Azar Nafisi: An Iranian Exile

Question: Where are you from and how has that shaped you? Azar Nafisi: That’s a very interesting and a very difficult question because at some point I decided that what shapes me is a portable world that I can take with me everywhere I go. Because I . . . I stayed in Iran until I was 13, and then I was sent to England and to Switzerland, and later to the United States to continue my studies. So from a very early age the idea of going back home . . . I think that the strange thing about Iran for me is that the idea of returning to Iran has shaped me more than the idea of being in Iran. And then when I went back home, I realized home was not home because I went back to the Islamic Revolution, you know. And the best that it has given me has been the memories of the culture, the poetry. I think that is what I most identify with. The start of the revolution I was in U.S. then. I was writing my dissertation actually when it happened in 1979. And as luck would have it, I finished my oral defense the summer of 1979 and I went back. So I wasn’t there for the very beginning, but I was there for, you know, pretty much from the start of it. And I left Iran in ’97, so I was there for 18 years.

Nafisi was studying in the U.S. when the Revolution broke out in 1979. She chose to go back.

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