Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books

Version: Unabridged
Author: Azar Nafisi
Narrator: Lisette Lecat
Genres: Biography & Memoir
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published In: May 2004
# of Units: 16 CDs
Length: 14 hours
Ratings:
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Overview

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.

Azar Nafisi's luminous tale offers a fascinating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from Tehran and gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women's lives in revolutionary Iran. It is a work of great passion and poetic beauty, written with a startlingly original voice.

Reviews (21)

lost me--and I teach lit

Written by DF on August 7th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 2/5

The title is engaging--the idea of reading one of the world's most banned and controversial works of literature in a city and country known for religious repression. Nafisi makes the irony of that clear, and shows the daily price of being a woman, an intelligent and cultured woman, in a repressive patriarchal culture. Still, Nafisi is no Nabokov. The writing becomes flat, repetitive, and self absorbed. I quit listening half way through.

Reading Lolita in Iran

Written by Jo on July 7th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 3/5

Listening to this book was better for me than trying to read it. It is very relevent with what is going on in the world and although it's not quite a "page turner" it gives you insight into the lives that others are living.

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Written by Rev4horses on May 6th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This book should be mandatory for citizen of earth

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Written by Anonymous on September 8th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This was a great book and the narrator added to the enjoyment. As with The Kite Runner, I felt that the narrator actually added to my enjoyment of the book.

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Written by Anonymous on August 23rd, 2008

  • Book Rating: 3/5

Although this book painted an excellent picture of the denial of rights under an oppressive Islamic regime, it was long and often tedious. If you are are not a "fanatic finisher", I bet most will not make it entirely through this selection.

Reading Yawnita in Galena

Written by Peggy Stortz on April 13th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 2/5

First off I must admit I only listened to two of the sixteen CD's of this audio book. However, it is very, very rare for me to not listen to an entire book so the fact I couldn't bear to hear anymore is review enough. I found my mind wandering and I had to keep rewinding to catch what I missed. Tiring and tedious. Skip this one.

Excellent...

Written by Diana from Gig Harbor, WA on June 2nd, 2007

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Excellent, troubling and touching. At first hard to understand the narrator's voice. But if you just stick with it for a bit, you catch on to her style. But beyond the narrative, excellent and poignant book. I felt sad and yet felt a strange kinship with these women. I really wanted them to lash out and be heard. So sad because I feel that as bad as these women are treated, I know there are women treated much more poorly in other countries. We are very blessed to live in this country.

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Written by Sally More on February 25th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

A very powerful and moving portrait of the impact of religious fanaticism on women's lives in Iran. However, the discussions about various works of literature were interminable at times (to me, as I had not read all of them, and certainly not in the last 10 yrs.) I understand that Nafisi used these works to parallel much of what was occurring in Iran, but it dragged. Also, the reader was slow-- I wanted her to put some passion and speed into many of the passages, instead, she droned on in a somewhat stilted voice. Still, I recommend the selection.

Not for everyone

Written by Anonymous on February 17th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Overall, I liked the book. The interwoven classical literature narrative enhanced the book for me. However, as the book went on I found it crawled to a conclusion. The book could have probably been a little more concise. Also, the narrator reeks of arrogance. Her contrived intellectual superiority put me off and made me dislike her at times. That she is highly educated is apparent; nonetheless, she makes no bones about touting it. With that said, the book was good.

READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN

Written by Anonymous on January 5th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Although very long, this was well worth the month plus dedicated to listening. Insightful, literary and historical. I have a new reading list due to the many references in the book. I have a greater appreciation for a culture I did not understand and the impacts (of that culture) on multiple generations of women in and from Iran.

Author Details

Author Details

Nafisi, Azar

Azar Nafisi is a professor at Johns Hopkins University. She won a fellowship from Oxford and taught English literature at the University of Tehran, the Free Islamic University and Allameh Tabatabai University in Iran. She was expelled from the University of Tehran for refusing to wear the veil and left Iran for America in 1997. She has written for "The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal "and" The New Republic," and is the author of "Anti-Terra: A Critical Study of Vladimir Nabokov's Novels," She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children.