Hamid Dabashi vs. Azar Nafisi

“A Collision of Prose and Politics: A prominent professor’s attack on a best-selling memoir sparks debate among Iranian scholars in the U.S.”

Richard Byrne in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Dabashi_2Like many Americans of Iranian descent, Hamid Dabashi read an article in the April 17 issue of The New Yorker with anxious dismay.

In that article, Seymour Hersh reported that President Bush’s administration was preparing an airstrike against Iran, including the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons.

The president himself dismissed the report as “wild speculation.” But Mr. Dabashi, a professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature at Columbia University who has been active in the antiwar movement since the attacks of September 11, 2001, heard a call to action.

Azar_nafisiThe article prompted him to dust off an essay that he had written a few years before and publish it in the June 1 edition of the Egyptian English-language newspaper Al-Ahram. His target? Not President Bush or the Pentagon, but Azar Nafisi, author of the best-selling memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran and a visiting fellow at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, in Washington.

Ms. Nafisi’s memoir, published by Random House in 2003, blended a harrowing portrayal of the life of women in post-revolutionary Iran with a powerful personal testimony about the power of literary classics. The book found a wide audience, and its success made Ms. Nafisi a celebrity.

More here.