Literature from the “Axis of Evil”

Writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Other Enemy Nations

“The governments might be considered quote unquote the enemy, but definitely not the people. These stories and poems offer an alternate view, which is very different from the politicized and polarized view of these nations.” —Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran

Subject of a full-length segment on Morning Edition when it first appeared in hardcover, Literature from the “Axis of Evil” quickly went to the top of the Amazon bestseller list. Its publication was celebrated by authors including Azar Nafisi and Alice Walker, and the Bloomsbury Review named it a “book of the year.”

In thirty–five works of fiction and poetry, writers from countries Americans have not been allowed to hear from—until the Treasury Department revised its regulations recently—offer an invaluable window on daily life in “enemy nations” and humanize the individuals living there. The book includes works from Syria, Lybia, the Sudan, Cuba, as well as from Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. As editor Alane Mason writes in the introduction, “Not knowing what the rest of the world is thinking and writing is both dangerous and boring.”


“It’s impossible not to admire the intelligence and idealism of Words Without Borders.”
The New York Times Book Review
“[It] has more to say about the historical complexities, conflicts, and nuances of so-called enemy nations than a hundred shelves of polemics and political rhetoric that clutter the front rows of our bookstores.”
The Bloomsbury Review
“The best kind of armchair travel book, one that gifts its reader with the cultural understanding and appreciation that even travel doesn’t always provide. . . . If you read this book, you will know more than the Administration does about the cultures and people of America’s so-called enemy nations.”
“Words Without Borders . . . is predicated on the idea that translation is as thrill-charged as smuggling.”
The Boston Globe
“Reading Literature from the ‘Axis of Evil’ inevitably makes you think about whether art and literature can help prevent hatred and even war.”
San Francisco Chronicle

Goodreads Reviews