Azar Nafisi: Vladimir Nabokov

Question: Why is Nabokov so important to you?

Azar Nafisi: Well personally when I was very young, and I was . . . I guess this was the most, in a sense, serious love affair because I was . . . I don’t know . . . This was a good time to be in love I guess. And we both were very much into literature. We were attending the same classes and everything. And the first book by Nabokov I read, he gave it to me. It was “Ada”, and he wrote on the flyleaf, “To Azar, my Ada.” I always . . . I still have that book. And so he started . . . And “Ada”, you know, a very difficult book to read. I read it as a fairy tale. For me he became . . . My first introduction to him was the way he becomes very difficult and sometimes really too much to take, you know. But at the same time he created a fairy aura around the characters, and an amazingly visual sort of form of writing, which I very much appreciate. The images just stuck in my mind. So that is how it started. And then when I went back to Iran and I was frantically trying to reconnect – and my reconnections were through books – I started re-reading all my favorite authors. And Nabokov all of a sudden, I identified with him because of the sense of the deep and poignant sense of exile, you know? And the book I wrote about him, each of the chapters – there’s seven chapters – in one way or another they talk about the issue of exile. And not just geographical exile; exile within your own country. Forever strangers, you know? And as a writer you’re anyway a stranger. You have to be in order to write well, you know? So that came to me very strongly. And then I discovered small things in him which I felt sometimes in the west people didn’t, because he had deeply . . . Even if he had not been in Soviet Union, he had experienced it; he had thought about it; he had obsessed over it. So his novels are always a celebration of the individual freedoms. And he is always against the mindsets that impose their images on others. The liberation comes from the individual. The celebration . . . Writing becomes a response to reality’s tyranny, you know? So I just . . . I . . . You know I could express all of this through him, you know, and through his love of writing. He loves . . . Of course Russians do that to you. ___________ used to be my . . . one of my absolute . . . You know I once . . . This bookstore before it closed down, at the beginning of the revolution I would go and buy my . . . I bought ___________. And then I went back and bought every single copy to give it to my friends to force them to read this book; that wide imagination.

Trained as a Nabokov scholar, Azar Nafisi formed a very personal bond to the writer's works.

Compelling speakers do these 4 things every single time

The ability to speak clearly, succinctly, and powerfully is easier than you think

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee rally at the Anaheim Convention Center on September 8, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Barbara Davidson/Getty Images)
Personal Growth

The ability to communicate effectively can make or break a person's assessment of your intelligence, competence, and authenticity.

Keep reading Show less

This 5-minute neck scan can spot dementia 10 years before it emerges

The results come from a 15-year study that used ultrasound scans to track blood vessels in middle-aged adults starting in 2002.

Mikhail Kalinin via Wikipedia
Mind & Brain
  • The study measured the stiffness of blood vessels in middle-aged patients over time.
  • Stiff blood vessels can lead to the destruction of delicate blood vessels in the brain, which can contribute to cognitive decline.
  • The scans could someday become a widely used tool to identify people at high risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's.
Keep reading Show less

Preserving truth: How to confront and correct fake news

Journalism got a big wake up call in 2016. Can we be optimistic about the future of media?

  • "[T]o have a democracy that thrives and actually that manages to stay alive at all, you need regular citizens being able to get good, solid information," says Craig Newmark.
  • The only constructive way to deal with fake news? Support trustworthy media. In 2018, Newmark was announced as a major donor of two new media organizations, The City, which will report on New York City-area stories which may have otherwise gone unreported, and The Markup, which will report on technology.
  • Greater transparency of fact-checking within media organizations could help confront and correct fake news. Organizations already exist to make media more trustworthy — are we using them? There's The Trust Project, International Fact-Checkers Network, and Tech & Check.
Keep reading Show less