The Princess

These mirrors reflected back the features of the girl slouched on a stool before them. She was pale in the sickly way that was fashionable in the city, slender, and her hair, albeit lank, was long enough to sit on. It swaddled her like a light, blonde cloak. There was naught amiss in any singular component of her appearance, other than the skin being a touch too white, the lips bloodless. These minor, natural flaws did not explain why hers was but the deceptive beauty of the poisoned apple. It was not merely that she was shallow, a creature of simple malice: within her tiny skull a storm raged, hectic, vicious and vengeful. The depths of her character were murky and she herself, had she made the attempt, would struggle to rationalise her behaviour. In morals she was well-versed, for they had been imparted to her through fables as a young child, yet she could find no trace of villainy in her own actions. In her skewed world-view she was set apart.

A Reverie of Brothers by R. D. Shanks

blondRapnuzel

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Reading Lolita in Tehran

Pity is the password, says the poet John Shade in Nabokov’s Pale Fire. This respect for others, empathy, lies at the heart of the novel. It is the quality that links Austen to Flaubert and James to Nabokov and Bellow. This, I believe, is how the villain in modern fiction is born: a creature without compassion, without empathy. The personalized version of good and evil usurps and individualizes the more archetypal concepts, such as courage or heroism, that shaped the epic or romance. A hero becomes one who safeguards his or her individual integrity at almost any cost.

Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi

Azar Nafisi