The book not only talks of life in Iran but also showcases the immense talent of the writer, Azar Nafisi as a teacher and critic.
The book weaves a magnificient plot co-relating the disastrous changes in Iran to the fictions of Nabokov, Fitzgerald, Henry James and Jane Austen. These are the authors who Azar admires; she uses their fiction and their protagonists journeys to make sense of the distress and hopelessness she sees around herself. To be honest, my modernistic tastes of fast paced fiction, always made me avoid most of these authors except of course, Jane Austen and Fitzgerald. Azar Nafisi made me realize their importance.
Azar and her chosen students (all women) meet every Thusday at her home to discuss the books in secret as they are banned in Iran. This is their only time of respite from a strict regime, the only time they let their dreams and imagination spirit them away from a country marred by religous fervor and war.
Time and again Nafisi enumerates the significance of fiction in cultivating empathy and creating a magical and imaginative world that helps us live through our present dilemmas. For me, the most telling idea was iterated in the following lines, where she discusses Lolita’s case in the book by Nabokov:
Lolita belongs to a category of victims who have no defense and are never given a chance to articulate their own story. As such, she becomes a double victim: not only her life but her life story is taken from her. We told ourselves we were in that class to prevent ourselves from falling victim to this second crime.
Azar Nafisi’s brilliant literary criticism made me read some of the classics mentioned in it ……….amazing!!