Iranian–American writer and memoirist Azar Nafisi has built a career around her passion for interpreting literature from alternative and sometimes forbidden perspectives – and her dedication to the idea that narrative can be a liberating, transformative and subversive political and social force.

A decade ago, Reading Lolita in Tehran told Nafisi’s story of how she – secular and living in Iran – taught proscribed Western classics in secret, dodging state censors and arbitrary raids. The book ran to the heights of bestseller lists worldwide and was published in 32 languages.

Her latest work, The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books, picks up the thread of her earlier work and extends an emphatic argument for literature’s crucial place in democratic societies.

Drawing on her experiences in Iran and America, Nafisi shared her thoughts on the necessity of imagination, the economic and political dangers of living in a society that lacks vision, and the utility of the humanities in a time of crisis. 

Presented in partnership with the Sydney Opera House and The Wheeler Centre.