Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran- Azar Nafisi
Reading Around the World- Iran

I picked this book up a couple years ago after meeting a few Iranian refugees. In some ways it was a prelude to starting my journey of reading around the world.

I have mixed feelings about the book- there were many things that I learnt about Iranian history, the description of life in Tehran before the Iranian Revolution was a surprise to me (I don’t know much about history but am rectifying that slowly!), the language was often beautiful… I was initially loving it, but most of the bits I liked and found interesting were in the first third. So I became a little disappointed as I read through the rest that it wasn’t as captivating as the start.


This book is about big evil and small mindedness, and little joys and quiet good. It is about change-that happens to you, and that you cause. It is about choice.

None of us can avoid being contaminated by the world’s evils; it’s all a matter of what attitude you take towards them.

It takes courage to die for a cause, but also to live for one.


The veil has been a big topic in the West recently. It is interesting to see that the same discussions were played out in the Middle East years before the question came here- is it a sign of oppression? Should women be allowed to wear? Should they have to wear it? Before the revolution few wore it, they were sometimes disadvantaged by wearing it, but chose to anyway. After everyone had to, and were oppressed if they didn’t. And so there were some who wore by choice, and some because they had to…

She resented the fact that her veil, which to her was a symbol of scared relationship to god, had now become an instrument of power, turning the women who wore them into political signs and symbols.

Finally this book is about literature, and how it can both reflect real life and be an escape from real life.

In all great works of fiction, regardless of the grim reality they present, there is an affirmation of life against the transience of that life, an essential defiance. This affirmation lies in the way the author takes control of reality by retelling it in his own way, thus creating a new world. Every great work of art, I would declare pompously, is a celebration, an act of insubordination against the betrayals, horrors and infidelities of life. The perfection and beauty of form rebels against the ugliness and shabbiness of the subject matter.


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