Azar Nafisi is best known as the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, a compassionate and often harrowing portrait of the Islamic revolution in Iran and how it affected one university professor and her students. It is an incisive exploration of the transformative powers of fiction in a world of tyranny. In her latest book, Republic of the Imagination, she responds to the question of whether novels still matter by asserting that literature has the power to liberate us no matter where or how we live. The titular republic—Nafisi’s “true home”—is “a land with no borders and few restrictions … the only requirements for entry are an open mind, a restless desire to know, and an indefinable urge to escape the mundane.” Nafisi asserts that books “enable us to tolerate complexity and nuance and to empathize with people whose lives and conditions are utterly different from our own.”
Nafisi is the recipient of Smithsonian Associates’ 14th annual Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award in honor of her commitment to the humanities and education, as well as her richness of ideas and originality of thought. The annual award recognizes and celebrates influential thinkers, innovators, and catalysts in the arts, sciences, and humanities, in both traditional and emerging disciplines. Previous recipients include Yo-Yo Ma, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Eric Kandel, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Jules Feiffer, Ted Turner, Lisa Randall, Meryl Streep, Greg Mortenson, Johnnetta Cole, Mark Morris, Bill Drayton, and Shirley Tilghman.
The Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate Award is made possible by the Creativity Collaboration, a joint project of Smithsonian Associates and the Creativity Foundation.
Nafisi will be interviewed by Mary Kay Zuravleff, author of the novel Man Alive! as part of the program.
The Republic of the Imagination (Viking) is available for sale and signing after the program.