The Current

Writer Azar Nafisi argues fiction is democracy's oxygen

It is not for nothing that tyrants burn books and imprison authors. Azar Nafisi says totalitarian regimes fear the power of ideas and nowhere are ideas more forceful than in fiction. Today, the writer shares how imagination and ideas defies limitations.
Iranian born bestselling writer Azar Nafisi says stifling Imagination leads to totalitarianism. (Marshall Clarke )

This month has seen the beginning of what many hope could be a historic new chapter in relations between Iran, and the West.

The hope is that the deal on Iran's nuclear program has the potential to bring about a thaw in relations between Iran and the United States, after decades of limited contact and frosty relations. But the skepticism and nay-saying that has greeted the accord also shows just how wide a gap there is to be bridged.

It's a cultural divide that Azar Nafisi understands very well. She wrote about her experiences as a professor of English literature in Iran in her best-selling book, "Reading Lolita in Tehran."

And since the late 1990s, she has lived in the United States. Her latest book, "The Republic of Imagination", is her exploration of the American experience, as understood through American literature. It's also a celebration of the power of fiction and its importance to a vibrant democracy. 

Azar Nafisi joined Anna Maria Tremonti in Toronto last November. 

The crisis besetting America is not just an economic or political crisis; something deeper is wreaking havoc across the land, a mercenary and utilitarian attitude that demonstrates little empathy for people's actual well-being, that dismisses imagination and thought, branding passion for knowledge as irrelevant.- FromAzarNafisi'sbook, "The Republic of Imagination"

What do you get from reading fiction? Which titles have shaped the way you see the world?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal. 


♦ Write to Transcend Space and Time - The Atlantic
♦​ Why this Iranian-born writer fears for America's soul -  Salon
♦​ 'Books representative of democratic way of living' - The Guardian