Sunday, September 17, 2006

Damn, I'm Old

Matt Turner has pointed out in the comments to the last post that Nick not so long ago wrote ...The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, whose demonstrations older readers may have marched on with me...
How dare he call me an older reader?

Once, when book editors were heaping deserved praise on Reading "Lolita" in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, Azar Nafisi's poignant account of educated women suffering under the Iranian mullahs, I managed to silence a literary dinner party for the first and I suspect only time in my life by asking if they realised the 'Paul' Nafisi had dedicated her book to was Paul Wolfowitz.

Comment by Vinayak:

Azar Nafisi's book "Reading Lolita in Teheran", is dedicated "In memory of my mother, Nezhat Nafisi, for my father, Ahmad Nafisi, and my family Bijan, Negar and Dara Naderi". Nary a Paul in sight, let alone Paul Wolfowitz.
Will Cohen's dinner guest must be kicking herself.

A further comment by Neoconned suggests this post by Doug Ireland. It may be of interest to the already interested reader that the root of this controversy, which is neither more nor less than, as Comrade Benji is very likely to put it, a storm in a teacup, is the endlessly circumlocutory Christopher Hitchens, or writer of some reputation and a contributor to Vanity Fair, Slate and other publications. Hitchens' helpfully made his observation in the Independent, however, he made it to Johann Hari (hooray for blogs!).

But can we trust the Bush administration - filled with people like Dick Cheney, who didn't even support the release of Nelson Mandela - to support democracy and the spread of American values now? He offers an anecdote in response. There is a new liberal-left heroine in the States called Azar Nafisi. Her book ?Reading Lolita in Tehran' documents an underground feminist resistance movement to the Iranian Mullahs that concentrated on reading great - and banned - works of Western literature. "And who is this book by an icon of the Iranian resistance dedicated to? [US Deputy Secretary of Defence] Paul Wolfowitz, the bogeyman of the left, and the intellectual force behind [the recent war in] Iraq."

The dedication is apparently as Vinayak says. (Good point about Cheney, Chris; I'd forgotten that.)
Hitchens replied.

I may have condensed or elided verbally in my conversation with Hari, who is a fairly meticulous reporter, but then he has me applauding a "destabilisation" of General Franco as if such a thing had actually taken place rather than (which I must have meant) as if it would have been a desirable thing if it had.

Doug Ireland is certainly "not alone in finding" that "elliptical, not to say evasive."
Under his own name, Hitchens phrased things somewhat differently.

An equally intriguing moment occurs at the other end of the book, on the pages devoted to "Acknowledgements." Here one finds a tribute to "Paul (thank you for introducing me to Persecution and the Art of Writing, among many other things)." The title mentioned-but unattributed-is that of a celebrated essay by Leo Strauss (while the "Paul," you may care to know, is Paul Wolfowitz).

Ms Nafisi replies in some detail. She neither confirms nor denies the 'Paul' is indeed Wolfowitz.

The acknowledgments to my book, [although the individuals I mention belong to very different political spectrums, both liberal and conservative, left and right) are very personal, and I do not wish them to be used to define my political views, or to imply political associations. Without being coy I reserve my right to keep the identity of Paul private and not let my relationships become political inferences either in support or against certain views.

Me, I take that to mean she may well have meant Paul Wolfowitz, but does not wish to be seen as partisan. He seems a likely reader of and recommender of Strauss. I'm not sure I believe that authors have to right to take back statements, and if she privately confided to Hitchens that she did mean Wolfowitz, he has the right to use that as he sees fit. (He may have traded this right for the one of being perceived a gentleman, however.)
Nick, it's unconfirmable and from a secondary source. Call it a 'known unknown' and keep it under your hat, I say.
UPDATE (30 seconds after posting). I got sucked into that what dedicated what to whom thing there. I meant to originally just post a request for a helpful reader who had a copy to tell us whether Nick or the first commenter was right.
The real reason for this post is this passage.

There was a fashionable postmodern theory in the Nineties that people hate the alien 'Other'.

A decade or two or ago, I could have given the page reference for that one -- in this. (1943, IIRC. Also that's a very nice looking cover on Amazon. Maybe I covet the book; maybe just the appearance of the book, and not its essential bookness.)

Nick again:

Anyone who has been caught up in office politics or a family feud will have learnt that, on the contrary, people hate what they know.

Or, as Philip Larkin once remarked, the famous Frog got it the wrong way round.


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