He was educated in Iran and France, where he received his degree in Law. He served as a judge in the Iranian Judiciary for five years prior to joining the Iranian Foreign Service. He served as a diplomat until the Iranian revolution in , and left the Foreign Service to reside in France after the revolution, where he joined Shapour Bakhtiar and his party the National Movement of Iranian Resistance against the Islamic regime established in Iran. He has also written several plays and various articles on the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of , the French Revolution , and the Russian Revolution. He has recently published his autobiography titled Golgashtha-ye Zendegi The Pleasure-grounds of Life.
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By Pardis Dabashi In the central courtyard, in the middle of a family party, in mid-century Tehran, a fart rings out. Or was it a fart? A cat? The sound of a chair being dragged across the stone ground? Solving this riddle means calling on Deputy Taymur Khan and drawing examining magistrate Shamsali Mirza out of retirement.
But Napoleon, adapted into a wildly popular television series in the late s, is by far his most famous work. Dear Uncle has a point. While Britain did not officially colonize Iran, it nevertheless exploited its resources initially tobacco, subsequently oil by manipulating the brutal and corrupt Qajar monarchy.
Even paranoids, as they say, have enemies. Pezeshkzad turns a penchant for ludic invention into something more than mere political allegory; it becomes a covert organizing principle for the novel as a whole.
It makes perfect sense, then, that Uncle Napoleon and his faithful servant, Mash Qasem—with whom he forms a Don-Quixote-and-Sancho-Panza-esque duo—claim, falsely, to have fought in the Constitutional Revolution of — And that they tell everyone within earshot that, during World War I, they fought valiantly against the British in the Battles of Mamasani and Kazerun, changing the number of British they killed with each telling.
Ultimately, Dear Uncle is not wrong that the British are exercising control over Iranian politics—even if his stories about how that control occurs are, in their specifics, sheer fictions. But he is also not wrong in another, more immediate sense. Plots are taking place around him, and they often are happening at his expense, but simply in a different way than he expects.
Asadollah hatches a plan: he will disclose to the Brigadier that Uncle Napoleon is leaving for a trip to Nayshapur by way of Qom. Browse Exile Is Treading Water in a Strange Sea By Marie Ostby Pezeshkzad turns this penchant for ludic invention into something more than mere political allegory; it becomes a covert organizing principle for the novel as a whole.
Lacking any real dramatic ramifications, these boisterous vignettes simply proliferate, calling attention to their own fictionality. The novel is not, however, altogether plotless. Dear Uncle dies of cardiac complications brought on by a nervous breakdown, but not before fulfilling his dying wish that Layli be married to Shapur.
I was awfully young when my father urged me to read My Uncle Napoleon. Arriving at it two decades later, I experienced a strange form of recognition, a moment of cognitive reorientation, or contact.
Now I too had arrived there. And though this world was full of invented stories, false in all their details, I nevertheless felt I had come to know something fantastically true.
B-Sides: Iraj Pezeshkzad’s “My Uncle Napoleon”