A myth-busting insider’s account of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that destroyed US influence in the country and transformed the politics of the Middle East and the world.
The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran was one of the seminal events of our time. It inaugurated more than thirty years of war in the Middle East and fostered an Islamic radicalism that shapes foreign policy in the United States and Europe to this day.
Drawing on his lifetime of engagement with Iran, James Buchan explains the history that gave rise to the Revolution, in which Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters displaced the Shah with little difficulty. Mystifyingly to outsiders, the people of Iran turned their backs on a successful Westernized government for an amateurish religious regime. Buchan dispels myths about the Iranian Revolution and instead assesses the historical forces to which it responded. He puts the extremism of the Islamic regime in perspective: a truly radical revolution, it can be compared to the French or Russian Revolutions. Using recently declassified diplomatic papers and Persian-language news reports, diaries, memoirs, interviews, and theological tracts, Buchan illuminates both Khomeini and the Shah. His writing is always clear, dispassionate, and informative.
The Iranian Revolution was a turning point in modern history, and James Buchan’s Days of God is, as London’s Independent put it, “a compelling, beautifully written history” of that event.
British novelist and journalist Buchan traveled to Iran as an undergraduate in the 1970s. Shocked by its dissipated modernity, he says, I thought I had come too late to see what I had come to see, forgetting an ancient lesson: that in a year or two even this, also, would be obliterated. His deep connection to the country serves him well in this sweeping panorama of the Shah s Iran and its rejuvenation, occlusion, and disintegration under Khomeini. Buchan s dry wit suffuses the poetic and philosophical if not always straightforward text; characters appear in major episodes before they have been properly introduced, events are mentioned in passing before they unfold. He devotes equal space to critical yet sympathetic portraits of the Rezas and to Khomeini. Of the first Pahlavi Shah, he says, In introducing the notion of a powerful state, Reza was the most influential Iranian of the last century, more influential even than Ruhollah Khomeini. The Ayatollah, pensive and closed to the world, drowned his religion and his country in a ruthless obscurantism: It is said that once in Isfahan, the great Safavid divine Majlisi gave an apple to a Jew.... No such stories are told of Ruhollah Khomeini.