finished it! I don't usually start a book and not read til the end.