Shah of Shahs
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Shah of Shahs

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  1,703 ratings  ·  150 reviews
In Shah of Shahs Kapuscinski brings a mythographer's perspective and a novelist's virtuosity to bear on the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran, one of the most infamous of the United States' client-dictators, who resolved to transform his country into "a second America in a generation," only to be toppled virtually overnight. From his vantage point at the break-up of the o...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published February 4th 1992 by Vintage (first published 1982)
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Imperium by Ryszard KapuścińskiThe Doll by Bolesław PrusShah of Shahs by Ryszard KapuścińskiThis Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz BorowskiThe Pianist by Władysław Szpilman
Polish Books Published in English
3rd out of 154 books — 42 voters
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi AliReading Lolita in Tehran by Azar NafisiThe Complete Persepolis by Marjane SatrapiFrom Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L. FriedmanThree Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
Best Middle East Nonfiction
38th out of 269 books — 192 voters


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Community Reviews

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Douglas
“The causes of a revolution are usually sought in objective conditions - general poverty, oppression, scandalous abuses. But this view, while correct, is one-sided. After all, such conditions exist in a hundred countries, but revolutions erupt rarely. What is needed is the consciousness of poverty and the consciousness of oppression, and the conviction that poverty and oppression are not the natural order of this world.”

This is the story of the rise and fall of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad R...more
Gar Ver
I like to think of Ryszard Kapuscinski as the Polish Hunter S. Thompson, and, perhaps sacrilegiously to some, I also think the former deserves the fame and iconic recognition much more than the later. While Thompson was rightfully investigating the (hardly veiled) seedy underbelly of the American story, Kapuscinski was personally soaking in, on location, 27 revolutions in various third world countries. During his lifetime he was jailed 40 times and survived four death sentences.

Shah of Shahs is...more
Jessica
In a brief exchange with Elizabeth just now about King Leopold's Ghost, I admitted that books like that one make me feel I need a novel afterwards, to help me get back my equilibrium or faith in life and human beings or something like that. And it's true: I really like nonfiction and in many ways I do prefer it -- even if a nonfiction book's not that great, when I'm done at least I've learned something, whereas reading a crappy novel usually just feels like wasted time.

But a diet of all nonficti...more
Louise
Jul 10, 2014 Louise rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: iran
This short eloquent book will give you a history of Iran up to the immediate aftermath of the 1979 Revolution. If you want one short book on this subject – this is the one for you. Those who know about the Revolution and want a perspective from an informed outsider who has seen government building attempts in Bolivia, Mozambique, the Sudan and Benin will also appreciate this short narrative.

It begins like a novel. The stage is set through 12 photographs, a series of notes and a cassette. Each ph...more
Sandra

Ho scoperto un grande giornalista e scrittore. Ha una dote, Kapuscinski: riesce a spiegare un evento complesso come la rivoluzione khomeinista che ha rovesciato il regime dello scià in una forma chiara e semplice, tale da essere comprensibile pure da chi, come me, non ne sapeva molto.
Prende lo spunto, per raccontare, da fotografie ed appunti trovati nella sua camera d'albergo.
E così veniamo a conoscenza della personalità dello scià, un ometto innamorato di sè stesso e bisognoso dell'approvazione...more
Maria Grazia
La caduta dello Sha di Persia e l'acesa al potere degli Ayatollah fino alla creazione della Repubblica Islamica.
Attraverso la memoria di uno dei più grandi giornalisti mai vissuti, l'analisi sociopolitica di quel che fu e di quel che è stato, con molti indizi su quel che sta accadendo e accadrà.
Un libro che consiglio a tutti coloro che sono assolutamente convinti della bontà delle loro scelte.
Adam
The Emperor is a bizarre and at time grotesquely comic portrait of the last Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie. It is also a detail and evocative exploration of tyranny. Kapuscinki in a much more impressionistic mood details the rule and fall of another tyrant the last Shah of Iran in the Shah of Shahs. By focusing on tyrants of U.S. client states he uses a trick employed by other Iron Curtain writers (Ex. Kadare) to critique autocracy in genera,l as in general most dictatorships are the same wh...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Written shortly after the fall of the shah, by a journalist who had, then, already experienced and reported on some 20 revolutions. This short book's an interesting enough read.
The story contains three parts. The first briefly describes some of the author's experiences, shortly after the fall of the shah. The third part, totally useless, is a collection of ramblings on political science.

It is the second part, called 'Daguerreotypes', which is the saving grace and almost brilliant part of the b...more
Stephanie
Nov 06, 2007 Stephanie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who'd like to know a little more about (spoiler alert!) the country we're about to invade
Shelves: enlightening
Growing up during the 1970s, I really couldn't make sense of the Iran hostage crisis. Anytime I'd ask an adult why the Ayatollah was holding Americans hostage, I'd get a response like, "Because he hates freedom." Even at 7 years old I knew this was a dumb answer. Still, I wasn't ever able to find a satisfactory explanation until I picked up this book, which explores the Shah's reign and how it affected the cultural sensibilities of the Iranian people. (And hey, the torture squads didn't do anyth...more
Tony
“All books about all revolutions begin with a chapter that describes the decay of tottering authority or the misery and sufferings of the people. They should begin with a psychological chapter, one that shows how a harassed, terrified man suddenly breaks his terror, stops being afraid.”

On its surface this is a book about the Iranian Revolution of 1979. But it’s really much, much more. With superb writing style, fascinating structure, and an incredible eye for the wider context and the human deta...more
C.R. Miller
Well, maybe a 4.5. Mr. K. has a talent for building understanding of culture and history through short vignettes and resonant narratives. In this book he uses the description of a series of photos as a very effective device for exploring the history, culture, and Geo-politics of Iran that both put the Shah in power and led to his downfall. I learned a lot in this short book, and gained some understanding about the whole Sunni/Shiite divide in particular. I was a little disappointed, though, abou...more
Jonfaith
The source material was familiar. Robert Fisk afforded a harrowing account of the SAVAK and their grip on the people of Iran. Kapuściński couches the revolutionary groundwell in almost poetic terms. The Shah's callous myopia is presented with aplomb. This torrent of elements is conveyed within the jagged continuity of its time. And with success, I hasten to add.
Joshua Parkinson
Amazing read so far... Kapuściński tells the story of the '79 revolution via a series of vignettes arising from the notes, scraps, and snapshots littering his Tehran hotel room/prison cell. I can't believe I've never read him before!
Tom Nixon
Ryszard Kapuscinski is a writer that I need to get better acquainted with- a Polish Journalist who seemed to have the best career of all time, drifting from war to war and revolution to revolution writing books about them- Shah of Shahs is his story of the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran and although it's a slim little volume, it packs one helluva punch.

This book was not at all what I was expecting. Kapuscinski could have tossed out an up-to-the-minute blow by blow account of the final days o...more
Shane
Kapuscinski, ever the poetic journalist, has written a compelling little book here. This book is a convincing argument that the Shah was worse than the Islamic republic. I don't know that I've ever heard anything as bad as burning the eyelids off of a mullah in order to force him to watch his own daughter being raped. He gives a good sense of life under the shah, which is strangely the cynical opposite of Iran today: now hijabs are mandatory, before they for forbidden; now, turbans are a mark of...more
César Lasso
What can I say? I killed two birds with one stone – I have some dear Iranian friends and this is my beloved author's insight into the country. I loved the read - the first thing I'll say is that I can perfectly recommend it. Even if your impressions are different from mine, it would be difficult for you to get tired of this work, for it is not a long one.

It was not my favorite by Kapuscinski – those are "Heban" (English translation: "The Shadow of the Sun") and “Imperium”. In those two, the auth...more
Drew
From the cover you would believe that Shah of Shahs tells the story of Mohammed Reza, the last Shah of Iran. But in fact the destiny of this cruel, hapless and slightly silly habitué of Swiss ski resorts is only part of the picture.
Rather, Kapuściński's theme here, as in The Emperor before it, is not the person but the ecosystem of repression that keeps a dictator in power. In the Shah's case it was the villainous secret police, known as Savak, that shored up his throne with a rule of terror tha...more
Dan
Kapuściński's genius lies in the heady mix of accessibility, originality and profundity. This book isn't really about the Shah, it isn't really about Iran - it is a thesis on absolute rule, the psychological affect this rule has on a population, the conditions that must prevail for the population to rise up, realise its own strength and overthrow the absolutist and, most importantly, why revolutions invariably disappoint. It is due to the latter theme that I consider myself fortunate to have rea...more
Nancy Burns
R. Kapuscinski is my new author discovery in 2014!

Strong point:
He combines everything I love: history, fast paced journalism writing and most importantly his refections on the situation he is writing about.

Here is my review:

http://ipsofactodotme.wordpress.com/2...
Tanuj Solanki
Consider this the companion book to the brilliant Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
Alvin
This book is both a document concerning a specific era and a meditation on the social and spiritual deformations of tyranny. As always, Kapuscinski's language is so precise and poetic you'll be marveling at his prose, even as you recoil with horror at man's inhumanity to man.
Mike
Ryszard Kapuściński can make a place you have never seen seem as real as your fondest memory. In this slim volume he presents the Shah's Iran, and what happened to it.

I found this book so engrossing that I missed my bus stop one morning by about half a mile.

A terminal political junkie gave me this book. Thanks Dirk!
Hau Le
This book is about how a revolution started. A tipping point in action. His description of how an ordinary, fearful person turned into an extraordniary, fearless protester to me personally is the most beautiful account of a revolution, even though such a revolution does not bring any good at the end for the people so enthusiastically participate in it.

One fact that is usually overlooked by Western readers is that by the time he wrote this book, Poland was still ruled by the communist party, and...more
Kieronvxu
Kapuscinski beskriver händelseförloppet i den iranska revolutionen, men det känns slående hur väl det kan stämma in på alla de uppror och revulotionsförsök som dyker upp lite överallt i världen, Nordafrika, Syrien, Ukraina, just nu.
En mycket läsvärd bok för den som vill få inblick i vad som driver fram en revolution, vad som krävs för att den ska ta fart och vad som behövs för att den ska lyckas. Han beskriver även svårigheterna som infinner sig efter en lyckad revolution, något som i allra högs...more
Robyn Lewis
This book has a satisfying rhythmic quality which is best experienced by reading it one sitting if possible. Through the succinct merging of history, events, personal accounts and psychological musings the I felt I gained a deeper understanding of the events leading up to the revolution and also the ongoing challenges of that country. How bizarrely the personal and the political can interact reminded me of Koestler's Darkness at Noon (even though it has been many years since i read that book). T...more
Colin Williams
Thinking that the first part was an introduction, I skipped to the second part "Daguerrotypes" and began reading from there. I love the structure of the book, and the way the author zooms in and out, first focusing on the palace and national affairs, and then the lives of villagers and city-dwellers, then back to the palace again. His ruminations on power are quotable and his style makes me want to read more.

When I went back and read the first part, it was no less compelling.

But why choose to e...more
Neusha
I have always been interested in learning more about the last Shah of Iran and the revolution of 1979, and I have always heard stories about it from my own parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts who were all, now regrettably, somewhat active demonstrators in those years.

Kapuscinski's writing is easy to follow and understand and he provides important and insightful information about the Shah and the Shahs before him, about the people of Iran and their experience of the years (mostly) before, dur...more
Tinker
I’m not sure what numerological theme is playing itself out here, but three of the artists I consider the greatest of my time each have an essential oevre of seven works: Bob Marley’s Island albums, Andrei Tarkovsky’s feature films, and Ryszard Kapuściński’s major poetic-prose texts of reportage. Shah of Shahs (1982) was the fourth book of his to be translated into English and is the fourth I’ve read; I would put off a final assessment until I read them all. Provisionally though, this book seems...more
Greg Morrison
Guy Davenport talks somewhere about the anti-modern moderns - Picasso wondering at cave paintings, TS Eliot announcing that art never improves, it merely shapes novel material. Shakespeare wrote up Warwickshire slang and nursery rhymes, Catullus scrawled the new slang for "kiss", Euripides & Aeschylus went for the wild folktales of their nurses for their plays - parricides, desperate witches, dismemberment and cannibalism. Greek's Grimms.

Kapuscinski writes:

"In Europe epochs succeed each oth...more
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1:05 4 12 Mar 25, 2013 07:16AM  
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Ryszard Kapuściński debuted as a poet in Dziś i jutro at the age of 17 and has been a journalist, writer, and publicist. In 1964 he was appointed to the Polish Press Agency and began traveling around the developing world and reporting on wars, coups and revolutions in Asia, the Americas, and Europe; he lived through twenty-seven revolutions and coups, was jailed forty times, and survived four deat...more
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