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Blue Met focuses on Writers in Peril

Azar Nafisi

Newsday once referred to Azar Nafisi as a writer who “reminds us why we read in the first place.” When the gifted Iranian author found herself unexpectedly alone before an audience of hundreds at Concordia University last February, she did just that, beautifully.

In a pre-Blue Met literary evening, Nafisi had been scheduled to be interviewed by radio host Jian Ghomeshi about her new book, Things I’ve Been Silent About, but heard at the last moment that her partner was prevented from attending.

Nevertheless, she carried on, talking about the circumstances leading to the writing of her bestseller, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and what compelled her to write the much more personal second memoir.

Her love and need of literature was interwoven with accounts she presented of her life within her family and within Iran’s troubled society.

“Readers are intimate strangers,” Nafisi said, likening written but unread words to hot house flowers that wilt and die. “The heart of reading and writing is curiosity,” she said, evoking Vladimir Nabokov’s definition of the word: “Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form.”

She warned against sinking into a life of pure materialism, as some do in abundant North America, of living in a “world based simply on greed, without imagination and thought.”

This year’s BlueMet, in partnership with Reporters without Borders and Media@McGill will present a series of events, Writers in Peril, in French, English, Spanish, Arabic and Farsi, highlighting freedom of expression. Reza, a photojournalist who trained journalists in Afghanistan aiming to establish media outlets, will be featured, as well as human rights activist Marek Halter. Exiled Iranian cartoonist Nikahang Kowsar will speak, as will Zakaria Tamer, a Syrian- born short story writer and Margaret MacMillan, who has written books about censorship in China.

Distinguished literary guests will include Central and South American, Israeli and Arab, Hungarian, South Asian and Quebec writers.

The 11th annual edition of the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival will take place April 22-26, 2009 at the Delta Centre-Ville Hotel.

Information about and tickets to these and other events are available by calling 514-790-1245 and at or



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