The Persian Sphinx: Amir Abbas Hoveyda and the Riddle of the Iranian Revolution

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9780934211611: The Persian Sphinx: Amir Abbas Hoveyda and the Riddle of the Iranian Revolution

Who lost Iran? How and why did a country, never richer, never more educated, its women never more liberated erupt in a fundamentalist revolution? The answer can be found in the enthralling life and tragic death of one man.

Amir Abbas Hoveyda was a central figure in the historic struggle between modernity and tradition in Iran -- a struggle pitting Western cosmopolitanism against Persian isolationism, secularism against religious fundamentalism, and ultimately civil society and democracy against authoritarianism.

The Persian Sphinx is biography at its most powerful and reads like a modern-day Shakespearean tragedy. It will reward the general reader and the scholar alike.

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From the Inside Flap:

Born in Tehran in 1919 to a family of solid middle class comforts and faded aristocratic roots, Hoveyda was an elegant, cultivated, well-read, and witty man, educated in Beirut, London, and Brussels.

After entering the Iranian foreign service in 1942, he served in France, Germany, and Turkey, then returned to Iran in 1956 to join the National Iranian Oil Company. In 1965, the shah appointed him the country's prime minister. Hoveyda would serve faithfully in that post for thirteen years.

Amir Abbas Hoveyda embodied the aspirations, the accomplishments and also the failures of a whole generation of Iranian technocrats -- mostly Western-trained -- who sought to free Iran from the travails of poverty and repression and guide it into the modern age. Hoveyda would be both a leader and a victim of that effort. On the eve of the Islamic Revolution, the shah, attempting to turn the rising tide of revolt by offering a scapegoat, ordered the prime minister's arrest. When the Pahlavi regime fell, Hoveyda chose not to flee, voluntarily surrendering to the new Islamic authorities. His hope was for a public trial; instead the infamous "Hanging Judge" presided over a secret and summary trial.

In telling the story of Hoveyda's life, the author has not only laid bare the development of Iranian society during a pivotal period (19191978) but has also unearthed important new material on U.S.-Iranian relations. From 1957 onward, Amir Abbas Hoveyda played critical roles in dealing with U.S. foreign policy and fundamentalist Islamic opposition in Iran. Through careful use of hitherto-unexamined archival materials, unpublished letters, and personal journals, along with extensive interviews with more than a hundred of Hoveyda's relatives, friends, and foes, the author has brilliantly caught the pathos and passion of Hoveyda's life and times.

The Persian Sphinx is biography at its most powerful and will reward the scholar and the general reader alike.

About the Author:

Raised in Iran, Abbas Milani was sent to be educated in California in the 1960s. He became politically active and in 1974 received a PhD. in Political Science. He returned to Tehran and taught at the National University but was imprisoned by the Pahlavi regime in 1977. After the revolution he became a professor at Tehran University, but in 1986 he emigrated to the United States. He is currently Chair of the Department of History and Political Science at the College of Notre Dame in California. His works include, Tales of Two Cities: A Persian Memoir, and a translation of Manuchehr Irani's King of the Benighted.

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Milani, Abbas
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