Reading Lolita in Tehran

A Native's Traveler's Tale: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Azar Nafisi was born and raised in Iran, and her credentials as an Iranian woman and scholar are not in question. Her book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, is a memoir of a certain part of her life lived in Iran, but many features of it are shared with historical travelers' tales that can be seen to "expose subtexts beneath the apparently innocent details of journey in other lands that enable us to see more clearly the ways in which travelers [in this case a native Iranian, but speaking in a similar vein] construct the cultures they experience. From travelers' accounts of their journeys, we can trace the presence of cultural stereotypes, and the way in which an individual reacts to what is seen elsewhere can reflect tendencies in the traveler's home culture." (Bassnett 93, brackets mine). It is this similarity with historical travelers' tales that helps create the illusion that Dr. Nafisi only visited Iran, as much as she called it home, and was never truly at home there.

Roland Barthes, in his book Mythologies, wrote a short chapter about the "Writer on Holiday". In it he pokes fun at the details newspapers give us of what famous writers do on vacation. It seems that Le Figaro is fond of relating...

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