Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran Irony

The Blind TV Censor

Nafisi writes, "The chief film censor in Iran, up until 1994, was blind... After 1994, this censor became the head of the new television channel. There, he perfected his methods and demanded that the scriptswriters give him their scripts on audiotape; they were forbidden to make them attractive or dramatize them in any way. He then made his judgments about the scripts based on the tapes" (25). The irony of this scene - the same, blind man making his way from a theater censor to film censor to TV censor - is clear: people in government were assuming positions, and even increasing their power, while having little to no ability to do the job. Furthermore, this irony comments on censorship itself as a power trip leaving the population and the fate of Iranian art and entertainment fairly quashed in its wake.

The Sighted TV Censor

Following the irony of the blind TV censor, there is a further irony in that "[the blind censor's] successor, who was not blind - not physically, that is - nonetheless followed the same system" (25). This quote builds upon the irony of choosing a blind censor with an absurd method for evaluating entertainment and art, adding the irony of adherence to the status quo which perpetuates this censorship issue. This scene illustrates tragicomically how life was policed in Iran by people with little care for citizens or artistic integrity.

The Thesis on Lolita

Manna and Nima told Nafisi one day about a certain "Professor X" who expelled them from class for arguing with him about literary criticism. They told her that this same professor allowed a thesis to be written on Nabokov's Lolita by a student who hadn't read any Nabokov or other literary criticism on the work, writing solely on the idea that Lolita was a young temptress who had ruined the life of the "intellectual poet" (69) Humbert Humbert. Besides the humor of a professor allowing a student to write a thesis on literary criticism purely based on unchecked personal belief, Nafisi writes with great irony that the professor, who agreed with the student's view on Lolita, had been on the market for a second wife who was no older than 23 and had recently found one, indeed "at least two decades younger than he" (69).

Provincial People Picnicking at a Protest

Nafisi writes that during the occupation of the American Embassy in Tehran in November 1979, "people were bused in daily from the provinces who didn't even know where America was, and sometimes thought they were actually being taken to America. They were given food and money, and they could stay and joke and picnic with their families in front of the nest of spies--in exchange, they were asked to demonstrate, to shout, 'Death to America,' and every now and then to burn the American flag" (105). It is ironic and again somewhat tragicomic that a protest would be performed by people who have no actual opinion or knowledge of the issue being protested, and who actually enjoy themselves and profit from the protesting while those higher up in political and religious organizations control their actions with money, something representative of America.