The secret garden

Azar Nafisi on My Uncle Napoleon in The Guardian:

Students64 Let us imagine we are in the process of creating a much-needed reading list for experts and analysts on Iran. I would put My Uncle Napoleon in a cherished place very near the top. One reason for this choice is that it is a great read. More pragmatically, I believe this novel provides its readers – in a delightful and deliciously politically incorrect manner – with many important insights into Iran, its culture and traditions, its present conflicts and past history, as well as its paradoxical relation to the west.

My Uncle Napoleon is in many ways a refutation of the grim and hysterical images of Iran that have dominated the western world for almost three decades. On so many different levels this novel represents Iran’s confiscated and muted voices, revealing a culture filled with a deep sense of irony and humour, as well as sensuality and tenderness. My Uncle Napoleon is the story of a pathetic and pathological man who, because of his failure in real life, turns himself into a Napoleon in his fantasies and becomes convinced of a British plot to destroy him. It gripped the Iranian imagination to such an extent that since its publication in 1973 it has sold millions of copies and has been turned into perhaps the most popular television series in the history of modern Iran. Banned by the censors of the Islamic Republic in 1979, both the book and television serial have thrived underground.

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