Azar Nafisi: For me, literature is like blood in your veins. You don't see it, but if it stops running in the veins, life stops. I never imagined I could marry anyone who would not read. My brother and I used to be taken to these parties we hated by our parents, and we always went there in torn up jeans and a book under our arms, to show people, that is what we cared about. And my father, ever since I was a kid, he would tell us stories and he would tell us later on that this country is so ancient, Iran, and it has been invaded so many times. And the only thing that gives us identity as an Iranian is our poetry. And in this new book, I talk about our epic poet, Ferdowsi, who actually, 2010 is the thousand year anniversary of Ferdowsi. And Ferdowsi, after the Arab invasion of Iran in the seventh century when, for the first time, the Arab invasion force the Iranians to even change their religion, so their sense of identity was lost. He wrote a thousand pages of poetry, weaving in Iranian mythology, going back to 3,000 years ago until the invasion of the Arabs. And he said that, "I will be immortal." It's like Nabokov saying, "Governments come and go. Only the trace of genius remains." And so ever since I was a kid, literature was a place I would go where the life I could not control would become controllable. I think literature is a resistance against both the tyranny of time and of man.
As she talks about in this excerpt from this week’s Art Works podcast, literature has always held that place in her heart to face tyranny head on. [1:45]