tv John Mc Laughlins One on One PBS July 24, 2011 9:00am-9:30am PDT
hungry for freedom. around the planet there are still millions of people urge to be free -- urine thing to be free -- north korea, cuba and burma. in iran where an oppressive thee i don't think crass cy rules -- thee i don't think crass cy student protests have been met with brutal repression. all revolution fire reese know the -- revolution fire reese know the spirit cannot be crushed unless the spirit is crushed. the hunger for freedom keeps the spirit alive no matter how extreme the counter forces. how can that hunger be fed? can the great works of western literature and a reading circle nurturer it? we'll ask the iranian author of
reading lolita in tehran azar nafisi. announcer: if. for such a small word, it packs a wallop. if i live to 100. if social security isn't enough. if my heart gets broken. if she says yes. we believe "if" should never hold you back. "if" should be managed with coverage that builds on what you already have. together, we can create a personal safety net - a launching pad for all those brilliant "ifs" in the middle of life. call on our expertise and get
dr. azar nafisi welcome. >> thank you very much. >> your book is entitled reading lolita in tehran, a memoir and books. why did you select that title? about as your theme an older man's sexual obsession with a 12-year-old girl? >> well first of all i wanted it to be about celebration of great books of imagination. it says readers are born free and ought to remain free. i wanted to bring to people's attention the right of millions of readers in my country and other places who do not enjoy the same rights and that obsession of the older man is about an old man imposing his dream of a past a girl he could never have when he was a child upon the living realty of a young girl called lolita. that is what they did to us in
iran. they imposed their dream upon our lives. they wanted me and the other women in iran to become like the pictures on the cover of this book. >> you also speak about the confiscated of one life by another? >> yes. >> you allegorize that back to iran? >> oh, definitely. >> or you see in that an all gory. >> definitely -- all gory. the worst thing you can do is confiscate another individual's realty, to turn another individual into an object of your dream or desire and that's what they did to us. you know, and that is what any totalitarian socty does. in china they told women to wear mao mack -- jackets, not aware make up, not show signs of love or efix. >> tell me -- a fakes shun. >> tell they about the structure of the book who are the
personalities? >> it be begins on lolita and seven female girls. >> of what age? >> the ages ranged from 20 just barely 20 to early 30s. >> these are partially real but mostly you've dressed them up in disguise? >> i have disguised them but they really did exist. >> and it's based on events in your real-life? >> definitely. >> this is post revolutionary. what years? >> well, this last chapter the first chapter begins with the last part of my stay from 1995 to 1997. i resigned my job at the university and i created this private class with my female students reading works of fiction and talking about the realty of our lives. >> you adno -- had no gentlemen attend that? >> no that's what- would make it too risky because they could raid our house. if they find a male who was not related to us either by blood or as a husband, then they could
charge you with prostitution. >> what books did you read? >> well we began with 1,000 and one knights around shall hair solved -- shall hara solved. that is symbolic of about how imagination line greats you from oppress states -- oppresse you -- then we went to jane austin, the great gatsby which is the second chapter in this book, henry james, faubert. >> who did you spend most time in the book -- book? >> well nab bark cough. >> are you infatuated with nab bark cough? >> no. >> you have written books on nab bark cough. >> well nab bark cough like us had felt the oppressive necessary of the totalitarian state --ed and he understood you chant -- can't just change reg
jooms. -- regime. you have to change mind-set. >> you think he was a great stylist? >> i think he was a great stylist and i think his constant was his style. >> do you think he was argbly the greatest stylist of what the century? >> one of them -- it's very difficult -- i talk about how promiscuous i am when it comes to literature. >> you teach lit khmer. >> i teach literature, yes. >> -- literature. >> did you visit where nab bark cough lived? >> no. when i was living in iran you didn't have a chance. >> i visited his home in st. petersburg. >> i only visited the k photographs. >> they didn't want to show me the photographs and i persuaded them. >> why wouldn't they want to show you? >> they keep them locked up. they didn't want to show me too much of the house. but we did see it and it's a lovely woodwork and they showed us the butterflies. you know about the butterflies?
>> butterflies are everywhere in nab bark cough's book. >> he caught butterflies. in one of his lectures he talks about the passion of the scientist and the precision of a poet. he says do i make a mistake is it the precision of the scientist and passion of the poet? he says no. i don't. books of great science and literature have to be precise and passionate. >> you are quite passionate in your obvious fascination with him and did you read ada? >> that was the first book i read. >> did you understand that book? >> you know, i like unlike anybody else, i read that book as a fairytale. i was very young when i read ada in the 70s and one of the first people i fell in love gave it to me. >> you think it's as difficult to understand as joyce you'll
lille sees -- ulises? >> not as difficult but it has so many layers and allusions. >> you have something in common with my wife because she's fascinated by nab barb cough and add da. >> -- ada works on so many levels. on one level it's very deceptive because it's fairy tale -- fairy tale lish. >> do you think nab bark cough was a snob? >> he was more a cultural snob. >> that's what i mean. >> i talked in my book that if my family could be accused of anything it would be cultural snob business sim. >> we're spending extra time on this but it's fascinating that you close the title, you're clearly intrigued by him and his work. you've read all his works? >> yes. >> you've written a book about him? >> yes. >> and you teach him. >> yes. >> you see him almost as an all go for list for your life in post revolutionary iran which
occurred after 1979 whe the shall was deposed and come amani took over -- all gory -- sha was deposed. >> the reason i love these books is that they're so great. >> well there's a larger meaning in what you assemble. >> you are right. >> it isn't so much nab bark cough but it's the fact that you and your ladies, young ladies, were sking a parallel universe to shut out your environment, is that correct? >> you're right. i can't improve on that. >> do you think other people do this with literature and does literature really serve to -- well you see the income yums -- in comb my yuns nab bark cough makes to readers, people to read. >> i think without good readers these works wilt and die. i always -- always bring alice
in wonderland as a parallel for my students. i begin by class with alice. the reader has to have the curiosity of alice to see the white rabbit running and she has to have the courage of jufrming into the hole -- jumping into the hole wanting to discover the new world fix offers -- fiction offers so image nation offers you -- imagination offers you alternate worlds or potential. >> did he not say this is an exact quote -- readers were born free and ought to remain free which you quoted? >> yes. >> doesn't he say that the reader is the classic in subordinate? >> yes. >> and he says curiosity is insubordination in its purest form. >> curiosity is insubordination in its purest form. >> usually in lolita when he's describing what a work of fictionhould be he talks -- about curiosity and tenderness.
for him curiosity wants to make you want to know about other people and emphasize with them. >> english is a foreign language for you? >> english is foreign. >> were you caught -- taught it at home? >> i was taught in school. >> nab bark calf's native language was not english? >> no. but his first govern necessary -- govern necessary was english. >> my impression is you have a limb pied ditty and clarity and flow to your writing that makes you a wonderful stylist too. >> i wish. >> and you cast a spell. you create a world and it stays with the readers. >> well this is one's ultimate ambition but i feel as if i'm deficient in it. >> no it works remarkably well. >> but e elish has been -- is a very generous language especially because you can
create poetry within the pros and i think like the writer like nab bark cough or conrad or rushdie they all bring their home language into english and english expands like america. it expands to accommodate you. >> in protest against the iran regime the current regime, some women have set themselves on fire in paris. what is the reaction of our iranian guest to that kind of extreme self sacrifice as a form of protest? we'll put that question to our guest but first here is her distinguished profile. >> born tehran, husband bejohn had dairy -- two children, relist is -- rehim gin muslim -- religion must him. b.a. religious literature, m.a.
literature. university of tehran profession of -- professor of literature. writer 22 years. johns hopkins university school of advance studies professor of politics and culture six years and currently. also dialogue project. a program that promotes people to people exchange of ideas and perspectives on democracy and culture and the west. diry. author go books including -- two books including reading lolita in tehran. hobbies, swimming, film viewing, and painting. azar nafisi. >> do you regard your book as a feminists man first is to -- manifesto -- a declaration of horror and rage? icy rage against the current
leadership? i want my book to be a deck car race of independence -- decoration of independence and i want it to be against the oppressive mind-sets which are being one aspect of it is in iran. >> the repressed status of women? >> and of human beings, individuals. but also a celebration. >> please speak to the subject of the degree of repression that exists now as comparison to the freedom that existed under the shaw in the pre1970 days -- >> from 1900s iranians started rebelling against the state from mid 1800s i'm sorry and they had the constitution revolution in 19 oh six -- 1906 based on the belgian constitution and broad brought civil liberties -- so
iranian women have been fighting for their rights since 1800s. the first one -- woman unveiled in iran was in the 1800s. the freedoms that we enjoyed before the revolution did not belong just to the shaw but they came from hundred and somethihi years of struggle. when threes people came to iran, the first law that they repealed before a constitution, the new constitution was the family protection law which granted women the rights at home and at work. >> what year was that? >> that was the year 1979. >> uh-huh. >> they lowered the age of marriage from 18 to nine. >> nine years of age? >> you talk hole little that -- lolita? >> yes. >> they stoned men and women to death for adultery and prostitution. one woman is considered only half as a man. if a woman is killed, her family have to pay half the blood money to the murderer in order to have
him punished. and then of course there are the laws around the veil where they turned the veil from a token of faith into a token of politics. and the issue around the veil is not whether veil is good or bad but that women should have the choice to choose how they worship their god and how they express themselves. >> these conditions prefail -- prevail today? >> they prevail today but they're much shakier. >> because of reform efforts? >> because people from the very start and i was they're from the summer of 1979 till the numb err -- summer of ne1987. >> prior to that women were free and could drive automobiles and become members of the police force and fly planes. >> we had one woman for women's
rights. >> ayatollah comb amani said -- comb amani was very intelligent man and realized that you can't push these women back home. >> now this governance is based on islamic law, correct? >> that is what they say, yes. it is based on what they call the sheri ya -- law. >> this situation obtained today with some relaxation because of the reformers, the protesters? >> yes. because of the resistance. i want to emphasize because sometimes we reduce them just to a bunch of political elite. it was people resisting for 20 something years. i was in iran young girls would be taken to jail and nothinged because they were -- wore lipstick but they come into the sticks and they wear their lipstick and walk hand in hand with their boyfriends they get taken to jail again. the regime realized they can put a few in jail but what are they
going to do with the population? >> are you still getting horror stories out of tehran? >> right now horror stories are concentrated around the way the vigilantes and guards are treating the protesters. there is news of beating them up with knives, with chains, throwing them down the windows of the dorm mature reese -- dorm mature reese -- abducting them. that's theparis, some women have set themselves afire what do you think of that form of protest? >> well, i don't approve of it. i feel a great deal of sorrow and anguish when an individual reaches the stage where she has to set fire to herself in order to make a statement about her life. i blame the system that makes people that desperate. but i also blame the leadership of the organization that they belong to the knew that jaed
dean -- knew that jaed dean who encourage the rank and file to resort to such measures. but i think the islamic republic should take responsibility for what has happened. >> do you see a larger mobilization of this kind in iran? >> well, i see a larger mobilization of more -- you know people in iran, the interesting thing is that people are trying to find non-violent ways of encountering violence. it is very much like some countries in eastern europe where you would talk about the velvet revolution and that shows the degree of iranian people's political consciousness. >> what percentage of the people are of that frame of mind? >> yes. >> what percentage are sufficiently daring to come forward and engage in active protest? >> well, many among the young. usually the students and young are more daring. they have less to lose than the older generation. and these are the ones who are
now in the streets of tehran. >> and being prut tall liesd by the police -- brutalized by the police. >> we have a photograph of your -- you and your family that is now on the screen. now the gentlemen on our left is your father? >> yes. >> and the lady on the extreme right is your mother? >> no. the ladies whose i have my hands on her lap. i'm sitting next to her. that's my mother. >> oh yes. >> and the other one -- >> you're father was the mayor of tehran? >> yeah. he was the mayor of tehran from 1961 to 1963, yes. >> and whachd -- what happened after that? >> he was put in the temporary jail for four years without a trial and then he was after the trial he was exonerated of all charges except one and that was insubordination. >> this was under the shaw.
>> yes. >> what do you think of that government as you look backk on it the prerevolutionary government? it was in power 25 years? >> i think one of the problems with the country like iran is that you always reduce the whole society into the figurehead. so everything that is good is the shaw's and everything that is bad is the shaw's. i think he represented both the good and bad in our society. >> do you think he was set up by the c.i.a.? >> i think that during his time -- >> who is he? >> he was the national list prime minister -- national list prime minister who rose up against the british intervention in iran and then also turned into a struggle between him and the shaw. and c.i.a. helped topple him. i think that is what happened. there was a window of opportunity for iran to become more democratic. >> do you think that was unfortunate? >> i wish that both the monarchy and he could have come to a
revolution that would have led to a more democrat i -- democratic iran? >> that could have happened. >> you talk about the magician a magical counselor of yours correct? >> yes. he is. he was the first -- when i was getting more and more interested in nab bark cough i discovered he was the first person to write about nab bark off when i was not in iran. he was critic and theater and film critic. >> this is based on a human being? >> oh, yes. >> he wrote about nab bark cough and that incited your interest? >> that incited my interested in -- interest inin him. i discovered him to be a genuine soulmate in his passion for literature an imagination. >> did heencourage you to create a parallel universe if -- >> i think he lived in a parallel universe. he lived in this one apartment. he would see very few people. once you entered this apartment
you felt as if not only were you not in in the islamic republic you were not in the real world you know. he encouraged me always. the things i had doubts about i thought were impossible, he said they are possible. >> why is it that everybody has a parallel universe but yours is so luxurious? why so rich? >> well, i spent so much time on it. what i lost in the real world i gained in my parallel universe. the you -- you had a s author o reahe iranian people not just one group are demanding. >> did you hear presidebt bush say that there is an axis of evil and the axis of evil members are iraq, iran and north korea? >> yes. >> how did you react to that? >> i think the governments of those countries come as close to evil as you can get but not the people. and i think we should always be very careful to separate society
that is being oppressed by a government from the government itself. >> because of the president -- presence on that list and because the arain jan -- iranian government is manufacturing nuclear materials by reason they say to generate electricity in that kind of facility this is the thought that there might be a military strike to surgically remove one of those or several of those facilities. do you think that would be a good idea? >> you know, the best way to guarantee stability and security in iran is to support a government that is representative that will be accountable to it's only -- own people. >> you would not like the military intrusion. >> i would not like a military intrusion. i don't think a military intrusion where people are in the streets demanding freedom would make much sense. no, i would not. >> do you feel there's an active
effort to secure the nuclear bomb in iran? >> i don't see why the iranian government would not go that way because it will use it as an instrument to bribe the other countries. >> and as a shield against. >> and as a shield. >> possibly the united states. >> in their thinking. >> and the neighboring countries, yes. >> is that worrisome to you that iran. >> it is worrisome. >> but you still maintain there should be no military action? >> no. because you see -- >> we're out of time and i want to thank you for coming and i'd like to interview you again. and good look -- luck with the book t captions produced by visual audio captioning www.visualaudiocaptioning.com
announcer: if. for such a small word, it packs a wallop. if i live to 100. if social security isn't enough. if my heart gets broken. if she says yes. we believe "if" should never hold you back. "if" should be managed with coverage that builds on what you already have. together, we can create a personal safety net - a launching pad for all those brilliant "ifs" in the middle of life. call on our expertise and get somewhere in america, a city comes to life. it moves effortlessly, breathes easily. it flows with clean water. it makes its skyline greener and its population healthier. all to become the kind of city people want to live and work in. somewhere in america,