Author: Hooman Majd
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
This was an excellent, one night, very enjoyable read and proves once again that the difference between the average Muslim in Iran and the radicals we see on television are vastly different.
In this critical but affectionate portrait of Iranian politics and culture, Majd, the Western-educated grandson of an ayatollah, delves into the very core of Iranian society, closely examining social mores and Farsi phrases to identify the Persian sensibility, which, Majd determines, cherishes privacy, praise and poetry. Nothing is too small or too sweeping for Majd to consider, and although he announces his allegiance to the former president Khatami, he remains scrupulously even-handed in assessing his successor Ahmadinejad, shedding light on the Iranian president's obsession with the Holocaust and penchant for windbreakers and why the two are (surprisingly) intertwined. The author's brisk, conversational prose is appealing; his book reads as if he is chatting with a smart friend, while strolling around Tehran, engaged in ta'arouf (an exaggerated form of self-deprecation key to understanding Persian society). Although Majd seems to gloss too quickly over realities that don't engage his interest—women's voices are only intermittently included—this failing scarcely mars this remarkable ride through what is often uncharted territory.
(Originally posted to Multiply December 30, 2008)