A relatively recent afternoon, I heard a radio broadcaster announce that 69 Iranians died in an intentional bombing, killing initiative.  Seemingly often this horrific news spreads with a tinge of indifference in parts of our world.  Normally it would take the metaphorical route of going in one ear and out the other, not this time.  At the moment I was behind my work desk, but I straightened my back and shifted my eyes. I thought of READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN.

The author, Azar Nafisi’s, summation of this barbaric behavior, well, is perfect:  “I cannot remember the distance between the phone call and my presence, almost an hour later, at the entrance of the university.  There was a traffic jam.  Bijan and I got out of the taxi in the vicinity of the university and started to walk.  For some reason, after a while, as if pushed by some invisible source of energy, our pace quickened into a run.  A huge crowd of mourners had gathered, blocking the streets that led to the university.  There were reports of a fight having broken out between the members of the Mujahideen, a radical religious group that claimed to be Taleghani’s spiritual and political heir, and to those belonging what was loosely called the Hizbollah, Party of Allah, mainly composed of fanatics and viglantes determined to implement the laws of God on earth.  The fight was over who should have the honor of carrying Taleghani’s body.  Many were crying, beating their chests and their heads, calling out:  “Today is the day of mourning!  Taleghani has gone to heavan today.”

Over the next two decades, this particular chant would be used for many others, a symptom of the symbiosis between the revolution’s founders and death.  This was the first time I experienced the desperate, orgiastic pleasure of this form of public mourning: it was the one place where people mingled and touched bodies and shared emotions without restraint or guilt.  There was a wild, sexually flavored frenzy in the air.  Later, when I saw a slogan by Khomeini saying that the Islamic Republic survives through its mourning ceremonies, I could testify to its truth.” 

I sketched an obvious parallel and the remaining newscast, mute.  I shifted my eyes again, and again. 

A population and a single occasion for them to freely express themselves?  I asked myself and shook my head. 

By the way, before bedtime last night I picked up READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN by Nafisi because so far, I don’t think I like this new fiction piece.  But now I’ve got to finish it!  Oh, to be hooked on books…!