It’s Thursday again … time for another installment of Book Traveling Thursdays, a weekly meme hosted by Danielle and Cátia at Goodreads.
I wanted to write something more original today instead of doing yet another weekly feature. However, I decided to do BTT again this week in the interest of time, as I may not be able to post anything for the next few days.
This week’s theme is a book by an author from a country I don’t read that often. This past summer, I read “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books” by Azar Nafisi.
Nafisi was born in Iran and came to the U.S. in 1997.
My country’s cover
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.
My favorite covers
The top cover is from Bulgaria. I love that the traditional coverings they wear have a floral pattern, symbolizing the way their forbidden studies of Western literature bring beauty and hope in the face of oppression.
The bottom cover is from Turkey. The one thing that makes it a favorite is that the way the woman’s eyes are covered is symbolic of the marginalization of women in the Middle East.
Least favorite covers
The one on top is from Italy. It’s just … kinda boring. A big element of the book is the camaraderie among Nafisi and her students, so showing just one woman on the cover leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion (even though the Turkish cover also features just one woman, at least its design creates more interest).
The bottom cover is from Hungary. It’s kind of an artist’s rendering of the stock photo that is used on so many other editions, like the one from the U.S. But why do they look like they’re in sleeping bags or Snuggies?