“Reading Lolita in Tehran” is a memoir by author Azar Nafisi, an English Literature professor, documenting her tumultuous years teaching under the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The story centers around the book club Nafisi created after she stopped teaching at the university aimed at discussing about Western classics from authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Vladimir Nabokov and Jane Austen. Because these books were forbidden under the Islamic rule, the club consisted of only carefully selected female students whom she felt were committed, and they held weekly discussions on the literary works.
This is a book that pays homage to literature, where it critically analyzed the role and value of fiction in relation to reality. For Nafisi, her reality was particularly unpalatable so much so that it felt unreal.
“I had a feeling that we were living a series of fairy tales in which all the good fairies had gone on strike, leaving us stranded in the middle of a forest not far from the wicked witch’s candy house. Sometimes we told these stories to one another to convince ourselves that they had really happened. Because only then did they become true.
In his lecture on Madame Bovary (Vladimir) Nabokov claimed that all great novels were great fairy tales. So, Nima asked, do you mean to say that both our lives and our imaginative lives are fairy tales? I smiled. Indeed, it seemed to me that at times our lives were more fictional than fiction itself.””