Reading Lolita in Tehren is the independent reading book that Erika, Linda and I read and discussed on. The following blog entries are my contributions to the discussion.
December 2, 2007 8:19 PM
I agree with Erika that the girls and Nafisi were helping each other, because they suffer from “both the tragedy and absurdity of the cruelty.”(23). They lost their freedom and are even forced to comply, they can not find a way to escape “cruelty”. In order to survive, they have to “poke fun at our [their] own misery.” (23) In other words, they have to look for fun in their lives in order to keep it moving on, since the thinking of “cruelty” is not going to get them anywhere or granting them any accomplishments. The girls and Nafisi need to have positive thinking while knowing the existence of “cruelty”. For them, they believe that literature is meaningful and comforting; therefore they meet every Thursday to discuss literature. Also, Nafisi explains that they chose literature because it is “not a luxury but a necessity.” (23).
December 7, 2007 7:14 AM
Sorry that I’m blogging so late. But I got some cool quotes to share. First, I want to emphasize the difference between Nafisi’s and some women’s view toward the veil and others’ view toward it. On pg. 164, she describes Mr.Bahri’s view, “Mr. Bahri could not understand why we were making such a fuss over a piece of cloth. Did we not see that there were more important issues…” Mr. Bahri, as a man, does not care much about the veil and he thinks that women should just put them on to make peace. Obviously, he does not consider the veil as a big issue. However, Nafisi and some other women conclude that the veil is a significant issue that affects their freedom, respect and dignity. They’re sure that once that give in to the veil issue, which is a visual representation of their compliance, more unreasonable requirements would be enforced. Also, on pg. 167, Nafisi describes the actually look after she wore the black robe, “a very wide black robe that covered me down to my ankles, wide and long…my whole body disappeared and what was left was a piece of cloth that shape my body that moved here and there, guided by some invisible force.”, which the force symbolizes the unreasonable requirements from the Islamic Republic, and it’s “invisible” because the Islamic republic does not show its authority which seizes people’s freedom to express , but it exists behind all the physical controls.
December 7, 2007 10:43 PM
Hi guys, It’s me sharing again..
I found a funny passage on page 201 that describes a lame conversation between Daisy Miller’s translator and the writer, Mr. Davaii. In it, the writer messes up with the background of translator and the knowledge of literature. “The novelist says, Your name is familiar- aren’t you the translator Henry Miller? No, Daisy Miller. Right, didn’t James Joyce write that? No, Henry James. Oh yes, of course, Henry James. By the way what’s Henry James doing nowadays? He’s dead- been dead since 1916.” (201) I think this is a fantastic example to reflect what the Islamic Republic is doing to the American Literature. Like the writer who offends both the translator and the literature, the Islamic Republic offends the Americans and their literature. It automatically depreciates the American literature without ever exploring the American literature, getting into depth it and opening for positive views. It condemns the American literature with only the negatives view on its mind and savagely dictates others’ thinking. Also on page 205, Mr. Forsati explains why the Iranians dislike Henry James, but not James Joyce: “That’s different, they respects Joyce the way they respect Tarkovsky. With James, they think they understand him, or that they should understand him, so they just get angry.”(205) I agree with Mr. Forsati that the Iranians are acting as the writer who thinks he knows the background and the literature, they think that they know James and understand him. Therefore they felt free slandering James. And according to Mr. Forsati, the Republic only “treats something with respect” (205) for the “less it understood.”(205) In fact, I believe this is not only true with the Islamic Republic, but also true with us that we are afraid to offend things that we not yet have knowledge on. However, we are different that we don’t condemn things that we only thought we have knowledge on.
December 11, 2007 7:10 PM
I definitely agree with Erika that “women were so discriminated”, because I found that quote to be astonishing when I was reading it too. I also compared us against them. I found that most of us, people who live in the United States, often take our freedom for grant. We use our freedom of speaking to slander, to complain and to contaminate the communicative world. We also use the freedom of acts to commit unnecessary things, we fight, we steal, and we even murder. While we are misusing our freedom, ironically, the women in Iran wouldn’t even dare to think of owning freedom. They just simply hope to live peacefully. In their mind, not having big events happened, neither exciting nor depressing, would contribute to the greatest celebration.
December 11, 2007 9:12 PM
When Erika says “You get the feeling that even at school it was a constant war and that there was no peace.” she reminds me a quote that’s says “They started shouting slogans... ‘War! War! Until Victory!” (211) This quote clearly serves as an evidence for the fact that there was always war and has no peace. The Islamic Republic is determined to win that they would not stop until they see “victory!” This is totally unacceptable to me because it’s not a modicum of people who suffer from the war; it’s the whole country that’s suffering.
Also, the student who burned himself leaves me a strong impression. He burns himself to represent himself as a sacrifice to the death of Khomein and termination of war. He holds his cloth of the slogan while burning himself “Whether we kill or are killed we are victorious! We will fight! We will die! But we won’t accept compromise!” (251) This is aggravating because it escalates the determination for war. The student is a prime example of those extremes who never gives up war until “Victory!” And in fact, the extremes explain why “there’s always war and there was no peace.” Because even though the actual war has stopped, there might be many others supporting wars are stubborn to have “victory!” They fight not only in their mind, but also fight in the society. They sway the public opinion as the student did while burning himself.
December 16, 2007 3:10 PM
Hey guys, I found a very interesting quote on pg 313-314, it says “We were unhappy. We compared our situation to our own potentials, to what we could have had, and somehow there was little consolation in the fact that millions of people were unhappier than we were. Why should other people’s misery make us happier or more content?” People living in Iran are “unhappy”, because they compare to people are living in peaceful countries, and they’re still under the control of the Islamic Republic. Even though the war ended, there’re Revolutionary Guards who investigate and arrest those who do not follow the Islamic rule. A number of people were suspected to be killed by the Islamic Regime. The “best-known expert on ancient Iran” (310) , Jahangir Tafazoli, the “well known translator and publisher” (309), Ahmad Mir Alai, and a “well know leftist journalist, the editor of a popular magazine” (309) were the suspects, but they are ironically claimed to be dying in accidents. Writers in Iran were severely threatened everyday, fearing that they’ll lose their lives.
However, people living in Iran became happy when they think of others who are living more badly than they are. “Why do they feel this way?” was the question asked at the end. In fact, the Iranians could only comfort themselves by thinking of others who are worst. They know how their situation really is: they don’t only lack freedom, but their chances to continue living are also in doubt. In their situations, they find no hope, so they either comply or rebel. In Nafisi’s case, she chose to rebel. She can not silence herself as Mrs. Rezvan suggested “we should be used to all of this.” (313) Nafisi has her dignity, she says to her self that “I [she] can’t live like this anymore” (313). And in fact her dignity provides her wisdom and opportunity. She knows that once she conform or “be used to all of this” (313), more will be asked. As the veil issue that demanded women to wear the veil in the University, but “Soon we [they] were forced to wear it [the veil] everywhere.” (153). Nafisi also had the opportunity to go to US, which is “a road that is open and full of light” (337)
December 16, 2007 4:40 PM
Hi, me again!
This quote is also worth to see, “To him [Nassrin’s father] these people [the regime guards], no matter what we think of them, they’re our people”. (321) I’m surprised when I saw this quote. I couldn’t understand how the father can still endure the wrong doings of the regime. The regime seizes its people’s right: freedom, and lives. It forces them to wear the veil, despise Western literature and give up their right to speak up. It also harms them brutally: the guards strike, arrest and even murder. The mistake and damage the regime made was huge that they shouldn’t be ignored. And the mind of Nassrin’s father is not acceptable.
Also, I found his father to be contradicting himself when he defends the regime and says “they’re our people” (321) and on the other hand, he is blaming on Nassarin for seeking a better life, “My father says that if I [Nassarin] insist on going ahead with this crazy plan, I’m [Nassarin is] on my [her] own.” (321) So, her father is saying that Nassarin is not even his people then? Since he depends “his people” but not Nassarin. He further more complains that he loses two daughters: he loses one when “it was the class” (321) and the second one “now” (321) when Nassarin decides to go for London. In fact, all Nassarin wants is just a better life, a life with hope and freedom, and a life that every Iranian wants, but not everyone dares to seek.
Nassarin declares that hope is what actually encourages her to live on. She says “I miss the sense of solidarity we had in jail, the sense of purpose… I miss the hope. In jail, we had the hope that we might get out, go to college, have fun, go to movies.” (323) Ironically, Nassarin is more hopeless after she gets out of jail. She is “secret and hidden” (323) that she can not express her own thinking. She is forced to comply under the regime. And most importantly she does not understand the meaning of living and “what it means to love”. (323) In Iran, Nassarin is corrupted, restricted, and “hidden”. And she only can leave to pass her “ordeal of freedom” (323)
December 23, 2007 8:42 AM
First of all, Merry Christmas!! Then, Happy New Year!
Ok, that’s good! Now, let me say that I have to agree with Erika. Nafisi married her first husband because she couldn’t handle the situation that her father was in jail and she was so innocent back then. Also, I believe that women of that period didn't have much freedom to choose who to love or to marry. Nafisi might have suffered from the lack of freedom that she needed to marry her first husband in order to release her father from jail.
For epilogue, Nafisi says that “I left Tehran on June, 24, 1997, for the green light that Gatsby once lived in.” (341) Nafisi chased “green light” as the way Gatsby chases it. She wanted freedom as Gatsby wanted the love from Daisy. And she is as stubborn as Gatsby. To Nafisi, freedom is the most important. She rather leaves her country, but not gives in to the authoritarian control of the Islamic Republic.
Nafisi also concludes that the “shape of our [Iranians’] future” (341) is determined by the “children of revolution”. (341) She believes that the hope for Iranians to save themselves from the authoritarian power lies on the shoulders of the young, and points out that they should be the ones to run Iran.
At last, I was touched by the last couple sentences that Manna says, “Each morning with the rising of the routine sun as I wake up and put on my veil before the mirror to go out and become a part of what is called reality.”(341) Manna’s giving in to the veil represents an act of reality. She gives in to the Islamic public for saving her job, her status in society and her life. And this is called “reality”. (343) However, Manna has “another I [she]” (343) who does not exist in reality and who does not give in to the Islamic Republic. She lives in a “fictional world” (343) and she is “naked on the pages of a book” (343). Manna has created another herself to make up for her disloyalty to her beliefs - she wore the veil to fight against her mind. Manna satisfies her mind in the “fictional world”. She releases herself by expressing her thinking and sharing them on the “pages of a book”, since in the “fictional world” the Islamic republic cannot control Manna’s mind. The Islamic republic cannot read her mind, cannot stop her mind from thinking, or force her mind into thinking something. Therefore, Manna will stay with us in the “fictional world “as long as you keep me [her] in your eye” (343) as the way Nafisi stays with us as long as we understand her thoughts.
December 24, 2007 3:30 AM
Hi guys, after reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, I feel like I have taken the freedom to read for granted. I have been some many times offered books, but I have rejected all of them. I honestly don't like reading. I always think that reading is boring, and useless, so I’ve never hit on books. Plus, I think that I can always get the book I need, it is either in libraries or in bookstores. I have never imagined reading to be impossible. I thought that it is and has always been available to people. But after reading this book, I learned that there are really some people who have no choice to choose what they read. Like the students in the University of Tehran, they were forced to read only certain books and they were told to only memorize. They didn't have a choice, “From the first day they had set foot in elementary school, they had been told to memorize. They had been told that their own opinions counted for nothing.” (220) The students are only to listen and follow the Islamic republic. Therefore, the Iran can never reset its governing system if no young is going to speak up or revolt.
After reading the book, I also learned books are some times crucial to people, they are just like their medicines. I believe Nafisi is one of those people who need books as medicines. On page 170, Nafisi says that “If I turned towards book, it was because they were the only sanctuary I know, one needed in order to survive, to protect some aspect of myself that was now in constant retreat.” (170) Books are the element that Nafisi needed for “surviving” and “protecting” her thinking. She needed books to express her and to speak up for righteousness. Although her thinking “was now in constant retreat” (170), Nafisi has never given up on them or reading. She holds on her beliefs no matter what happens. I truly appreciate Nafisi’s persistence on books even though I don't like reading books. She was brave enough to gather around her students to read every Thursday in the danger of being arrested. However, Nafisi’s persistence on books is actually advantageous for her. In a time of censorship, she needed her persistence to satisfy her desire. Because she loves reading so much, she needed to stand side for the books in order to quiet her conflicts. As the book says “we must for dear make our own counter-realities.” (216) And Nafisi has made her “counter-realities” by establishing her class to reading the "forbidden books".
December 24, 2007 7:23 AM
It’s me again! I think this is very funny, “I said to him that I wanted to write a book in which I would thank the Islamic Republic for all things it has taught me- to love Austen and James and ice cream and freedom.” (338) This is amusing because Nafisi says this in an ironic way and the fact that she was actually writing the book to report the mistreating of Iran to its people. She is obviously not thanking the Islamic Republic. She thanks it because it forced her to love things she is grateful to have. The things that Nafisi loves are Austen, James, ice cream and freedom. Austen, because Austen’s novels are innovative that women in them are “rebels”. (307) They do not obey to the choices their “silly mothers and incompetent fathers” made for their marriages. Austen’s novels are risky that the women stake their life on their own choices for marriages, “they risk ostracism and poverty to gain love and companionship.” (307) Nafisi loves the way Austen openly writes her novel and she appreciates Austen’s boldness and writing skills.
Nafisi loves James, because James, as Austen, is brave to suggest his idea that “we must for dear life make our own counter- realities.”(216) He disliked “political power” (216), but favored “cultural power”. (216) He says that “independence of thought” (216) is a man’s “greatest freedom” (216), therefore he enjoyed the invincible freedom to wander his mind. Overall, Nafisi loves writers who are brave enough to write about the truth and to write with their choices, because she is one herself.
Nafisi lastly loves ice cream and freedom. I think this is very funny: Ice cream and freedom together? Well, I love ice cream too; it’s even my favorite food. But, I’ve never thought of comparing it freedom. This is why I say Nafisi is an open and bold writer as Austen and James?
December 27, 2007 9:17 AM
Hi guys, How was Christmas? I hope your guys had a great Christmas and will be having an awesome New Year!! And since there is still time, I want to post one more entry. It’s on pg. 327 and is continued with Erika’s thought that women were mistreated during the time of the book. “The worst fear you can have is losing you faith. Because then you’re not accepted by anyone – not by those who consider themselves secular or by people of your own faith.” It is true that losing faith could be the “worst fear”. A person loses his/her religion is usually discriminated, which at the end causes him/her to feel misery. This is the exact situation of Mahshid and Yassi. They are born Islamite, and they “guarded” (327) Islam. Ironically, they did not “guard” Islam because of their passion to it, but because of fear. As Yassi says “ever since we [Mahshid and she] could remember, our religion has defined every single action we’ve taken.” (327), she reveals that they first believe in Islam because they are born with it. They did not have a choice. They know that their religion is authoritarian; it controls their “every single action”. And they indeed no more feel God, no more feel sanctified and no more find purpose. They know that they no more truly believe. (327) However, they still “believe”- physically follow the things Islamite do, because they fear. They fear that they will not be accepted, and they doubt of lives with changed religion. As a result, they hide their true feelings in heart, but continuing to suffer from “believing” a religion that they find no meanings.
Also, Mahshid writes in her diary that “During the Shah’s time, I felt I was the minority and I had to guard my faith against all odds. Now that my religion is in power, I feel more helpless than ever before, and more alienated.” (327) Mahshid and Yassi feel “helpless” because when Islam at first was lack of power, thus, they were forced to keep believing in it, they needed to “guard” it. But, when Islam is in power now, it does not change anything, Mahshid and Yassi still had to believe in it. They know that they might never be able to escape from Islam. Mahshid and Yassi feel “alienated” because they saw that their once-minor religion is no more weak, it is even outrageous now. When they saw the Islamic republic destroying others, they recognize no more the meek countenance of the republic; they saw a countenance now with evilness and savage. At the end, Mahshid and Yassi lost track of thinking, they became “alienated” as the republic doesn’t know them or they have known the republic at the first place.