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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Author Azar Nafisi has a gift for using literature for her own purposes in her best-selling memoir "Reading Lolita In Tehran" it's a key - the path to internal liberation in the midst of an oppressive revolutionary Iran. In her new book, "The Republic Of Imagination: America In Three Books, " literature becomes a map of American culture, society, and the disparate elements that make up the adopted home she loves. The three books that guide her are Mark Twain's "Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, " "Babbitt" by Sinclair Lewis and "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers. She told us she was drawn to these three books because together they're a kind of American conscience.

AZAR NAFISI: As I was working for this book, I realized how much works of American fiction are almost like the moral guardians of the American reality - how much they remind us of the other aspect of the American dream. I see two contradictory aspects to this dream. One is the materialistic, crass one - it's a dog eat dog world. We each are after our own interests. And the other is the idealistic one where if you have a passion, you go after your passion, which is Huck Finn. He rejects any form of success, including money, you know. And then I realized that for me, Huck Finn becomes sort of literary Declaration of Independence. And the Mark Twain - maybe not consciously - he described what is the ideal of American - the homeless, restless American that is always looking to new horizons and thinks with his heart. And so Huck Finn came, you know, became my main character.

And then I thought, OK, it seems to me that many of the great American novels became Huck Finn's progenies. As if these characters started walking out of "Huckleberry Finn" and populated landscape of American fiction.

Source: www.npr.org
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