Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bestselling Author Links Freedom With Fiction

I’m hearing good things about the paperback release of The Republic of Imagination: A Life in Books, by Azar Nafisi.  The Boston Globe said: “Nafisi links the freedom of imagination that unites all readers to the founding ideals of our country and the personal values we claim as Americans.”  That’s a mouthful.

The author, whose earlier book became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller that sold over a million copies, takes us on a journey with her current book. Her publisher, Penguin Random House says to the book “is an impassioned and utterly original tribute to the vital importance of fiction in a democratic society.”

Perhaps the back cover copy describes it best:

“Azar Nafisi's bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran ended with her arrival in America with her young family, crying little more than the beloved books that helped her survive in revolutionary Iran.  The Republic of Imagination give us the next chapter in Azar’s journey, as she settles into her new life as a teacher in Washington, DC, and wonders what it means to become an American citizen.  She turns for an answer to the writings of the Founding Fathers and to her favorite American novels – beginning with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The best novels, Azar reminds us, can transport us across time and space, picking us up and plunking us down in a radically unfamiliar world, like Dorothy in the Land of Oz.  But they are not just a means of escape.  Through books, we learn to step int other people’s shoes and to imagine ourselves confronting difficult choices.  In this passionately argued and deeply personal book Azar challenges us to find in fiction the inspiration – and the courage – to lead a more meaningful life.”

Here are sone excerpts from the book:

“The majority of people in this country who haunt bookstores, go to readings and book festivals or simply read in the privacy of their homes are not traumatized exiles.  Many have seldom left their hometown or state, but does this mean that they do not dream, that they have no fears, that they don’t feel pain and anguish and yarn for a life of meaning?  Stories are not mere flights of fantasy o instruments of political power and control. They link us to our past, provide us with critical insight into the present and enable us to envision our lives not just as they are but as they should be or might become.  Imagination knowledge is not something you have today and discard tomorrow. It is a way or perceiving the world and relating to it.”

“Although literacy is the first and essential step toward the kind of engaged citizenry necessary of a thriving democracy, it is not enough, for it is only the means to an end.  What we learn and how we learn it is just as important.”

“I believe all great art and literature, all great deeds of humanity, rely on this fragile and most enduring hope.  One function of art is to be a witness and historian of man’s endurance, to provide ‘conclusive evidence that we have lived.”

“Stories endure – they have been with us since the darn of history – but they need to be refreshed and retold in every generation through the eyes and experiences of new readers sharing a common space that knows no boundaries of politics or religion, ethnicity or gender – a Republic of Imagination, that most democratic republic of all.  For every writer deprived of the freedom of speech, millions of readers are also deprived of the freedom to read what they might have told us.  That is why the voice of a poet who endured and resisted tyranny should be the voice of conscience, reminding us of what is essential: “Since there are no laws that can protect us from ourselves, no criminal code is capable of preventing a true crime against literature,” Joseph Brodsky said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.  “Though we can condemn the material suppression of literature – the persecution of writers, acts of censorship, the burning of books – we are powerless when it comes to its worst violation: that of not reading the books.  For that crime a person pays with his whole life; if the offender is a nation, it pays with its history.”

Is freedom linked to fiction? Luckily, for America, freedom is not a fantasy, but a living reality. Unfortunately, for others, freedom is something others can only dream of.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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