Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reading Lolita in Tehran

by Azar Nafisi. This is a recounting of a "lady professors" experiences in Iran through the 80's and 90's. As a professor of English literature she exposes her students to "decadent" western novels. Her passion for freedom of opinion and literary expression is contagious and I read every page in wonder that I did not value this much the books which were freely available to me.

It is only when the freedom of choice is removed and thought and opinion are prescribed that one becomes sensitive to the value of reading as transformation.

Here are her thoughts on wearing the veil,
    The issue was not so much the veil itself as freedom of choice. My grandmother had refused to leave the house for three months when she was forced to unveil. I would be similiarly adamant in my own refusal. Little did I know that I would soon be given the choice of either veiling or being jailed, flogged and perhaps killed if I disobeyed. page 152

    A stern ayatollah, a blind and improbable philosopher-king, had decided to impose his dream on a country and a people and to re-create us in his own myopic vision. So he had formulated an ideal of me as a Muslim woman, as a Muslim woman teacher, and wanted me to look, act and in short live according to that ideal. Laleh and I , in refusing to accept that ideal, were taking not a political stance but an existential one. No, I could tell Mr. Bahri, it was not that piece of cloth that I rejected, it was the transformation being imposed on me that made me look in the mirror and hate the stranger I had become. page 165

Christian women also have the right not to be objects molded according to someone else's vision. Is there anything more revolting than the stereotype of "so-called" biblical men and women. When will we remember how Paul nurtured the younger Christians and Phoebe protected and provided for him?


Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, Suzanne. The title interests me as I personally read "Lolita" only a few hundred miles from Tehran, in a neighbouring country which has gone through the unveiling revolution but not the Ayatollahs' counter-revolution. There is still a statue in a central square of a woman throwing off her veil.

Have you read "Daughter of Persia" by Sattareh Farman Farmaian (Bantam Press, 1992)? This is the fascinating story of a woman from a noble Persian family living through all the upheavals of 20th century Iran.

Matthew Celestine said...

I read John Piper's short book on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

What bothered me was that it seemed like the conclusion of a book, with the preceding chapters missed out.

John Piper had defined what he understood by the concepts of biblical gender without even giving the reasons he had defined them in that way.

I am not sure that his definitions were wrong, but the lack of argumentation was very unfortunate.

I am very uncomfortable with the drive to promote some sort of 'Biblical masculinity' and attacks on Christian men being 'wimps'. I fear the very radical Christian virtues of gentleness, patience and humility may be undermined in the drive to create the New Biblical Man.

Every Blessing in Christ


Suzanne McCarthy said...


I haven't read either Lolita or Daugther of Persia. Thanks for mentioning this book.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I agree entirely. It is one of the saddest things about the book, to divide up the Christian virtues, some for men and some for women.

Unknown said...

Can I jump off topic for a second?

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Please check us out: the url for now is Hopefully shortly the domain name will kick in. If you would like to join, please let me know and I can add you to the roll and send you info on how to add the blogroll to your blog.

Thank you and God bless!