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re: Iran, what to read


Kathryn, thanks for flagging. We’re awash in books about politics and Iran everyday, Michael Ledeen’s reference to Haji Baba is apt and reminds of just how much good fiction and literature exists about or comes out of Iran. It’s a fun read, and reminds of a Persian version of Don Quixote (even if it was written by a British diplomat). While some scholars may condemn such works as Orientalism, when I was in Tehran, it was omnipresent in the bookstores across from Tehran University. Iran–in stark contrast to the countries around it–is a book culture, even if many have been banned in recent years. An even more fun read, though, is My Uncle Napoleon, by Iraj Pezeshkhad, but now available in translation. It’s one of my favorite works of fiction and, when it was made into a miniseries in Iran, was Iran’s most popular comedy. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of Iran’s rich poetic tradition and, of course, its national epic, the Shahnameh. It can be hard to get a hold of, but any political theorist and policy practitioner would also enjoy 11th century Seljuq vizier Nizam al-Mulk’s Book of Government or Rules for Kings which, at the risk of provoking Michael’s ire, puts Machiavelli to shame. A bit further afield, I always found the Baburnama, written by the founder of the Mughal Empire, to be fascinating. It’s always surreal hearing more about the parties after conquest and the hangovers that follow, especially when penned at the beginning of the 16th century. I just point these out because it’s important to remember how rich Iranian culture is, especially when tensions with Iran’s current government have escalated so much. The Iranian people are the first to complain about how their leadership has abused the depth of Iranian culture in their attempts to Islamize and Arabize it.


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