Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reading "Reading Lolita in Tehran" in Chicago

"Doors closing", the CTA train makes the announcement. I take the book out of my backpack. Two times in a day, I have 10-15 minutes to read a few pages until I get to the stop I need to get off. 
Every time, the story of the book takes me to Tehran in the 80s. A unique time in the history of a country where a Islamic Republic is replacing a monarchy. Books which in opinion of the conservative rulers support the imperialism of the west are banned. Lolita, a novel by Vladimir Nabokov,  for its content of pedophilia is among the banned books. A university professor, Azar Nafisi, and a few of her students get together secretly to have weekly discussions about Nabakov's writings. The story is not just about Lolita but the daily life of Iranian people in the 80s. The life in Iran in the 90s as I've experienced it was not much different from the 80s as the book tells. Iran was gradually becoming a totalitarian regime. A bloody revolution and a long-lasted war with Iraq have made people too tired and indifferent from what was going on in the government. A government raised from a revolution which supposed to grant freedom and independence to the country was taking control of everything in the name of religion and national security. It took more than 20 years for the country, to have its next generation, mostly students to rise up in 1999. The movement lasted one week until it was brutally suppressed. After 10 years, the next generation, my generation I should proudly say, rose up in 2009. This time, the movement lasted almost one year under violent suppression. When I'm looking back to 2009 and 1999, I see although the movement was apparently suppressed with brutal force but it was only suppressed, not eliminated or dead. The 1999 students movement was alive even after its suppression. It took its time to root in the society to create the 2009 green movement. The green movement is also still alive and rooting. The society is changing. I'm believing that a real change comes from down in the society not the government. If people change, the government will ultimately change.
"Foster", the CTA train makes the announcement. I close the book and put it back into my backpack. I come out of my little world of thoughts and start walking in the streets of Evanston toward school.


Petrea said...

Beautiful post, my Green friend. I read this book before I met you, and I wondered what life might be like in Iran today. Through you, and through our beautiful friend Sarah, I'm coming to know it better.

USelaine said...

This is beautiful indeed. Liberal ideas are feared everywhere, these days. Enlightenment is feared, education is feared, and the ignorant are manipulated. I don't know how to solve it.

Petrea said...

Perhaps it's naive of me, but I would hope we take Nafisi's example and not be afraid to enlighten and educate ourselves as much as we can, so as to enlighten and educate others as much as we can.