American Classics Literature
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.