In chapter 10, Azar Nafisi writes about Professor X, a villain who has ridiculous views and clearly doesn’t believe in debate.
Now look at this passage:
“1 of his students had decided to write his thesis on Lolita. He used no sources, had not read Nabokov, but his thesis fascinated by the professor, who had a thing about young girls spoiling the lives of intellectual men. This student wanted to write about how Lolita had seduced Humbert, an ‘intellectual poet’, and ruined his life. Professor X, with a look of thoughtful intensity, asked the student if he knew about Nabokov’s own sexual perversions. Nima, with ripples of contempt in his voice, mimicked the professor, shaking his head sadly and saying how, in novel after novel, we find the lives of intellectual men being destroyed by flighty females. […] Yet despite his views on Nabokov’s flighty young vixens, when this man had been ‘looking’ for a new wife, his main condition had been that her age should not exceed 23. His 2nd wife, duly recruited, was at least 2 decades younger than he.”The stupidity and hypocrisy needs no comment, but isn’t it the same for many idiots in the West who attack Lolita in the name of feminism or whatever-ism? I have seen many people who have not read the book but called it a child sexual abuse manual and said only books written from the victim’s perspective would be worth reading. I have seen many people who have read it but either fall for Humbert Humbert’s trap or say that the book must be bad because it’s narrated by a paedophile. I have also seen many people who think that if you see Lolita as one of your favourite books, something is wrong with you morally.
Just recently, for example, there’s a woman who started a twitter thread saying that she stopped seeing a date who said Lolita was his favourite book. To her, that’s a red flag.
To me, the question is why they like Lolita. If they say it’s a tragic love story between 2 people who can’t be together because of her age and the unjust law about age of consent, or something along those lines, they’re an idiot and can go away.
But if the answer is because Lolita is a great work of art, a masterpiece, which it is, that’s a different matter.
In this case, the real red flag is the philistinism of those tweets. I can’t help seeing Lolita as a test, some kind of measure—how someone reacts to it and what he/she says about it says a lot about him/her as a reader.
I have written quite a lot about Lolita: love/ nympholepsy/ paedophilia, Lolita and the obligation of literature, the complexity of the book and Nabokov’s moral intention, the saddest chapter in Lolita, and Lolita’s tears (or the little details that escape careless readers).
Here are passages written by Nabokov about poshlost and philistinism.
Not to mention, my blog has posts about Lolita’s 1st appearance, the dog motif, the butterfly and bird motifs, a theory about Quilty and Lo, the other Lolita, and sympathy for fictional characters.
At the moment I don’t have much to write about Reading Lolita in Tehran. I like that the author loves Nabokov, and we’d probably get along because she also likes Flaubert, Jane Austen, Fitzgerald, and Henry James. It’s dry though, surprisingly dry for a book about literature and passion—compared to the prose of Sy Montgomery in The Soul of an Octopus and even Walter Murch’s prose in In the Blink of an Eye, an editing book I’m reading at the same time, Reading Lolita in Tehran feels so dreary and lifeless.