[lit-ideas] Re: Reading Lolita in Tehran

  • From: Ceridwen Harris <cmharris@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2004 11:55:32 -0400

Okay John - here's a starter.

I read through the book and then returned to the first part as you 
suggested, and looked at the women to whom we were introduced. In fact I 
found it useful to make a sketch card of each one. Mahshid seemed very 
familiar to me - her cool iron-in-velvet style, her religious background. 
She represented for me the ideal of the bright but conservative elements in 
society. Manna the individualist did not always rebel - she sometimes took 
the side of Mahshid - although she said " I want to wear outrageous 
colours", she in fact wore a white shirt and jeans and for her, upsilamba 
was the muted vision of a silver fish in a moonlit lake - something very 
quiet. Yassi was very approachable - her choice of yellow 
clothing  although she was shy, spoke of her sunny nature - which revealed 
itself in her sense of humour. She brought a light touch to the narrative. 
For her, upsilamba was the name of a dance - and she dances with her humour 
and her inattention to her veil, but at the same time is very vulnerable 
because of her being ' secure only in her terrible sense of insecurity'. 
Azin was a surprise to me with her blonde hair; and she was the most 
rebellious, the one most determined to push at the rules - flamboyant and 
lively. How difficult for such a person to live in a very restricted 
setting - it must have been suffocating. Mitra is calm and quiet - her 
upsilamba is a blissful sigh - which I don't hear often in this 
narrative.Poor Sanaz - insecure like Yassi and searching for the approval 
of her family , her rebellion ( bright red nails) is discretely hidden 
under black gloves, her upsilamba is the secret name of a small African boy 
- which I thought the most imaginative suggestion, exotic but hidden. How 
painful to read of her ordeals.   And then Nassim - whom I found the most 
interesting - because she dressed so conservatively and was elusive and yet 
I always found myself paying attention when she appeared. Her surprisingly 
irreverent comments on the Islamic text she was translating showed the way 
in which even though outwardly conforming she could rebel.  So for me some 
of these women represent the spectrum of response from  the intellegentsia 
- from Mahshid as the most conservative to Azin as the most ? westernized - 
but there is also a range of response from individual home settings - from 
Sanaz who is constantly supervised by her younger brother through to Yassi 
and Azin. Their different stories and the interplay between them provided a 
tension in the narrative and kept one interested in their fates.

As I read this early part of the book, after my initial dismay at the 
conditions in which these women lived,  I was struck with how familiar 
these women were to me and also  how restrained even supposedly free people 
are here in Canada - - perhaps the restraints are not physical as they were 
in Iran, but the social pressure to conform is extraordinarily strong.


At 10:21 AM 19/04/2004 +0900, you wrote:

>On 2004/04/19, at 5:01, Ceridwen Harris wrote:
> >
> > Yes, I wondered what had happened to everyone..ready when you are.
> >
> > Ceri
> >
> >
> > At 03:06 PM 18/04/2004 -0400, you wrote:
> >> Just got the trade paperback. Anyone still up for John's moderated
> >> reading of
> >> it?
> >>
> >> ---
>I must say that I didn't particularly envision a moderated reading; but
>that's OK. A while back I posted an effusion about the start of the
>book. I'm just waiting now for someone to plunge in with his or her
>observations. Cerrie, go for it.
>John L. McCreery
>The Word Works, Ltd.
>55-13-202 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
>Yokohama, Japan 220-0006
>Tel 81-45-314-9324
>Email mccreery@xxxxxxx
>"Making Symbols is Our Business"
>To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
>digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: