Azar Nafisi


Books, film, and art that inspired me in 2014

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This is not a recommended reading list or my choice of the best books of 2014. I just want to share with you some of the most memorable books I have read or reread this year. Afterall what better way to celebrate and share the New Year than share your favorite books. Apart from books I also want to mention a few other items from the Republic of Imagination.

Gabriel, a long elegy for his young son, by the great American poet Ed Hirsch, published in 2014. There is no consolation against death, no real closure, especially when one mourns the death of one’s young son. But poetry can be a way to respect, to celebrate,  to continue to love, & in one way, perhaps the only way, defy death, resist & protest its absolutes, its indifference. This is what Ed Hirsch does, without an ounce of sentimentality or self-pity, or self flagellation. It is celebration of a life & mourning for an irretrievable loss in which through the poem life wins even the mourning will continue.

Conference of the Birds, (2011?) by the great Check born illustrator & artist, Peter Sis, who by the way created the tapestry for Vaclav Havel in the Prague airport & for Seamus Heaney in the Dublin airport. I so love this book. I especially love the hard cover version because it is so very sensual. Peter Sis has turned the mystical Persian poet Attar’s (born in mid 12 century)  famous poem, Conference of the Birds, into a festival of color & imagery. Images are so lyrical, so filled with movement. Seldom have I felt the poem within and through the image in this way…a feast for the senses.

The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, Meghan Daum (2014) beautifully written essays, self-deprecating in a good funny way, in the way of people who are self-confident, and who know what they are doing— in this case writing. She has insight but unlike some who have insight but are too full of themselves to let go, she is clearly enjoying what she writes. So the essays have an airy manner about them, while being quite serious.  

My Uncle Napoleon, (1973) by Iraj Pezeshkzad, just in case you want to read a tender, funny, heartbreakingly comic, lovingly critical novel from Iran. I have written this before and I still believe in it: best recommendation for those who take foreign policy seriously enough to pay attention to a people’s culture. The book became an all time best seller, turned into a great and popular television series before the Islamic Revolution and even after the revolution although it was banned it enjoys enormous popularity. Anyone interested in great Persian literature, classical and modern you can go online & check out the Mage Publishers. They are the best, from great Persian Cooking and wine to poems, history, fiction… 

This year I took time off to watch some classical films, a sort of private festival, which happened to have Humphry Bogart stat in them: Casablanca with Ingrid Bergman, The Big Sleep, Have & Have Not, with Lauren Bacall, & Maltese Falcon with Mary Astor. I also taped & watched Love & Death, with Woody Allen& Dianne Keaton, discovering that I still enjoyed watching that film.

By the way if you live in DC or are visiting, don’t forget the museums. We saw an amazing exhibition of Andrew Wyeth at the National Gallery, Freer has Nastaaligh, & of course the one & only Philips Collection,  their current exhibition on neo-Impressionists is fantastic. 

Readers of the World Unite!

Dear Reader,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the Republic of Imagination, a forum for discussion and the growth of ideas central to the question I attempt to answer in my book by the same name: can there be a democracy without a democratic imagination?

I hope that all of you will engage with me and each other on the blog as well as my Facebook and Twitter accounts, for each and every one of you is a crucial part of the Republic of Imagination. Stay tuned for more discussion topics and blog posts, and please use the form on the contact page for any queries or comments for me.

Check the events page for information about my speaking engagements, as I hope to meet many of you along my travels this fall!

I sincerely look forward to this journey of learning and exploration that we will embark on together; I couldn’t do it without you—those other readers, intimate strangers and fellow citizens of the Republic of Imagination.

Happy reading!


The Gabarron International Award for Thought and Humanities

For her determined and courageous defense of human values in Iran and her efforts to create awareness through literature about the situation women face in Islamic society.

Forced to leave her country, from U.S. exile she remains one of the most influential voices among silenced Iranian intellectuals.

Her message has contributed strongly in raising awareness about what is happening in Iran and encouraging women from the Islamic world to fight for their rights.

These were the words in the announcement of the jury decision for the Gabarron International Award of Thought and Humanities 2011. The jury recognized AZAR NAFISI’s career under the presidency of Mr. Demetrio Madrid Lopez, and with Acting Secretary Mr. Juan Ramón Lucas Fernández. Members of the jury include: Mr. Juan Ramón Lucas Fernández, Journalist and Director of the Spanish National Radio Show “On days like today”, The Honorable Mr. Demetrio Madrid López, First President of the board of Castilla y León and President and Advisor of the Second Section of the Consultative Council of Castilla y León, The Honorable Mr. Jesús Núñez Velázquez, President of Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio, Mr. Ignacio Perez Alonso, CEO of The North of Castilla, Mr. Bieito Rubido Ramonde, Director of ABC and Ms. Paloma Segrelles de Arenaza, Member of the Board of Directors for Herbalife Spain and President of the Youths Commission of the Century XXI Club.


For more information visit The Gabarron International Awards.