Other books byAzar Nafisi
Reading Lolita in Tehran
A Memoir in Books
Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Azar Nafisi, a bold and inspired teacher, secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. Some came from conservative and religious families, others were progressive and secular; some had spent time in jail. They were shy and uncomfortable at first, unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they removed their veils and began to speak more freely–their stories intertwining with the novels they were reading by Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, as fundamentalists seized hold of the universities and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the women in Nafisi’s living room spoke not only of the books they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Azar Nafisi’s luminous masterwork gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women’s lives in revolutionary Iran. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny, and a celebration of the liberating power of literature.
My Uncle Napoleon
The most beloved Iranian novel of the twentieth century “God forbid, I’ve fallen in love with Layli!” So begins the farce of our narrator’s life, one spent in a large extended Iranian family lorded over by the blustering, paranoid patriarch, Dear Uncle Napoleon. When Uncle Napoleon’s least-favorite nephew falls for his daughter, Layli, family fortunes are reversed, feuds fired up and resolved, and assignations attempted and thwarted. First published in Iran in the 1970s and adapted into a hugely successful television series, this beloved novel is now “Suggested Reading” in Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran. My Uncle Napoleon is a timeless and universal satire of first love and family intrigue.
In 1956, Inge Morath (1923-2002) traveled to the Middle East for Holiday magazine. She wore the traditional chador and traveled alone most of the time. "It was difficult to photograph there as a woman," she later recorded. In this body of work, Morath's subjects range from politics and religion to work and commerce, from the shah's palace to the nomad's tent to Zoroaster's sacred shrine. She photographed Iran with the keen vision of an anthropologist, examining religious rituals, costuming, work, sport, music, art and theater in order to document "the continuity--or lack of it--between past and present," as she later put it. Morath's work in Iran presaged her later work in Spain, China and Russia, creating an extensive document of the clash between modernity and tradition in the postwar Middle East. Retrospectively, Inge Morath: Iran recalls a land and a culture that have been profoundly transformed since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. It is a window into the past that provides a singular and timely perspective on Iran in the present.