The Republic of Imagination
America in Three Books
*Now available in paperback.
Ten years ago, Azar Nafisi electrified readers with her million-copy bestseller, Reading Lolita in Tehran, which told the story of how, against the backdrop of morality squads and executions, she taught The Great Gatsby and other classics to her eager students in Iran. In this exhilarating followup, Nafisi has written the book her fans have been waiting for: an impassioned, beguiling, and utterly original tribute to the vital importance of fiction in a democratic society. What Reading Lolita in Tehran was for Iran, The Republic of Imagination is for America.
Taking her cue from a challenge thrown to her in Seattle, where a skeptical reader told her that Americans don’t care about books the way they did back in Iran, she energetically responds to those who say fiction has nothing to teach us. Blending memoir and polemic with close readings of her favorite American novels—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, among others—she invites us to join her as citizens of her “Republic of Imagination,” a country where the villains are conformity and orthodoxy and the only passport to entry is a free mind and a willingness to dream.
“We are all citizens of Azar Nafisi’s Republic of Imagination. Without imagination there are no dreams, without dreams there is no art, and without art there is nothing. Her words are essential.”
—MARJANE SATRAPI, Persepolis
“A passionate argument for returning to key American novels in order to foster creativity and engagement… Literature, writes Nafisi, is deliciously subversive because it fires the imagination and challenges the status quo… Her literary exegesis lightly moves through her own experience as a student, teacher, friend and new citizen. Touching on myriad examples, from L. Frank Baum to James Baldwin, her work is both poignant and informative.”
“In The Republic of Imagination, the mirror-image of her first book, Nafisi explores the influence fiction has had on life in America, where literature, while not outlawed, is endangered… Her opening tribute to the power of literature segues into revelatory close readings of the three novels she selected, after much deliberation, as salient expressions of the American spirit, specifically our restlessness, ‘unending questioning,’ and perpetual sense of outsiderness… As a deeply engaged envoy from that republic, Nafisi urges us to read widely and inquisitively.”
—Booklist (starred review)