Reading Lolita in Tehran

by Azar Nafisi

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Discuss the significance of the ending in Reading Lolita in Tehran.

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Consider a line from the work's Epilogue as reflective of how the narrative ends.  Azi has come to the West in which she still writes and teaches:  “I have left Iran, but Iran did not leave me.”  The ending of the book speaks to the idea that resistance is the only acceptable option to repression.  The love of literature and the ideas that it prompts from it are actions of resistance.  When she suggests that there should be an inalienable right to imagination, one sees this in the ending of the work.  Azi has embraced the idea that she must pursue her own passion of imagination and the ability to live for it.  This cannot happen in Iran, and thus she leaves it.

It is a complex ending because of this element of departure.  She is the first to open the self- reflective tone in the ending as she hopes that the girls remain back and continue the work that she demonstrated for them.  It is something that she can no longer do and leaves as a result.  The ending of the book is one that shows how many of the girls in the literature circle also end up leaving, suggesting that women of intelligence will invariably find difficulty living under repressive reality.  The ending ends up demonstrating the ultimate power of her memoir.  Her departure enables her to write the book and thus bring more attention to the issues in places like Iran.  In doing so, the ending raises even more complexity, suggesting that challenging issues such as women in Iran and the love of literature must be approached with a lens of introspection and reflection as opposed to quick judgement.  This complex construction of identity is evident in the ending of the book where   she does leave Iran, but Iran never does leave her.

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