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.

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

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  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.