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Reading "Lolita" in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

by Azar Nafisi | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 081297106x Global Overview for this book
Registered by Germanophile of Litchfield, New Hampshire USA on 5/6/2008
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
5 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Germanophile from Litchfield, New Hampshire USA on Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Hello, and welcome to Bookcrossing, site used by readers all over the world! It’s free, anonymous and a lot of fun. Thanks for entering this book on the website.

Why not become a BookCrossing member? It costs nothing, is Spam-free and as anonymous as you wish to make it when you fill out your profile page. As a member, you can keep track of “your” book again and again; see where it goes and who has it. You’ll be amazed where your books turn up!

If you do decide to join, please give my name, Germanophile, as the person who referred you. Thanks!


"In 1995, after resigning from her job as a professor at a university in Tehran due to repressive policies, Azar Nafisi invited seven of her best female students to attend a weekly study of great Western literature in her home. Since the books they read were officially banned by the government, the women were forced to meet in secret, often sharing photocopied pages of the illegal novels. For two years they met to talk, share, and "shed their mandatory veils and robes and burst into color." Though most of the women were shy and intimidated at first, they soon became emboldened by the forum and used the meetings as a springboard for debating the social, cultural, and political realities of living under strict Islamic rule. They discussed their harassment at the hands of "morality guards," the daily indignities of living under the Ayatollah Khomeini's regime, the effects of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, love, marriage, and life in general, giving readers a rare inside look at revolutionary Iran. The books were always the primary focus, however, and they became "essential to our lives: they were not a luxury but a necessity," she writes.

Threaded into the memoir are trenchant discussions of the work of Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and other authors who provided the women with examples of those who successfully asserted their autonomy despite great odds. The great works encouraged them to strike out against authoritarianism and repression in their own ways, both large and small: "There, in that living room, 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," she writes. In short, the art helped them to survive." (Description from

Journal Entry 2 by Germanophile from Litchfield, New Hampshire USA on Thursday, May 8, 2008
I put off reading this because I was not in the mood for non-fiction, plus I didn't want to pay money for the book. A friend of mine gave this to me after she had read it, and said she didn't want it back, knowing I'm a big BC fan.

I'm glad I read the book. As an American, I have certain skewed views of Iran and the whole culture there. This gave me new insights into what was going on back there in that era. My mother was a university professor; I can't imagine her losing her job because she taught "forbidden" literature or because she was a woman. I found Prof. Nafisi to be very brave.

I also enjoyed the way she wrote. She has lived in the US for almost 30 years, and English is her second language, but her style of writing is different than a native-born American. The language is sometimes very poetic, very rich. I'm not explaining it well at all.

I'm going to see if I can share this with other readers.

Journal Entry 3 by Germanophile from Litchfield, New Hampshire USA on Thursday, May 8, 2008
I offered this book to German BookCrossers, and several signed up. No takers on the American side - oh, well, better luck next time.

So, here's the list of happy participants:

1. schwester in Darmstadt
2. RickiDD in Dresden
3. Perezoso in Eppelheim (Yay, Baden!)
4. Leseschaf in Bonn
5. DeNani in Regensburg

I have no control over the book once it leaves New Hampshire, but I'd ask that you try to finish within 3 weeks. If you have problems, please contact the next participant. I'm just here to keep the list up to date.

Mailing this out on Friday, 9 May 2008.

Journal Entry 4 by Germanophile from Litchfield, New Hampshire USA on Friday, May 9, 2008
The book leaves New Hampshire today @ High Noon on 9 May, addressed to schwester in Darmstadt, Germany. Please make a journal entry when you get the book.

Happy reading!

Hey, is that New Hampshire state flag cool or what?

Journal Entry 5 by wingschwesterwing from Wien Bezirk 03 - Landstraße, Wien Austria on Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Came back from some days in the Austrian mountains, and this book waited for me in Darmstadt. Thanks a lot! It´ll be the next book I read.

Some ideas while still reading:

The blind censor for television - great!

Then the age for a girl marrying was changed: from 18 to 9!!!!!!!! Unbelieveable.

p 71, translating the works of Ayatollah Khomeini..."Did you know that one way to cure a man´s sexual appetites is by having sex with animals? And then there´s the problem of sex with chickens. You have to ask yourself if a man who has had sex with a chicken can then eat the chicken afterwards. Our leader has provided us with an answer: No, neither he nor his immediate family or next-door neighbors can eat of that chicken´s meat, but it´s okay for the neighbor who lives two doors away." What could I possibly add to that one?!

p160, the Iran-Iraq-war: ",,Attention! Attention! This is the alarm. Please go to your shelters...,, Shelters? What shelters? Never once during the eight years of war did the government create a cohesive program for the safety and security of its citizens."

p161, " Our ambivalent attitude towatds the war mainly stemmed from our ambivalence towards the regime. In those first air raids against Tehran, a house in the affluent part of the city was hit. It was rumored that its basement had been occupied by anti-government guerrillas. Hashemi Rafsanjani, then speaker of the Parliament, in an effort to appease the friegtened population, claimed in a Friday prayer ceremony that the bombing so far had done no real harm, as its victims were the ,,arrogant rich and subversives,,, who probably would have been executed sooner or later anyway. He also reccommended that women dress properly when sleeping, so that if their houses were hit, they would not be ,,indecently exposed to strangers´eyes,,."

p180: ",,Whoever fights monsters,, Nietzsche had said ,,should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you,,"

p200: "One such slogan I particularly liked: A WOMAN IN A VEIL IS PROTECTED LIKE A PEARL IN AN OYSTER SHELL."

The book was sometimes hard to concentrate on, especially with the lots of students appearing and re-appearing in the plot. And I´m lacking a bit of literature studies to fully be able to follow the story line, I think. Nevertheless, it was a very interesting read and taught me something about the Islamic Republic (and) Iran.

Qantaqa just gave birth to a rather new human being and wrote in the German Forum we should contact the next on the list if she was to get a ring or ray. So that´s what I did - and the next stop for the book will be Dresden. (in the mail - June 13th)

Journal Entry 6 by RikkiDD from Dresden, Sachsen Germany on Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The book found its way into my hands, finally. I will write soon more about it, as soon as I finished reading.
edit 01. July 2008
It is a book which really touches you.
It was interesting to read about all those women who didn't want to adopt with the situation and although wearing the veil or chador the didn't stop thinking and doing whatever they can to change their situation.

There is one statement I want to chare:
- He (Hashemi Rafsanjani) also recommended that women dress properly when sleeping, so that if their home were hit (during the war with Iraque), they would not be "indecently exposed to strangers' eyes".

It was a good look inside a culture and country which is so far away and has a complete different mentality.

Journal Entry 7 by RikkiDD at Controlled Release, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Released 15 yrs ago (7/30/2008 UTC) at Controlled Release, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases



The book is on its way to the next reader

Journal Entry 8 by perezoso from Rauenberg, Baden-Württemberg Germany on Tuesday, August 26, 2008
2 aspects to this bbok.
First of all I was interested about life in Iran under the regime. My neighbour had to leave Iran some 20 years ago and that was one of the reasons I was interested in this book. I liked that part. Hearing about life there and especially the big change to Iran as it was before the regime, what this means to the people there and why they are not just leaving.

The second is the reading part. That was the part I didn't really enjoy. It felt like in school when we had to interpret books and poems. What for, why can't you just enjoy without always trying to find a deeper meaning.

As Leseschaf doesn't want to read the book anymore and DeNani is on vacation the book will stay with me for another few days.

Journal Entry 9 by deNani from Regensburg, Bayern Germany on Monday, September 22, 2008
Back again from my vacation and really looking forward to this book...

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