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Azar Nafisi is best known as the author of the national bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, which electrified its readers with a compassionate and often harrowing[…]

Nafisi on the “portable world.”

Azar Nafisi: The term “portable world” I borrowed from Nabokov. He uses it in relationship to one of his most loveable characters, ..., where he says his world was like a soccer ball. It was a portable world. I learned from early childhood that everything you call home can be taken away from you at the drop of a curtain, you know? Not just wars and revolutions can destroy everything you’re identified with, but a hurricane, a tornado . . . It’s very easy. And I learned that I need to rely not on the things that the world can take from me. And so my world . . . What I identify with is a set of memories, and a sort of a universal world where I identify with a set of values. And so whether you’re Persian, or American, or French even, you know you can all agree on those set of principles of human rights. I believe in . . . The declaration of human rights is my world, my home. And the world of imagination is the other . . . is the halo around that world. I feel – and I tell this to my children – that we are very lucky to have been . . . lived in two cultures simultaneously because in my field you have to look at the world through others’ eyes. And I feel lucky that I can look at U.S. through Iran’s eyes. And that sense of community, warmth, and closeness; the attention to just the details of life that sometimes we miss in U.S. – I feel lucky that I can bring that to my life in the U.S. And the sense of infinite possibilities and the idea of pursuit of happiness is what I can take from this country to Iran. And so I feel . . . I used not to feel lucky. I used to feel deprived because I don’t ever have a home. But now I feel good.

Recorded on: 2/22/08