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Shah of Shahs [Paperback]

Ryszard Kapuscinski
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 4 1992 Vintage International
In Shah of Shahs Kapuscinski brings a mythographer's perspective and a novelist's virtuosity to bear on the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran, one of the most infamous of the United States' client-dictators, who resolved to transform his country into "a second America in a generation," only to be toppled virtually overnight. From his vantage point at the break-up of the old regime, Kapuscinski gives us a compelling history of conspiracy, repression, fanatacism, and revolution.Translated from the Polish by William R. Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand.

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Product Description


"A book of great economy and power...with vivid imagery, a breathless way of writing that carries the reader along, and a supreme sense of the absurd." —New Republic"Like Sir Richard Butron, Evelyn Waugh and Mungo Park, [Kapuscinski] makes literature out of journalism." —Newsweek"Insightful and important.... A readable, timely and valuable contribution to the understanding of the revolutionary forces at work in Iran.... The reader almost becomes a participant." —The New York Times Book Review"A supercharged particle of a book." —Los Angeles Times

From the Publisher

"A book of great economy and power...with vivid imagery, a breathless way
of writing that carries the reader along, and a supreme sense of the absurd."
--The New Republic

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Everything is in confusion, as though the police have just finished a violent, nervous search. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genuine and vivid history Dec 3 2004
An outstanding first-hand account of the events and causes of the Iranian revolution. I lived through those days and the vivid nature of this book brings those days alive. Most people will judge this book in accordance to their political opinion of the revolution and its aftermath, but, leaving that aside, the book is an excellent account of the snowballing events that took place.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about hard times Nov. 4 2003
Ryszard's book 'The Shah of Shahs' tells me far more about the country during that turbulent time than drier history books or opiniated polemics on the politics of the region. His style of letting the people and events around him speak for themselves is illuminating. He has an empathic and observant eye, and a knack for being in the right place.
Most important of all, he sees these world shaping events for their effects on the people who must live, suffer or die through them as though THEY are what matters, and not the events or dictator biographies themselves. This is a humane and enlightened viewpoint, and ends up teaching me more about what happened during those times than other approaches.
There is a beauty and truthfulness in this style of journalism of immersion and talking to people that helps to make sense of the many conflicting arguments and perspectives of complex issues. I have nothing but praise for the man and his books, and you would do well to read them yourself
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CNN meets Sheherezade May 18 1998
By A Customer
This is one of my favorite books of all time. It gave me more information about Iran than everything I read in newspapers or heard on the radio for all the years of the hostage crisis and since. Despite being translated from the Polish, it reads like poetry or myth, and manages to convey a gut level understanding of what it is to be Iranian. Along the way it pulls up all kinds of other issues, and illuminates them with great compassion and insight.What happens to the ruler of a poor third world country when oil suddenly brings unimaginable wealth? What is it like to live with the fear of the secret police permeating every thought and action? What mysterious factor causes a fearful hopeless population to finally revolt against its opressors?
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4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent 'mood' book. Oct. 27 2002
By A Customer
This is a very interesting book. Since there seems to be some confusion about it, let me make clear what this book is NOT; if you are looking for any of the following you should look elsewhere:
- A blow by blow account of the shah's life and the revolution with 30 references per 'fact'.
- A book about Americans. This book, being what it is, is about ehm...Iranians.
- Moral indignation about any of the protagonists whether the revolutionaries or the Shah or the Americans.
What this is, is a feelings book, a mood book. What this book will give you a feel for(according to the authors interpretation of course!) is:
- The nature of Iranian life before the oil boom
- The nature of the Shah and how he perhaps saw himself.
- The immense physical and physcological changes the oil boom brought to the region
- The Shah's tragicomic efforts to modernize.
- How Iranians saw themselves, the backwardness and the new modernity entering the land.
- The nature of life under the Shah.
- What would be the mood during the eventful days leading upto the revolution.
- Why these revolutions(Kapuscinski's 27th!) invariably fall apart, why those who could produce positive change invariably get shunted aside.
- What it might take to produce positive change.
This is a very good book. Kapuscinski makes some excellent observations. He is very perceptive and has the habit of sifting through the fog, to the root of the subject. Only gripe would be that the photographs should have been printed in the first section on Daguerrotypes, and sometimes his writing style gets a little too cute, and tends to lapse into hyperbolic metaphor.
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Kapuscinski writes one of the most accessible, entertaining histories that I've ever read in Shah of Shahs; and in so doing allows the American reader some glimpse into what things were like in Iran during the heady, confusing days of the Iranian revolution. While readable, this book is also rather challenging as it tends to speak to subjects that Americans don't know about and uses terms and devices that many may not be ready to see in a work of non-fiction. Don't assume that Kapuscinski will write in the menacing, deadly serious tone that many other (mostly American) writers reserve for Iran and the other "Axis of Evil" nations; because he doesn't. Instead, he takes the time and effort to recount these terribly serious events in a semi-serious way, while keeping contact with the undercurrent of absurdity and entropy that so many Eastern European writers bring to their work and that is so very appropriate when thinking, talking, and writing about the actions of men and nations.
Iran is probably the most misunderstood (by Americans) country there is. You may or may not have some more insight into Iran after reading this book. In my case it spurred me to find out more about their history, the history of Shi'ism, and Islam generally; all topics that most Americans would profit from knowing about. The most striking thing is that Americans have a lot more in common with Iranians than may be imagined, starting with our hatred of tyranny and deep religious committment. And that's not a bad start.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst book ever written about the Shah
This book, although claiming to show you the inside scoop on what went on in revolutionary Iran, shares no insight, no secrets, no information, and no detail about anything... Read more
Published on May 9 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Wow...journalists can write!
This is the first of Kapucinski's books that I've read and it takes a little while to get used to his style, but once you've settled in, it is quite entertaining. Read more
Published on March 15 2004 by Moses Alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!
I really enjoy this style of non-fiction. Kapuscinski describes photographs of different events, summarizes his meetings with different people and describes some of his time in... Read more
Published on July 8 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars these others are tooooo uptight - kapuscinski is amazing
quite frankly, i do not think some of these other reviewers have read any kapuscinski books prior to this one. Read more
Published on May 29 2002 by brigid o'shaughnessy
This is a curious book.
It is supposed to be about Iran and its last king, Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.
In fact, it is about everything except Iran and the Shah. Read more
Published on March 19 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Pure Fiction!!!
If you are looking for a novel that is only rarely fact based and is one that only talks about the worst aspects of a dynasty, than you should definitely read Kapuscinski's Shah of... Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Irresponsible book. Almost silly.
I suppose the author is one of those "intellectuals" that thought Communism was one of the greatest thing to happen to Russia. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2002 by A. K. K. Sheibany
3.0 out of 5 stars Artistic non-fiction
This book is an artfully-written collection of some reflections on the last Shah of Iran and the Islamic Revolution. However, the author falls in short in a few regards. Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2002 by Julie
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book!
Kapuscinski is a journalist's journalist. This book is a terrific read.
Published on Oct. 20 2001
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