21 January 2007

Azal Nafisi dedication to Paul Wolfowitz – Nick Cohen is wrong

Today’s Observer carries a long article, Don’t you know your left from your right. Within the article there this short piece Feminism’s Friend - why the Wolf is big in Iran.

A cryptic dedication on the title page of Reading Lolita in Tehran, a memoir published by Iranian feminist Azar Nafisi in 2003, encapsulated how warped the liberal left had become.

It is an account of educated Iranian women escaping from the repression of the ayatollahs to talk about Madame Bovary, Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, as well as Lolita, at a reading circle Nafisi organised at her home each Thursday. Living under theocratic rule was like 'having sex with a man you loathe', she said, and in the work of authors from other continents and other times, she and her friends could briefly get away from the men who abused them.

Once she would have seen the liberal left as her natural ally. But Reading Lolita in Tehran was dedicated 'to Paul' [Wolfowitz], and by 2003 it was no longer surprising that an Iranian feminist should turn to an American neoconservative, for where else was she to look for support? To Western liberals who had never spent a second of their time thinking about the Iranian opposition or protesting against the Iranian regime? To all those graduates of Western universities who thought that their cultural justification for the oppression of women was a proof of their liberalism? Nafisi had had her fill of them. She told an American who interviewed her in Boston, Massachusetts: 'I very much resent it in the West when people - maybe with good intentions or from a progressive point of view - keep telling me, "It's their culture" ... It's like saying, the culture of Massachusetts is burning witches.'

I have no idea what, if any, relationship Nafisi has with Wolfowitz (she may be close for all I know) but was Reading Lolita in Tehran dedicated to him? The only way to find out was to dig out my own copy. The dedication is thus:

In memory of my mother, Nezhat Nafisi
for my father, Ahmad Nafisi
and my family: Bijan, Negar and Dadra Naderi

Cohen is wrong, the book is not dedicated to Paul Wolfowitz

There are three pages of acknowledgements at the end of the book. One of the acknowledgements does reads “Paul (thank you for introducing me to to Persecution and the Art of Writing among many other things.

But is this Paul Wolfowitz? I found a piece on Doug Ireland’s Direland, dated 14 October 2004 concerning the whole issue of the Wolfowitz dedication. It appears that the origin of this issue goes back to an interview given by Christopher Hitchens to the Independent (date not gven)” in which he stated that the book was "dedicated" to Paul Wolfowitz.”

In a later article The Captive Mind Now Hitchens states “one finds a tribute to "Paul (thank you for introducing me to Persecution and the Art of Writing, among many other things)." The title mentioned—but unattributed—is that of a celebrated essay by Leo Strauss (while the "Paul," you may care to know, is Paul Wolfowitz)”

Doug Ireland asked Nafisi herself. Nafisi gave this answer:

"In some strange way I have to be thankful to Mr. Hitchens for providing
this opportunity for a dialogue with you. I am going to be brief and
respond to each of the matters we discussed, but my hope is that we will
not get enmeshed in political squabble… The acknowledgments to my book, [although the individuals I mention belong to very different political spectrums, both liberal and conservative, left and right) are very personal, and I do not wish them to be used to define my political views, or to imply political associations. Without being coy I reserve my right to keep the identity of Paul private and not let my relationships become political inferences either in support or against certain views.'

Hmm there is no dedication to him but there may or may not be a brief acknowledgement to Wolfowitz buried halfway down the penultimate page of the book. Does it matter? There are a lot of other acknowledgements. I have no idea whether they are neocons, liberals, Marxists or apolitical. There is one thing I do know though, Reading Lolita in Tehran is a must read. I can thank Redwine for urging me to read it.


elasticwaistbandlady said...

I heard an interesting rebroadcast of the Michael Medved talk radio program this morning and he interviewed a controversial author by the name of Dinesh D'Souza. Dinesh just wrote a book comparing how much American conservatives have in common with Middle Eastern Muslims. More so, than they have with the American leftist culture that have proved themselves destructive towards the traditional family. The book's called The Enemy At Home, and since the New York Times hated it. Nay, they despised it and trashed it in the reviews today, I know I'm probably going to enjoy reading it very much.

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Oh, the reason I referenced this book, is that I see similarities in your post to the ideas set forth by Mr. D'Souza, jams.

Sonic said...

Nice work, I've taken the libery of referencing it here


Sonic said...

Nice work, I've taken the libery of referencing it here


Steve Bates said...

EWBL, before you read D'Souza's book, you'll want to see this interview...

jams o donnell said...

Ewbl I know Medved mainly through his bad films reviews when a student over 20 years ago. Otherwise he is not well known here - but I did understand that he is very much a conservative.

Steve, Colbert does make D'Souza sounds a bit foolish but he is a bit annoying to these English eyes! I didn't think much of the things that D'Souza got to say.

Feel fre to link Sonic, he says well after the fact!

elasticwaistbandlady said...

I didn't finish the youtube clip, but I'm a little disappointed to hear the exact same vitriol he used on the Michael Medved show. I mean verbatim. Meh, the book still sounds interesting to me. And I rarely engage in debate of any sort, but I like reading different points of view from my own. One of the main reasons that The Poor Mouth is one of my favorite online hangouts! Thanks for the youtube link, Steve.

Oh, and Michael Medved hasn't always been a conservative. In his younger days he campaigned quite heavily for Democratic candidates and causes. His movie reviews crack me up, by the way. He's usually spot on with film assessments.

jams o donnell said...

He hosted a world worst movies show here which was followed by Plann 9 from Outer Space or teh Wild Women of Wongo! Great to watch as a student after the pubs shut.

I know we have differing views ewbl but I am touched that you like the Poor Mouth. I love your take on life too. the Smiling Infidel is always fun to read.

sonia said...

I am not surprised. The neo-cons are the only real revolutionaries left in this world. All the other pseudo-revolutionaries are just kissing various dictators's asses...

I linked to this post here on my blog

jams o donnell said...

thanks for the link Sonia. While I wouldn't look to much of the left (certainly not the Galloways of the world) for support I wouldn't trust the Neocons either.