SBC’s International Writers series opens with ‘Reading Lolita’ author

| September 1, 2008

When John Gregory Brown was planning the first Sweet Briar College International Writers Series in 1999, his goal was in keeping with the College’s promise of global discovery.

“We began the series as a means of contributing to the College’s commitment to offer students a global education and as a means of bringing to campus authors whose lives and work would be of interest to a broad array of students,” Brown, director of the College’s creative writing program, said.

Since then, Sweet Briar has hosted two International Writers Series — in 1999-2000 and 2003-04 — featuring such authors as Salman Rushdie, Ha Jin, Derek Walcott, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Nuruddin Farah, Sindiwe Magona, Caryl Phillips, Adam Zagajewski and Naomi Shihab Nye.

A third installment of the International Writers Series opens Thursday, Sept. 18 with a lecture by Azar Nafisi, author of “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books.” The event will be held at 8 p.m. in Murchison Lane Auditorium and admission is free.

“Reading Lolita” was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than two years and has been translated into 32 languages. Writer and feminist Margaret Atwood called the award-winning book “Stunning … a literary life raft on Iran’s fundamentalist sea” and recommended “all readers should read it.”

The late writer and activist Susan Sontag said she was “enthralled and moved by Azar Nafisi’s account of how she defied, and helped others to defy, radical Islam’s war against women.

“Her memoir contains important and proper complex reflections about the ravages of theocracy, about thoughtfulness, and about the ordeals of freedom — as well as a stirring account of the pleasures and deepening of consciousness that result from an encounter with great literature and with an inspired teacher.”

Nafisi’s lecture is the first in a series of readings and lectures planned for the 2008-09 academic year. Future events include Chinese author Yiyun Li, Oct. 8 and 9; Spanish writer Luis Goytisolo, Oct. 16; South African novelist and playwright Zakes Mda, Nov. 12 and 13; Chinese poet Zhang Er, Feb. 11 and 12; Indian novelist Manil Suri, April 15 and 16 or March; and Basque writer Bernardo Atxaga, April 20 and 21.

While on campus, the writers also will meet with students in classes and at informal dinners and receptions. If Brown had his way, however, the international writers would hang around even longer.

“My dream is that one day the series will have its own endowment so we can offer it more often than every four or five years and that we have the funding to invite one of the participants to live and teach at Sweet Briar for a semester or a year in order to contribute to the College’s aim of creating a more diverse and enriching community,” he said.

The series is currently funded through the College’s lectures and events committee and the Ewald fund. For more information, contact John Gregory Brown, director of the creative writing program, at brown@sbc.edu or 381-6434 or visit the International Writers Series Web site.

Books by authors featured in the series are available at the Sweet Briar College Book Shop.

Category: Creative Writing