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Immersion and Subversion: Azar Nafisi on the Radical Power of Literature


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Iranian–American writer and memoirist Azar Nafisi has built a career around her passion for interpreting literature from alternative and sometimes forbidden perspectives – and her dedication to the idea that narrative can be a liberating, transformative and subversive political and social force.

A decade ago, Reading Lolita in Tehran told Nafisi’s story of how she – secular and living in Iran – taught proscribed Western classics in secret, dodging state censors and arbitrary raids. The book ran to the heights of bestseller lists worldwide and was published in 32 languages.

Her latest, The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books, picks up the thread of her earlier work and extends an emphatic argument for literature’s crucial place in democratic societies.

Drawing on her experiences in Iran and America, Nafisi will share her thoughts on the necessity of imagination, the economic and political dangers of living in a society that lacks vision, and the utility of the humanities in a time of crisis.

Hosted by Jonathan Green (@GreenJ).

@azarnafisi | #azarnafisi

Azar Nafisi is presented in partnership with Sydney Opera House and United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.


Azar Nafisi

Azar Nafisi is currently the director of Cultural Conversations at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC, where she is a professor of aesthetics, culture and literature, and teaches courses on the relation between cult... Read more

Jonathan Green

Jonathan Green has been an editor, writer, commentator and broadcaster in a 40-year career as a journalist, beginning with a cadetship at The Canberra Times and taking in various Australian dailies: the Melbourne Herald, The Herald Sun, the Sunday Herald, The Sunday Age and 15 years at The Age. Jona... Read more


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