Freedom to read
What does Reading Lolita in Tehran mean?
WRITE HAND BY AJAZ UL HAQUE
Reading Lolita in Tehran is an intimate account of a literature professor Azar Nafisi in an atmosphere besieged with fear. She draws the sketch of a society where to imagine was to commit a crime. She portrays the suppression that had ripped apart the whole fabric of free thinking. It's a story of a teacher and her seven girl students whom she teaches the masterpieces of English literature. Banned for her liberal views, she gets confined to her home where she invites her students to explore the limits of a human desire through the greatest works of art and literature. She teaches them something they were allowed to do outside. To think. To imagine. But how long?Nafisi pays the price of tasting the forbidden and leaves Iran for America in 1997.
Suppression of the regime apart, author's account leaves some impressions on a reader's mind. Though the system she fights appears to be oppressive enough to be launched a rebellion against, but her approach as a teacher too sounds a little more sensational than her profession demands. If the state sanctions some rules to curb individual freedom, she by her defiance invites trouble for herself. Teaching Nabokov, Austen and Fitzgerald would not have meant rebellion per se, but Nafisi's war against veil complicates the whole situation for her. Here she gets swept more by her appeal as a role model for her students. True, there might be a parallel story to hers which can expose the hyperbole she might have based her account on. Still, it no way makes one miss the theme of the book and it no way lessens the effect of that tragedy she has been a part of. How subjective her narrative may be, it exposes the weakness of a system which is fundamentally based on coercion. Any system or any ideology that believes in snatching individual choice and imposing rules in matters strictly personal always serves a totalitarian philosophy. Communists in Russia, Fascists in Italy, Nazis in Germany or revolutionaries anywhere – wherever human voice has been stifled, ideas have died and freethinking has experienced an abortion.
During the dark ages of Europe when Papacy had choked all individual liberty, thinkers of that day would move to Muslim areas to enjoy freedom of expression. That was the time when Christendom would not tolerate minds like Bruno and burn him at stake. Done with the terrifying authority of the pope, thinkers would prefer to go in exile. And who would believe it now that Muslims then would welcome a free thought wheresoever it would originate from, whomsoever it would come from. Now the tables are turned. It's exactly the reverse. A Khalid Husseini has to pour his heart out elsewhere. No matter the West is a fertile market for any such story to earn a readership, but the painful paradox remains. Now thinkers of the Muslim world leave their homeland to shoot their salvos from Europe and America. The world has really changed. For them for better. For us for worse.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Feb 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 5 Feb 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 6 Feb 2011 00:00:00 IST
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