Tag Archives: Liberation

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi Title: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
Author: Azar Nafisi
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
ISBN: 978-0812979305
Genre: Non-Fiction, Literature
Pages: 400
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I had wanted to read this book since a very long time. In fact, at one point I even read it till about hundred pages and then just gave it up. Perhaps the time was not right. There are books that need to be read only when you are ready for them and at that time I wasn’t. “Reading Lolita in Tehran” came back to me around a while ago. I had to pick up another copy and start afresh and I did. I now completely see that I was right for it at this time than earlier.

“Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books” is about Azar Nafisi and the classes she taught in her home in Tehran once she quit the university of Tehran. It is not only about this though. It is not about the books they read because they could not read them freely and talk about them. The book goes deeper than that – it is about the Islamic revolution in Iran and how that impacted the lives of women when the Ayatollah came to power.

The author, now living in the US speaks of two decades in Iran as a teacher of American and English literature and how Iran changed drastically after the fall of the Shah. The transformation of Iran is charted through the eyes of the women who come to her house and they learn literature and compare their lives to it, thereby raising pertinent questions. For me this book was an eye-opener of what goes on outside my comfort zone and how in the long run it will impact all of us, whether we see it coming or not.

The insights from the books and parallel to lives are stupendously reached at and just for that I would so strongly recommend this book. The language is simple and yet at times it gets political but that is also because the book is about that and how art imitates life and vice-versa. It is about the relationships she has as a teacher with her students and also as a friend and extending it beyond to knowing who they truly are. All of this happens because of books.

Nafisi’s world is both real and fictitious and with her, so are her students’ lives. You get a glimpse and more about each story and how books shape them at the end of it all. The book is about fiction’s strength to empathize and deal with daily situations, more so when you live in a society that refuses to grant you your rights and there are restrictions at every step.

“Reading Lolita in Tehran” invites all readers to see life differently and to relate them to what you read and how it impacts you on a daily basis. I could not stop reading this one and I regret waiting this long to read it but all said and done it is a book which is not to be missed out on. Better late than never, right?

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Three Women by Rabindranath Tagore

I am scared. I am petrified, in fact and I possibly cannot do this. I for one cannot review Rabindranath Tagore’s works and yet I will write on them because I have just finished reading a brilliant translation by Arunava Sinha (who has earlier translated many a great Bengali works to English).

Having said that, “Three Women” obviously as the title suggests is about three women – the book is actually a collection of three novellas that center around three different women in probably the same time living life in different circumstances. The theme running across “Three Women” is that of love, more particularly extra-marital love. The relationships explored include Bhupati, Charu, Amal (Nashtanir, translated as The Broken Nest, 1901), Sasanka, Sharmila and Urmi (Dui Bon, 1933, Translated as The Two Sisters) and Aditya, Neeraja, and Sarala (Malancha, 1934, Translated as The Garden and the Gardener).

My take on the book is simple: They are beautiful novellas that depict the gradual challenge to these women within the household (antahpur) and the influence of romance (or lack of) on their lives. Each of these stories engage in the woman defying her circumscribed space and personality to face moral and societal dilemmas as Tagore deftly explores the conflicts that such situations throw up.

The stories are more than 80 years old and yet the theme is so relevant even in today’s times. One can sense and see Tagore’s keen sense of awareness as one starts reading these stories – the way he transforms domestic spaces and then emerges the need of the alternate versions of the woman and her self-hood, so to speak.

The stories end conventionally and yet leave you with this sense of wonder – purely because of the writing. Arunava’s translation is worth a mention because he stays true to the original telling (I have a Bengali friend who is blown by his translation) and makes these worlds come alive for us. He shows us the aspect of the multifaceted talent of Tagore. The book captures Tagore in a cusp of a moment of transition, keenly aware of the winds of change for the new woman and yet uneasy about the deeper impact on the familial and societal structures. The careful translation, the choice of inflections and nuances make it an enjoyable read while attempting to remain faithful to the complexity and craftsmanship of the original.

Three Women; Tagore, Rabindranath; Translated by Arunava Sinha; Random House India; Rs. 299