Cover image for The Persian sphinx : Amir Abbas Hoveyda and the riddle of the Iranian Revolution
The Persian sphinx : Amir Abbas Hoveyda and the riddle of the Iranian Revolution
Milani, Abbas.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Washington, DC : Mage Publishers, [2001]

Physical Description:
399 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS316.9.H88 M55 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The Persian Sphinx is biography at its most powerful and will reward the general reader and the scholar alike. 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. 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 duringa pivotal period (1919-1978) 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 hith

Reviews 1

Choice Review

As Milani accurately observes, writing Persian biography is particularly perilous because of the poverty of archival material and government lack of interest in systematically offering available documents for scholarly scrutiny. In addition, he notes that "a surfeit of rumors and conspiracy theories, each accorded the status of revealed truth by their adherents ... a surfeit of pseudo-facts, a shortage of reliable documents, [and] the reticence of those still alive to talk ... haunted The Persian Sphinx, as I suspect they would haunt any biography of an Iranian." Still, Milani's biography of the urbane intellectual who was for 14 years the prime minister of Muhammad Reza Shah (and was executed during the early stages of the Islamic regime) is the most informative, objective, and eloquent study of the man yet published in either Persian or English. Milani used declassified American, British, and French archival resources, many never before published. He also interviewed many who had known the prime minister and were willing to share their memories and reflections. Milani's thoughtful observations illumine the political culture of Iran and provide much insight into Iranian society. An excellent addition to the literature on contemporary Iran for general and academic readers at any level. N. Rassekh; Lewis and Clark College