Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0012776, Sun, 4 Jun 2006 00:07:35 EDT

Re: Reading Lolita in Tehran in a new light

In a message dated 03/06/2006 16:16:06 GMT Standard Time,

Look at these two Oriental Lolitas! The racist implication of the
suggestion--as with astonishment asking, "can you even imagine reading that novel in
that country?"--competes with its overtly Orientalised pedophilia and confounds
the transparency of a marketing strategy that appeals to the most deranged
Oriental fantasies of a nation already petrified out of its wits by a
ferocious war waged against a phantasmagoric Arab/Muslim male potency that has just
castrated the two totem poles of the US empire in New York.


"The original picture from which this cover is excised is lifted off a news
report during the parliamentary election of February 2000 in Iran. In the
original picture, the two young women are in fact reading the leading reformist
newspaper Mosharekat. Azar Nafisi and her publisher may have thought that the
world is not looking, and that they can distort the history of a people any
way they wish. But the original picture from which this cover steals its idea
speaks to the fact of this falsehood."

Professor Hamid Dabashi has done a valuable service in revealing the way
that this cover was produced. I love this kind of clarification.

But his interpretation is a little questionable. Are these two females
"Oriental Lolitas" or are they "young women"? I myself imagined them as
intelligent young Iranian women in their twenties studying English literature. Lolita
was a 12-year-old child, not a young woman. This picture has nothing in common
with the seductive covers of the paperbacks, or advertisements for the
films, of "Lolita".

Moreover, "Reading Lolita in Tehran" remains one of the most intelligent and
morally perceptive discussions of "Lolita" that there is. Unlike the
decadent, psychobabbling British and American intelligentsia, these Iranian women
are "good readers" and "rereaders" in Nabokov's sense. They read with moral
sensibility, not some "moral" that the book has "in tow", as Nabokov put it, but
the truly moral nature of the book hinted at, for instance, by his wife.

Anthony Stadlen

Search the archive: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/archives/nabokv-l.html
Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm