Monday, November 29, 2010


So today in English class we held a discussion about the book Reading Lolita in Tehran. The book, written by Azar Nafisi, alludes to Lolita, a novel written by Vladimir Nabokov. In both Reading Lolita in Tehran and Lolita there are situations of oppressor and victim. In Reading Lolita Nafisi describes the brutal and sometimes arbitrary rule of the Islamic Republic of Iran. One harsh law includes forcing women to wear the chador (veil) in public. The government even confiscated many satellite dishes (that seems to be one of the stranger regulations, especially to people like me… of western culture). One big idea came to mind: censorship. Limiting what people can do, hear, see, or know. In Lolita, Humbert Humbert is the oppressor and Lolita the victim. It is important to note that Humbert is the narrator of the Lolita; therefore, we only see Lolita through the perspective of Humbert. He limits what the reader can know about Lolita. Humbert is another censor. Wow, that was a lot of background info.

So through the course of our discussion of both books, I noticed that the terms we were using to describe censorship and restrictive laws weren’t very precise (I’m guilty too). I paged through Reading Lolita and found this gem of a word, solipsization (Nafisi 37). Now solipsization may not be a dictionary acceptable word (see my previous post about dictionaries!), but solipsism is. Merriam Webster defines solipsism as a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing. Another definition was extreme egocentrism.

Here is an exemplary quote from Reading Lolita in Tehran. Nafisi writes, “They had tried to shape others according to their own dreams and desires, but Nabokov, through his portrayal of Humber, had exposed all solipsists who take over other people’s lives” (Nafisi 33).

I really liked this quote because it proved that solipsism is very self-serving and pejorative because you are forcing your ideals on others and your ideas are the only ideas that exist (that seems extreme). Another topic that comes to mind is Descartes’ I think therefore I am. If many people claim that they “think” what does that mean for a community. What if every person is a radical solipsist? There would be a lot of opposing viewpoints on who is right (I just realized that these questions are coming from a perspective that solipsism is invalid and unfounded). The world would be made up of a lot of angry individuals who would definitely not be able to inflict their power/ideas onto others.

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