Shah of Shah’s

23 Jul

shaAuthor:  Rysard Kapuscinski (1932 – 2007)

  • Genre:  Non-fiction ( history )
  • Title:   The Shah of Shah’s
  • Published:  1982
  • Table of Contents:   3 parts,  152 pages
  • Published by:    Vintage books
  • Dedication:  none
  • Quotation:   none
  • Cover:  I was disappointed with the book cover (see end of review). I think an eye catching portrait of the Shah in full uniform would have been better!
  • Setting:  Iran
  • Timeline: Iran in 20th century
  • Language: English
  • Themes: out-of-touch leader; revenge; power of religion
  • Trivia: Ryszard Kapuściński  was a possible winner of the Nobel Prize for literature,.,,,but never won it.
  • Trivia: The Ryszard Kapuściński Award, established in 2010, for the author of the best reportage book of the year is Warsaw’s way to pay tribute to Kapuscinski.
  • He made journalism an art.
  • Part 1: The author describes the period before the Iranian Revolution concentrating on information about  the Shah’s grandfather and father.
  • Part 2:  This was a clever way of engaging the reader. Kapuscinski rummages through a box of photographs and  reveals his thoughts about their significance.
  • Part 3:  Here is the history lesson about revolution and in particular in Iran.

Story: ( in a nutshell…)

  • The mosque is a key sanctuary where Iranians feel they can breath. They need a place to pray, discuss and gossip without fear.
  • Iranians believe only in the reign of their religious leaders.
  • When the Shah tries to impose his authority together with his  ‘petro-bourgeoisie’  (produce nothing and its whole occupation is unbridled consumption)
    the fighting starts.
  • All historians agree that the starting point of the Revolution was January 7, 1978
  • An official newspaper. Etelat,  saw fit to discredit Khomeini.
  • In Qom (small city to the south of Teheran, hometown of Khomeini) anger was unexpected, powerful and would engulf the entire country

Best pages: 

  • Kapusinski  describes the importance of oil In Iran.  Wonderful writing! (pg 35 – 37)
  • Kapuscinski explains in clear and concise words
  • the difference between Shiites and Sunnis
  • the rise of Shiites in Iran
  • why angry Shiites gathered in mosques where the fighting began.
  • This is basic information one has to process (…read this section slowly)   to understand why this powder keg of a land exploded!  (pg 67- 78 )
Samples of some lines that linger….
  • The Empire giveth; the empire taketh away. (pg 25)
  • Money changes all the iron rules into rubber bands. ( pg 34)
  • Oil…..liquid that squirts up into the air and falls back to earth as a rustling shower of money. ( pg 34 )
  • The new pretender to the  crown would enter Teheran with the British and Russian envoys supporting his elbows on either side (pg 38)
  • The higher up, the fuller the pockets (pg 63)


  • R. Kapuscinski  is my  new author  discovery  in  2014!
  • Strong point: He combines everything I love: history, fast paced  journalism writing and most importantly his refections on the situation he is writing about.
  • While reading I always look for a tidbit of information that surprises me.
  • The Shah’s  true passion was the army, and Kapuscinksi explains it is nothing more than an domestic instrument of terror.
  • The Shah was obsessed  with reading….arms catalogues!
  • He ordered  tanks, artillery and missiles  as if they were boxes of Girl Scout cookies!
  • I enjoyed this book  because it was a wonderful ‘vivid’ overview of the Iranian Revolution.
  • Kapuscinski always had two notebooks with him, one for the news and one for his thoughts/reflectons.
  • Kapuscinski’s describes with great skill how religion was a component in the Iranian Revolution.
  • Reading tip: part 3 ‘Revolution’ seems dry and academic. If you read this section and think about the situation in Kiev today.…Kapuscinski’s words take on a new meaning!
  • Last thoughts: Iran is now free of dictator, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi but in the middle of an oppressive theocracy.
  • Jumping from the frying pan……into the fire.

Score: 4


 Book cover:









Posted by on July 23, 2014 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “Shah of Shah’s

  1. Ste J

    July 23, 2014 at 15:13

    If only all journalists were this eloquent and able to be concise, informative and arresting then perhaps the papers wouldn’t get such a bad press, ha! I’m not as familiar with the subject matter as I should be so I will pick this up. I did hunt for it at the big book shop in Nottingham the other day they sadly didn’t have it in stock…typical!

    • N@ncy

      July 23, 2014 at 15:41

      Thanks for your comments. I enjoyed Kapuscinski’s style and approach to the mechanics of the Islamic revolution in Iran. This book is said to be one of his finest works.

  2. Cleo @ Classical Carousel

    July 23, 2014 at 21:13

    This books sounds interesting! While being short, it appears to pack in lots of information!

    Oh, how I would love to have time to jot down my thoughts and reflections (outside of reading, that is). Something to aspire to!

    • N@ncy

      July 23, 2014 at 21:42

      152 pages you could easily read this in a day or even less! Kapuscinski really surprised me. He ventured into ‘ hot spots’ around the and wrote about them naturally, professionally and creatively. I ordered another one of his books set in Africa ” The Shadow of the Sun”.


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