23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Lila Azam Zanganeh
© Hartwig Klappert

Lila Azam Zanganeh

Lila Azam Zanganeh was born in Paris after her parents had fled Iran to live in European exile following the Islamic Revolution. Azam Zanganeh studied literature and philosophy at the renowned École Normale Supérieure in Paris, then moved to the United States to teach literature and cinema as well as Romance philology at Harvard University. Since 2002, she has regularly written essays and articles for international daily newspapers and magazines, among these »Le Monde«, »The New York Times», »The New Yorker«, »La Repubblica« and »The PEN America Journal«. Azam Zanganeh is also much respected for her excellent interviews of authors, especially for »The Paris Review«, for which she has had many in-depth discussions with Jorge Semprún, Umberto Eco and Roberto Calasso. In 2006 she released the anthology »My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes: Uncensored Iranian Voices«, a collection that presents essays, interviews and texts from Iranian authors, artists, philosophers and film-makers, and which, with a broad thematic diversity, provides insights that have little to do with Western perceptions and clichés.

»The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness« (2011) was her literary debut and, in its own idiosyncratic way, it escapes categorisation to any particular text genre. In a mixture of memoir, essay, analysis and fiction, Azam Zanganeh turns towards the work and person of Vladimir Nabokov. In line with his opinion that a good text must conceal a certain aesthetic joy, she demonstrates how reading and writing can be ecstatic and thus deeply exhilarating experiences. The book has not only been welcomed enthusiastically by the critics and great writers like Orhan Pamuk and Salman Rushdie, but Nabokov’s son Dimitry who before that had edited and released the remaining fragment of his father’s novel, »The Original of Laura« (1977/2009), praised Azam Zanganeh for clearly revealing the often overlooked playful joy in Nabokov’s works and for having found her own elegant style. In 2011, she was awarded the Roger Shattuck Prize for Criticism by the New York Center for Fiction.

In addition to her journalistic and literary activities, she has also been involved with various organisations promoting humanitarian goals and cultural exchange, such as the International Rescue Committee and Words Without Borders. At the present time, she is working on her latest novel titled »The Orlando Inventions« in which she undertakes literary research into the phenomenon of love over a period of several centuries and at very different locations (France, Constantinople and New York among many others). She lives in New York.


My Sister, Guard Your Veil;

My Brother, Guard Your Eyes:

Uncensored Iranian Voices


Beacon Press

Boston, 2006

The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness

W. W. Norton & Co.

New York, 2011