Beside the highway that leads south from Tehran, the necropolis of Ayatollah Rudollah Khomeini rises from the sweating tarmac like a miraculous filling station supplying fuel for the soul. However, the paint is peeling even before the complex has been completed, and the prayer halls are all but deserted.
Iran's Islamic Revolution is out of gas, but what has happened to the hostage takers, suicidal holy warriors, and ideologues who brought it about? These men and women kicked out the Shah, spent eight years fighting Saddam's Iraq, and terrified the West with its militancy and courage. Now they are a worn-out generation.
In this superbly crafted and thoughtful book, Christopher de Bellaigue gives us the voices and memories of these wistful revolutionaries. Mullahs and academics, artists, traders, and mystics: the author knows them as an insider -- a journalist who speaks fluent Persian and is married to an Iranian -- and also as an outsider -- a Westerner isolated in one of the world's most enigmatic and impenetrable societies.
The result is a subtly intense revelation of the hearts and minds of the Iranian people -- and what it is to live among them.
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Christopher de Bellaigue has worked as a journalist in South Asia and the Middle East, writing for the Economist and the Financial Times, the Independent, and the New York Review of Books. His first book, In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs, was short-listed for the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize, and his second, Rebel Land, was short-listed for the 2010 Orwell Prize. He and his wife divide their time between London and Tehran.From Publishers Weekly:
This portrait of the Islamist revolution's heartland is far from the "axis of evil" caricature so often associated with the regime that held Americans hostage in 1979–1980 and is actively pursuing nuclear arms today. Rather, Ballaigue, who covers Iran for the Economist, presents a textured view of a complex society, struggling with an ancient culture, a radical ideology and a Westernized elite. Drawing inspiration from George Orwell, who chronicled the Catalonian revolution of the 1930s and its betrayal by Stalinists, Ballaiguecharts the Islamist revolution from its origins in the repressive regime of the Shah and the fiery sermons of the Ayatollah Khomeini, through its triumph and the taking of the hostages of the "Great Satan," the war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the Iran-Contra scandal and the waning of the Islamist revolutionary fervor as educated Iranians became disillusioned with the mullahs and thirsted for greater cultural and intellectual freedom. The book is peppered with interviews with and vignettes of the many Iranians the author has met during his years in Iran; the title refers to a cemetery in Tehran where the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war are interred—"rose garden" being an ironic rendition of rows of headstones. (On sale Jan. 4)
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