This book is a mixture of an auto-biography, history, literary criticism, feminism and the connections between these topics. The author, Azar Nafisi is an Iranian literature professor living in the United States. In this book she tells about her life in Iran from the end of the seventies to the end of the nineties.

Nafisi taught (mainly English) literature in a university in Tehran for most of this period, and also held a weekly book-club meeting with several bright students in her home. During this time, she read and taught about a lot of classic books, and had time to ponder about their connection to the daily lives of people (especially women) in Iran.

There are a few things I liked and a few things I disliked in this book. First with the good things:

I really loved the historic account of life in Iran during the Muslim revolution, the Iraq-Iran war and after that. It's a really rare insight into a country that doesn't expose much of its inner-goings to the outer world. Having recently finished a couple of books about Soviet Russia, it's hard for me not to draw the obvious connections and similarities between two totalitarian goverments, which are in one sense so different, and in another so similar. In one the "rulers" are driven by an economical ideology and in another by religion, but the consequences on the "little people" are mostly very much alike.

I also liked the bits of literary reviews of some classic books by Vladimir Nabokov, William James and Jane Austen. The author is certainly a gifted literary critic, she really "gets" these books. The ties drawn between fictionary lives and real ones are sometime very beautiful. The way people whose real-life is hard and consists of a seemingly poitless struggle find a parallel universe in books is touching.

Of the stuff I didn't like is the repeatability, over-abstraction and excessive feminism. The author repeats herself quite a lot, and some of her writing about her feelings and memories ranges from over-abstract to plain unclear. These things make this book somewhat difficult to read.


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