Review: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Azar Nafisi (2003)

For two years, college professor Azar Nafisi conducted a discussion group in secret with former students interested in reading Western literature. Beginning in 1995, after Nafisi had left her position in the University of Tehran for political reasons, and as women’s freedoms were being stripped away, these eight women met once a week to read and discuss the forbidden works of Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jane Austen. These meetings acted as an outlet for their minds and a support group for their souls.

This book is part testament to the condition of women living in Iran during this period of revolution and war, and part literary discussion, especially interesting as these Western literary works are interpreted through the filter of these women’s experience. Reading Lolita in Tehran is also a testament to Nafisi’s love of these books and her desire to share them with her students. It’s effective as both a glimpse into another culture and as a passionate love letter to the art of reading and literary discussion. [****]

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