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on 21 January 2013
Nice book and a great job to this shop. The product was exactly how it was described on the website.
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on 9 April 2010
"Well know, why should I lie? To the grave it's ah... ah..." Well what can I say? I thought my Turkish Cypriot roots and origin would help understand the Middle Eastern sense of humour and perhaps the similar why of life would give me compassion. This was not so, until I almost finished the book, then I confess I felt great empathy and sadness that I would no longer see the characters in my mind's eye again. In fact I started thinking this would make a great stage play. I did cast Omid Djalli as Mash Qasam and my alter ego Mrs Masood from EastEnders as Mrs Aziz Saltaner. I thought seriously, in this current climate of Middle Eastern curiosity, wanting to understand everything from culture, history and every kebab sauce going, I truly felt this could work. But, initially I could not over pass the lavatorial humour, sexual innuendos, blasphemy (especially the one about the immaculate conception. But I cannot tell a lie, when compared against all the Islamic blasphemies with the one Christian one I think I should just shut up). I then asked myself would my parents find this book humorous? Would it give them a belly laugh? I think not. However, my grandparents would be roaring in the shared garden, with the flowers, flat bread and the buzzing mid-day flies. Basically my point is, the book was written just before WW1 and the going ons would amuse them. On a personal level , I liked the way each dishonest mishap to "save face" and preserve the honour of Uncle Napolean leads onto another farcical misunderstanding. Prezshkzad is a master of storytelling and characterization. I do not entirely agree with Professor Davis in his comparison with Jeeves and Wooster. I thought more in line with You Rang M'Lord? And quite honestly, "well know, why should I lie?" Mesh Qasem could be Char Walla from It ain't half `ot mum! The story unfurled so cleverly, yet towards the end it lost momentum. It was too abrupt and too soon. But I loved it and will miss reading what happens next each evening. Confession, I am know downloading episodes from Youtube. The book was filmed as Dai Jan Napoleon and I intend to watch every episode. In fact my Turkish has been rather useful because I have discovered I can understand some language.
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on 11 August 1997
Americans have become so accustomed to seeing televised images of dour Ayatollahs and grim-faced Iranian demonstrators shouting "Death to the Great Satan" that we have forgotten that Iran is also the land of Omar Khayyam. Pezeshkzad and his characters have more in common with the 12th century poet than the religious revolutionaries who overthrew the Shah would like, and the readers will give thanks with laughter.

Early in World War II, the unnamed 15-year-old narrator becomes infatuated with his first cousin Layli, the daughter of the narrator's uncle, derisively nicknamed Napoleon for constantly voicing admiration for the French general. At a family gathering, the narrator's father vents annoyance with Uncle Napoleon's unending inflation of his military record (Uncle Napoleon's four-man gendarmerie squad over the years had been transformed into dozens of army battalions thwarting the plans of British imperialism). For his father's offense, the narrator is banned from seeing his beloved Layli, who Uncle Napoleon betrothes to the narrator's horse-faced cousin Puri. The narrator turns to his cousin Asadollah, a bon vivant and womanizer extraordinaire, for advice in stopping the wedding and winning Layli. The action builds to a climax when the British occupy Tehran.

The results . . . well, I won't give it away. But if you like laugh-out-loud farce mixed with sharp-eyed satire, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It belongs on a very short list of comic masterpieces of world literature.
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on 2 February 2016
“One hot summer day I fell in love”. So begins this fabulous book. It is all in one love story, comedy, a satire and much more. It became enormously popular in Iran and has remained so despite being banned since the Revolution. This translation ought to attract a wider audience.

A group of well-to-do families live round a garden in Tehran in the early 1940s. The patriarch is named after his fixation with the Emperor. He is snobbish, cranky and controlling. He has an especial dislike for his brother-in-law, the narrator’s father, who plots to bring him down a peg. The narrator – a teenage boy – has fallen in love with Layli, Napoleon’s daughter. The situation for the comedy.

Some will be reminded of Up Pompeii, a television show which was enormously popular in Britain in the 1970s. Its star Frankie Howerd played a slave, Lurcio; Lurcio is very like Napoleon's servant – Mash Qasem. Such comedy is found in Shakespeare and stretches back to the Roman Plautus and indeed to Aristophanes.

Humour obviously does cross boundaries of culture and time – but, of course, not everyone finds the same things funny and much here is bawdy and irreverent. Men are womanisers and, if you wish it that way, lovable rogues. But some things will jar and maybe will feel more than just politically incorrect.

It is also a coming of age story. The young narrator is guided through love’s trials and life’s lessons by Asadollah Mirza, an older relative, who figures much larger in his life than the boy’s own father.

The satire on Iranian society is made a little clearer in the notes supplied by the translator with a glossary and in his introduction. The latter though I would read after the novel is finished – it will spoil it a little if you are looking for allusions and hidden references.

I think that it can also be read as a tragedy in the figure of Uncle Napoleon himself – there are echoes of King Lear. Probably too as a portrait of mental illness. There’s so much here.

Definitely worth reading. It’s wonderful and it’s banned. Two good reasons.
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on 20 January 1998
This is a wonderful book -- totally unexpected for those of us raised in the States since the Iranian Revolution. Broad humor -- think of "Good Soldier Schweick" set in the Middle East and you'll get the idea.
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on 20 October 2014
I enjoyed this madcap tale of an minor aristocratic family in Iran in the 1940s. Translated by Dick Davis into a modern, easy idiom it conveys the tale of the Head of the Family who becomes increasingly paranoid as he gradually begins to believe his own stories of daring exploits during the constitutional crisis earlier in the century, and the interactions of the family members including the young boy who is the narrator of the tale.
The story has a labyrinth of subplots and unusual characters, but with its own endearing, mad logic sustained throughout the piece the tale has great charm and humour. There is a gentle love story facing obstacles, family feuds, a shot-gun wedding that ends happily for the couple but not for those who set it up, a black veiled cousin who specialises in death and funerals, a comic side kick to the Head of the Family and a sympathetic and scheming uncle who drives the plot into surreal overdrive.
The description of the family houses on a large single plot and the gardens is accurate and provides an excellent backdrop to the intrigues of the family, while the characters are well drawn with their good points and failings emerging naturally in the plot.
I understand that the book was made into a very successful TV series in Iran in the 1970s and one can see how its strong visual descriptions would facilitate that.
It is very funny and full of warmth: a good read, and only because it is dated now did I give it only three stars
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on 3 November 2011
This book is very unusual, being set in Iran and a comedy, and when i first picked it up I did not know what to expect. The result was that this is one of the best books I have ever read and an all-time favourite. I was lucky to discover this book through my book club, and now it one of the books I will keep on my shelves for many years to come (up there with Gilead and Sense of an Ending). It is laugh-out-loud funny and also gives interesting insights into live in Iran (sorry, can't remember the era - read it and find out if you are interested).
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on 13 February 2006
Th book is increadibly funny. I cannot reccomend it enough. It tells of a young boys love for his cousin and the way he fights of attention from his rivals. Whilst this battle for her heart rages so does the world war and his increasingly paranoids unces delusions about the British whom he believs to be after him. Will make you laugh out loud many times and yet although this book is one of the funniest I have ever read it is also one of the saddest.
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on 8 November 2009
A farce set in Iran about 1941. The tale centres aroundthe narrators childhood crush on his cousin, and how it's frustrated by a family feud and snobbish relatives.

Much has been made of this books importance in understanding Anglo-Iranian relations, but first & foremost it should be read purely as entertainment. From there, the reader will realise that "Uncle Napoleon" isn't a purely Iranian phenomenon.

One wee tip: Skip the forewords and go straight to Chapter 1. Once you've read & enjoyed the story, feel free to have a read of it's "significance".
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on 27 April 2014
Incredible book by an amazing Iranian writer. To me this book is not a work of fiction, it's an utterly true account. Pezeshkzad is not just a master story-teller, he is a sociologist and a historian. I admire and respect him for his ability to tell the truth. I was sad to hear in a BBC documentary that he has hardly made a penny because the book has been banned for over 35 years in his native Iran and he lives a very modest life in France. He has not received any royalties (from the original Persian version) since it was banned although fake copies have probably made it one of Iran's best sellers. I bought this copy for my son who is 10 years old and he absolutely loves it. He gets the humour and sarcasm straight away. It's incredible how close Persian humour is to that of the British (ironically of course if you read the book !!). Some of the language is too difficult for him, but we have been reading it together. This is a beautiful English translation.
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