Azar Nafisi


In These Heartless Times, The Little Prince Reminds Us What It Is To Be Human

My new piece in the Guardian, a love letter to the French people in empathy with victims of terror in Nice. I also want this to be a message against the violence that is wrecking havoc the world over from Beirut, Baghdad & Istanbul to Paris, Brussels & New Orleans; against violent rhetoric that is raging across the world by reactionary voices & autocratic rulers who use the war against terror as an excuse to curtail their people’s freedom, those like Donald Trump in the U.S. or Marie Le Pen in France who in the name of freedom undermine freedom.

Dispatches from the Republic of Imagination: My Journey Through France

My interview with the wonderful Florence Noiville of LeMonde. It was a joy to talk to a person who was herself a writer & quite in love with ideas & imagination:

I had a great time talking to Caroline Broue of La Grande table, the kind of radio interview on culture and books any author dreams of being on:

A lovely interview with Nathalie Crom, for the extremely popular Telerama:…/la-republique-de-l-imagination,142…

The video of my conversation about French translation of Republic of Imagination at an event co-sponsored by the Columbia Global Center & Bibliotheque Nationale. I so enjoyed the warm introduction by Loren Wolfe of Columbia Global Center, herself a great literature person! & the intriguing & thought provoking exchange with Thierry Grillet, the director of cultural diffusion at France’s National Library:



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.

Reflecting on America in 2015 with a tapestry from Iran


In 2015 we witnessed too many acts of violence & terror the world over, names of countries & cities associated with life & joy, Tunisia, Cairo, Paris, Istanbul, Yemen, Lebanon, again Paris, San Bernardino. We have seen the Syrian refugees, victims of their own regime & of terror, being once more victims of so much indifference & fear around the world & in this country, where many, especially some among the political elite negate the words promised by the Statue of Liberty replacing them with a most vulgar & cruel rhetoric against refugees, illegal immigrant, Muslims, & minorities. As an Iranian American under the new visa waiver law approved by both the administration & houses of congress, my family & I like other Iranian Americans also feel more vulnerable in the generous country we made our home, escaping persecution by the regime in our beloved country of birth. This arrogance is only possible because of the ignorance that feeds it. Although Donald Trump has the privilege to represent the current reign of ignorance, the rest of us, especially among the political elite are not free from responsibility.

We need to take action against the dominance of fear, terror & ignorance by refusing to enter that domain, refusing to act out of the same sense of brutality & entitlement. This is where the curiosity, empathy that imagination and ideas evoke is essential to our survival. I remember Henry James, advising a friend who had lost her husband in the terror of First World War, that she should “repine & rebel” against this horror & “Feel,feel, I say–feel for all you’re worth, and even if it half kills you, for that is the only way to live at this terrible pressure, and the only way to honour & celebrate these admirable beings who are our pride & inspiration.”

In order to begin this rebellion of feeling against the rule of ignorance & arrogance I want to share with you, at the start of the new year, the beautiful tapestry at the top of the post. It is a Persian carpet at the United Nation, gift of Iranian government, that is adorned by a poem by Saadi the great 12 century Persian poet. Today more than ever do we need to remember these words. Emerson admired Saadi to the point where he compared his poetic language to that of Bible and also wrote a poem called Saadi. This is how cultures from such different times & places reach out to one another, find a common language, celebrate their common humanity. This is also how we become intimate with strangers, this is how we share our common humanity.

Happy New Year!

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