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Days of God: The Revolution in Iran and Its Consequences Paperback – 8 Nov 2012
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'James Buchan trains a more scientific eye on how Iran's wealth-creator king was replaced with a Shia divine uninterested in modern government. He mines the literature in Persian and English to better effect than any historian so far . . . Why did the shah's subjects not accept his notion of history racing to a conclusion in prosperity's glow? In this fine, elegantly written book, Mr Buchan lays out the answer in detail' (The Economist)
'Marvellous book. It is hard to imagine anyone else possessing the combination of qualities Buchan brings. He has the journalist's analytical eye and the novelist's imagination . . . He can segue between the theology of Qom and the gossip of the Shah's improvised, petrodollar-funded Versailles, swooping all the while onto details either grim or hilarious or both at once that leave the reader scratching his head and wondering how the author can know so much . . . It is written with the ancient historian's ambition - the ambition that Gibbon, Macaulay and Marx would recognise - that the record of humanity's blunders and bloodbaths and half-understandings should itself be an object of elegance and ironic beauty' (Evening Standard)
'Buchan's prose is excellent, with the vocabulary, range and atmosphere of a literary master, the clout of the sharp historian, and the ability to leaven history with fascinating snippets of intimate information, delightful, droll or horrifying. His research is thorough . . . This is a compelling, beautifully written history of a country which has produced great literature, art and a warm people whose lives have been manipulated by other countries with ulterior motives and by their own autocratic and theocratic dictators' (Independent)
'This book comes alive with a wonderfully detailed and authoritative account of the Shah's final days and the murder and mayhem that followed' (The Spectator)
'Buchan enlists all his narrative skill, learning and panache in this story of modern Iran' (i)
Praise for James Buchan:
'James Buchan writes like a dream'
'A succinct elegant book, written in an easy, conversational tone which never makes its big ideas or profound implications seem intimidating' (Sunday Telegraph)
'James Buchan's elegant prose sparkles on the page' (New Statesman)
'Combines deft broad strokes with intricate details, shading in apparent dry subjects with innumerable and delightful anecdotes' (The Economist)
'A soundly argued account of the causes, course and consequences of the revolution . . . Buchan, a Persian scholar and former Financial Times foreign correspondent, puts his first-hand experience of Iran to perceptive use' (Financial Times)
'A superb and original history of the Iranian Revolution. It's essential reading' (Simon Sebag Montefiore, Mail on Sunday Books of the Year)
'Buchan is capable of delivering assessment of stark precision' (Sunday Telegraph)
'An elegant and textured analysis' (The Economist)
'Buchan has a sure touch with narrative. Days of God is skilfully constructed, deftly weaving a path through the thickets of complex events while displaying the wider historical background against which this political earthquake was staged' (Literary Review)
Rejecting theory, Buchan relies on old-fashioned virtues: a careful reading of the Persian and foreign sources, his immersion in the country's culture (he was a star Persionist at Oxford) and an instinct for the events and personalities that turned Iran from Middle East poster boy to society in upheaval. Buchan brings a keen, satirical eye to the story of a corrupt, intrigue-ridden court and a modernising Shah who cut through traditional Iran as if "the conflicts of centuries were being squeezed into half a dozen years" (Prospect)
Elegant and pugnacious (Daily Telegraph)
His story of the revolution is the best book on Iran I have ever read. He has the pen of the travel writer Robert Byron, and a trove of Persian poetry and lore shines from every page. Shafts of insight alternate with piercing wit, and his ironic dissection of both the shah and the ayatollah would do credit to Gibbon (Sunday Times)
An outstanding analysis of the legacy of Iran's revolution (Sunday Times)
Buchan's story of the Iranian revolution is the best book on Iran I have ever read (Sunday Times)
An insider's view of one of the events that shaped the modern world.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
However, the book does not flow well at times . Whilst the post revolution narrative is mostly chronological and easy enough to follow, much that leads up to those events is described in themes, which jump about in time over a period of 100 years and which can be repetitious and confusing. Over half the book, which is actually only 397 pages rather than the advertised 496 ( there are a lot of pages of notes and indices), is devoted to the pre - revolution period and most of the post revolution events are given relatively brief coverage.
Overall - a book worth reading - though I found it to be hard going at times
Mr. Buchan lays a solid foundation to the study by, firstly, investigating and accounting for Iran in the years before the Shah's autocracy. The discovery of oil at the beginning of the twentieth century, British and Soviet intrigue during the Second World War and the 1953 coup are all covered clearly, paving the way for the Shah's years in charge. Buchan aptly accounts for the Shah's character and documents his time as leader of Iran, pointing out his achievements but also his delusions right up until he was forced into exile. The Shah's demise and reduction from mega-rich autocrat to a deluded and ill former royal shunned by all is very nicely done and Buchan holds no punches where this is concerned. It's a moving and informative portrayal of the Shah's physical and psychological decline.
The Revolution itself is also very well documented with all the players, movers and shakers being identified and described. It is here where we see Buchan's analysis and narrative really come to light as he highlights just how inadequate the military leaders were and how confused they became before deciding that a neutral stance in relation towards the revolution was the best cause of action... even this didn't save their lives.
Buchan goes on to describe the aftermath of revolution and the war with Iraq, covering right up until Khomeini's death in the summer of 1989, including the crucial US embassy takeover, which he quite rightly identifies as still being significant to the nation and its ideals today, and also just a poisonous !!
This is a thorough, detailed and comprehensive account of before, during and after the revolution. Buchan certainly captures the reasons for Iranian clerical anti-western prejudices as forming a key role in the revolution's causes. Excellent work.
Personally I found Kapuscinki's "Shah of Shahs" a far more enjoyable and original account of events.
Much too weighted towards pre-revolution versus post. A bit of a slog!