Monday, February 2, 2009

Azar Nafisi

Azar Nafisi is the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and Things I've Been Silent About.

From her conversation with James Mustich, Editor-in-Chief, Barnes & Noble Review:

James Mustich: At the beginning of your new book you write: "It is such a strong part of Iranian culture to never reveal private matters: we dont wash our dirty laundry in public, as Mother would say, and besides, private lives are trivial and not worth writing about." Yet, while in the long run the themes of Things Ive Been Silent About resonate with those of Reading Lolita in Tehran, the new work is a far more personal book. What was the impetus for overcoming your native reticence?

Azar Nafisi: It is difficult to pinpoint why you write a book; whatever conclusions you draw about its motivations are those that you think about later, after the fact. At first, when I started writing the new book, I did not want it to be this personal, for there is also a personal reticence that resonates with the native one. In fact, I wasn't going to write this book at all! After Reading Lolita I was going to write the book that I have called The Republic of Imagination; that was my main destination after Reading Lolita. But I have always been obsessed with my parents, especially with my mother, and especially after we left Iran. I was writing the acknowledgments to Reading Lolita when she died; that diverted me completely. It took me back to her, and what her loss meant to me, and set me to ask myself how I could retrieve so many things in our relationship -- things that had been left undone or unfinished. I still did not intend to focus so much on our personal lives; I was trying to put my relationship with my mother and her non-relationship with her mother within a wider historical context. But as I started writing more, I got more and more personally involved. Memories were coming, I had my own notes, I had my fathers memoirs. And then Father died a year later. I realized that I wanted to go deeper into these relationships. So that is how I ended up writing this book.
Read the complete transcript of the interview.

--Marshal Zeringue