Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Nafisi, Nabokov and random thoughts

I just woke from my afternoon nap.

I think I only do this now because I hate going to sleep early, but I still have to go to work in the morning. I know... the complexities of college life:) I've been reading a combination of regular news, blogs, and my regular reading for class. Then I fall asleep looking at Reading Lolita in Tehran.

I read it a couple of years ago. That is how I learned about Nabokov(author of Lolita and Invitation to a Beheading). I originally had to read it for a summer class on the Iranian Revolution. The author has such a beautiful way of describing the effects of the revolution on her life and that of the lives that surrounded her... Also what one goes through living in a totalitarian state.

I don't know why it popped up in my mind this afternoon. Actually, since I've yet to get back to Invitation to a Beheading since before the break it has been at the back of my mind quite a bit. I wanted to remember Nafisi's description of the book. So I'm pulled in once again.

"Those of us living in the Islamic Republic of Iran grasped both the tragedy and absurdity of the cruelty to which we were subjected. We had to poke fun at our own misery in order to survive. We also instinctively recognized poshlust- not just in others, but in ourselves. This was one reason that art and literature became so essential to our lives: they were not a luxery but a necessity. What Nabokov captured was the texture of life in a totalitarian society, where you are completely alone in an illusory world full of false promises, where you can no longer differentiate between you savior and your executioner....

"There was something both in his fiction and in his life, that we instinctively related to and grasped, the possibility of a boundless freedom when all options are taken away. I think that was what drove me to create the class. My main link with the outside world had been the university, and now that I had severed that link, there on the brink of the void, I could invent the violin or be devoured by the void" (Nafisi in Reading Lolita... 23-24).

I can't imagine living in a state where you could relate to Nabokov's work in such a way. It is a frame of mind that is so foriegn to an American. I have tried to relate as any do when they are pulled into a book. Imagine Cinncinatus C. sitting in his cell. He has the constant idea that there is so much he has to do, but why begin a project when you'll never be sure you'll be able to finish. The people around him are all shallow and deceptive, but he follows them like a child. He has the constant idea of a better life and of escape, but he only imagines as he sits in his cell.

I still tryed to relate.

The only comparison I could come up with are the traps that we create for ourselves in this world. No, we do not have a repressive regieme where we feel helpless with the fear of death upon us. Yet we still lock ourselves into this materialistic world with the idea that it will make us happy.

As Jess described it to me on the phone the other night... That we have to find this perfect carrer to make us happy for the rest of our lives. What is the outcome? Well, in Jess's and my case it is going through the education system till we recieve our PhD's. What is the repayment of working away your youth? Why, more work... for security and stuff. Through this I am told never to marry till I'm done with school in my 30s and enjoy what you are forced to do. Hey you'll get plenty of vacation time when your too old to really enjoy it:)

Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. I know Jess enjoys her field as well. So what is wrong? It is the force, the false idea of happiness that brings you to extreme pessimism, and the knowlege that you will more than likely be alone along the way.

I write this knowing that there is nothing to do about this trap other than write about it. It could be that I am simply taking what I'm reading and applying it to what is on my mind at the time. I have been coming back to these thoughts often, but it does me no good. So I will end this long and rather pointless post with a quote from Nabokov... Just because I like it:

"Alas, no one taught me this kind if chase, and the ancient inborn art of writing is long since forgotten- forgotten are the days when it needed no schooling, but ignited and blazed like a forest fire- today it seems just as incredible as the music that once used to be extracted from a monstrous pianoforte, music that would nimbly ripple or suddenly hack the world into great, gleaming blocks- I myself picture all this so clearly, cut you are not I, and therein lies the irreparable calamity. Not knowing how to write, but sensing with my criminal intuition how words are combined, what one must do for a commonplace word to come alive and to share its neighbor's sheen, heat, shadow, while reflecting itself in its neighbor and renewing the neighboring word in the processm so that the whole line is live iridescence"(Invitation to a Beheading,93)

(I'm not dealing with doing any links with this mac... blogger should be more mac friendly, its annoying)

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