Sunday, February 1, 2009

Always More Where That Comes From

5. Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi

Everyone has something they'd rather not talk about; their true feelings for parents or relatives, youthful mistakes, diseases, money, religion, death, sex. Azar Nafisi has tried to set loose her memories and feelings about her mother, and to a lesser extent, her father and other relatives and old family friends. She is upfront about her uneasiness, even an unwillingness to do what she feels she must, go against her mother's wishes and "air her dirty laundry." While the book is certainly exposing, of her father's affairs, of her less than charitable feelings, her favoring of her father over her mother, it always feels like there is something left hidden. I'm not even saying there shouldn't be, just that there is. Maybe it is because Nafisi herself has so little information about her mother and her mother's mother. Just like in Reading Lolita, when the Islamic Republic of Iran tries to deny her fiction, her mother's fictions deny her the truth.

Again, Nafisi delves into the relationship between fiction and reality, but not so deeply nor intellectually. This is not a "self-help book" as Nafisi says, neither is it particularly illuminating in the realm of ideas. One does see the shadow of the book Nafisi wants to write, the one she put aside for this memoir, called The Republic of the Imagination.

Nafisi's style is inherently readable, it is pleasant, well-organized, and reminiscent of a conversation with a friend. It can be repetitive, but she is so persistent and charming that it does not irk overmuch. The setting of her childhood and adulthood, Tehran, lends some interest to her memoir that the typical American suburbanite could never have. Her previous book lends her authority as well.

In terms of literature, Things I've Been Silent About is not important. In terms of getting to know one of my favorite authors even better, I am very well satisfied.

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