Reading Lolita in Tehran
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"We all have dreams - things we fantasize about doing and
generally never get around to. This is the story of Azar
Nafisi's 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 reading - Pride and Prejudice, Washington Square,
Daisy Miller and Lolita - their Lolita, as they imagined
her in Tehran." Nafisi's 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 Nafisi's
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.
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