[lit-ideas] Re: Reading Lolita in Tehran

  • From: Ceridwen Harris <cmharris@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 21 Apr 2004 11:28:29 -0400


In my first comments, I tried to respond to the question John had posed - 
which was abut the role of the different women to whom we are introduced. 
That is why I tried to look at them closely.
The familiarity of these characters to people I have met in different 
circumstances all over the world, their common humanity if you like, was 
important to me. The black uniforms of Muslim women which conceal them so 
completely and which to me smother their individuality, render them at 
times something close to alien objects - but in allowing us to see them 
stripped of this uniform in the colourful and relaxed space of her home, 
Nafisi allowed this 'gentle reader' to enter their lives and feel more 
closely  allied to them. Like the four foot high Muslim woman of uncertain 
age who power walks past my nearest shopping mall each day, they drew me to 
them with their individual idiosyncracies.
Whether or not this is what the author intended, - and I don't see why one 
should be limited by her intentions - the detail in this writing has been 
what informed my appreciation of the more abstract ideas, and so worth 
exploring en route to a broader perspective.
Nabokov in Lolita also manages to draw one into the inner space of his 
characters - H.H. for all his predatory instincts becomes an interesting 
and even  likeable person - able to laugh at himself and even to present 
himself as the victim of his own obsession. He smothers her with his 
attentions as the regime attempted to smother these girls by controlling 
their outward appearance and behaviour - but like Lolita they slip through 
the net again and again. Nafisi does not draw me into any kind of sympathy 
with the Islamic Regimes approach, but through the eyes of the girl victims 
it frequently does become laughable as well as fearsome.


At 01:33 AM 21/04/2004 -0400, you wrote:
>In a message dated 4/20/2004 9:45:40 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
>mccreery@xxxxxxx writes:
>can think of two possibilities. Cerrie has provided an example of
>one, paying close attention to the details, which communicate
>differences as well as similarities to whatever analogous figures come to
>mind, based on the worlds in which we individually live. The other is to 
>the plane of the argument, as Nafisi tries to do here, from any particular 
>to a more abstract and general perspective.
>The first of these possibilities appeals to the anthropologist in me;
>the second to the philosopher I once thought I might become. But what am I
>missing here?
>The first, Ceri's example, is also the more Nabokovian route. There's a scene
>in _Ada_ where a character asks another "Is that your father sitting under
>the elm tree?" The reply, "No, it's an oak tree," reminds us to pay 
>attention to
>the particulars, the details, which is where we all live.
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