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The Power of Great Literature


Azar Nafisi, author of The Republic of the Imagination: America in Three Books, thinks that, "America has a crisis of vision."

Upon immigrating to the U.S. and becoming a citizen, she was struck by a disturbing indifference to literature. She states: "Indifference is one of the most fatal weapons you can use, because you don’t see, you don’t hear, you don’t touch." Nafisi shows us why American classics including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Babbit by Sinclair Lewis, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, inspire us to imagine and, simply put, make our lives better.

Nafisi dovetails her journey to American citizenship with Huck's journey on his raft down the Mississippi. The concept of home and belonging, of uprooting and displacement are themes of our lives... and of Twain’s groundbreaking novel.

Sinclair Lewis' Babbit is a Midwestern everyman, successful in building a life in business, complete with the trappings of the middle class. The novel exposes how the standardization of thought and complacency is typical in closed communities.

Finally, the southern novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and its misfit characters open a window for Nafisi to meander through the nascent origins of rebellion that migrate into extremism.

Azar Nafisi's unique blend of memoir and cultural criticism is provocative. She passionately calls on all of us to aspire to more, to enter the "Republic of the Imagination."