Azar Nafisi

Dispatches from my Republic of Imagination

I begin many of my talks, expressing my debt and gratitude to books, for connecting me as a reader and a writer to people I have never met before, whom I call ‘intimate strangers,’ people I connect to not because of where I live, what I do, or other exigencies of life, but because of a shared passion, the universal urge to know, and through imaginative knowledge to empathize and connect to others. I often add that books are like our children, you go through so much anxiety, pain and labor to bring them into the world, but once the child is born, there can be no better reward than the feeling of joy, pure unadulterated joy! You think you are in control of your child’s destiny, but then discover how much they have to offer you, what amazing places they take you to and what wonderful ‘intimate strangers’ they bring into your life.

My last book, Republic of Imagination, addressed many of the issues we are facing today. During my travels in the US and abroad the people and places I visited and had exchanges with illuminated those issues, introduced many new ideas, created new connections. There was and there is so much I want to talk about, to share with you, the ‘intimate strangers,’ about places my books have taken me to and people they have connected me to. So I decided in celebration of books, I will every once in a while post some “Dispatches” From My Republic of Imagination.

I’ve already begun sharing some events from my first dispatch, Paris, where I went to launch the French translation of Republic of Imagination. It was one of the most intriguing and thought provoking experiences I have had in a while. The interviews and reviews, the conversation with Thierry Grillet, at the Bibliotheque Nationale co-sponsored by Columbia University’s Global Centers, and other exchanges reminded me once more of how passionate the French are about ideas, how curious, how so full of insight. I’m looking forward to sharing more of this trip and others over the next couple weeks.

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