I am writing my dissertation about the new "Islamic democracy" and how the story of democracy is told through [and on] the bodies of women. The West hungrily consumes images of Islamic women enjoying their new-found freedom and hold up the images as justification for our involvement in Middle Eastern affairs. Part of my research is to examine the flood of memoirs and fiction written by Muslim women. I just finished one said book. Reading Lolita In Tehran: A Memoir in Books is a MUST read for literature lovers and active citizens. Azar Nafisi tells an inspirational story rich with quotations about literature, writing, teaching and citizenship. I was truly moved by her words and her story.
A novel is not an allegory, I said as the period was about to come to an end. It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don’t enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won’t be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. This is how you read a novel: you inhale the experience. So start breathing.
I have come to believe that genuine democracy cannot exist without the freedom to imagine and the right to use imaginative works without any restrictions. To have a whole life, one must have the possibility of publicly shaping and expressing private worlds, dreams, thoughts and desires, of constantly having access to a dialogue between the public and private worlds. How else do we know that we have existed, felt, desired, hated, feared?