I enjoyed Without Reservations, though I think the title is a bit misguiding – Steinbach actually makes plenty of reservations in advance in the «books a place to stay» sense, so the pun doesn’t really work. However, she is pleasant company, and it’s quite refreshing to read travelogues by women, even in this day and age women seem to be less apt to travel on their own than men.
I’d been half-heartedly searching for Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran ever since I saw it at Malmö train station in May (didn’t buy it there because it was ridiculously priced and we already had too much luggage). Found it in Ottakars in Elgin (after we – on our tenth visit or so to the town – found that Elgin had an Ottakars completely by chance, but that’s another story), and of course had to begin it pretty promptly.
The main point of departure for the book is a reading group Nafisi started after she had to stop teaching at the university in Tehran following various changes introduced as a result of the revolution. She and her girls read novels that are forbidden, or at least frowned upon, by the regime and their discussions of and reaction to the novels and authors, provides an interesting contrast to the snippets of memoirs of the actual political situation and how it affects their lives. As regards the politics, Nafisi’s account is both critical and sympatetic at the same time, which makes it more interesting than the majority of the commentaries I’ve read before.
It’s pretty much as interesting as expected, with a few unlookedfor side-effects. Half-way through I had to find my post-it index tabs and start marking the places I’ll want to refer to later. I’ve been wanting to start seriously looking at my studies – most specifically this doctoral thesis I was planning to write at some point – again anyway, being in an academic atmosphere is catching obviously, but this book certainly provided fuel for that particular flame.
A book to be recommended if you are at all interested in the study of literature, and probably also if you’re just interested in an intellectual (dare I say: intelligent) view of the Iranian regime from «the inside».