The Iranians: Persia, Islam and the Soul of a Nation

( 5 )

Overview

The Iranians explores Iran in the context of its old and complex culture, for throughout its history Iran has struggled with two warring identities-one evolving from the values, social organization, and arts of ancient Persia, the other from Islam. By examining the relationship between these two identities, The Iranians explains how the revolution of 1979 came about, why the Islamic Republic has failed, and how Iran today is on the brink of chaos. In this defining portrait of a troubled nation and the forces that...

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Overview

The Iranians explores Iran in the context of its old and complex culture, for throughout its history Iran has struggled with two warring identities-one evolving from the values, social organization, and arts of ancient Persia, the other from Islam. By examining the relationship between these two identities, The Iranians explains how the revolution of 1979 came about, why the Islamic Republic has failed, and how Iran today is on the brink of chaos. In this defining portrait of a troubled nation and the forces that shape it, Iranian history and religion become accessible to the nonspecialist. Combining impeccable scholarship with the human insight of firsthand observations, The Iranians provides vital understanding of this unique and pivotal nation.

 

A CNN commentator and acclaimed author of The Saudis presents the first in-depth study of Iran since Khomeini's death. The Iranians explores Iran in the context of its old and new cultures, revealing how the Islamic revolution came about, why it has failed, and why Iran today is on the brink of chaos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In an engrossing blend of history and reportage, Middle East expert Mackey (The Saudis) portrays a proud, anxious people caught between two interlocking traditions competing for the nation's soul. On the one hand, there is the legacy of ancient Persia, which brought forth Zoroastrianism with its belief in a supreme God, a philosophy of tolerance and justice, and magnificent art; and on the other, there is the predominant Shiite Muslim religion, which mirrors Persian nonconformity in its schismatic break with Sunni orthodoxy, but which also galvanizes the masses with calls for an egalitarian society, retribution against the West and strict adherence to Islamic moral code. Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, in her analysis, abandoned Islamic traditions and, wrapping himself in the cloak of kingship, pushed a shallow resurrection of the glories of ancient Persia. His fall in 1979 left the U.S. adrift in the crucial Persian Gulf; and contemporary Iran, with its ongoing military buildup, its opposition to the Israel-Arab peace process and its refusal to lift the death edict for Salman Rushdie, reinforces deep-rooted authoritarian traditions. Nevertheless, Mackey strongly urges the U.S. to replace its policy of isolation and embargo with reconciliation toward President Hashemi Rafsanjani and the moderate pragmatists he supposedly represents. (May)
Library Journal
Mackey, a Middle East specialist and journalist whose previous books include Passion and Politics: The Turbulent World of the Arabs (LJ 11/1/92), has produced a treasure trove of information on Iranian civilization from Cyrus the Great to the present. Throughout this turbulent history of invasions and conquerors, the Persian soul, with its foundations in the Zoroastrian concept of justice overlaid with Shia Islam, has steadfastly endured. Since many Westerners had little familiarity with Iran until the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, this very readable book provides a perspective on what led up to those events, what is happening in Iran today, and how the current situation is likely to affect the future of Iran and its relationship with the West. The West needs to understand Iran, and this work makes great headway in that direction: it is comprehensive but also discusses Persian history and religion in depth, thereby making it useful to the specialist and nonspecialist alike. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Ruth K. Baacke, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Sys., Bellingham, Wash.
Firuz Kazemzadeh
...a well-written and informative book. -- Firuz Kazemzadeh, The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A richly detailed analysis of the complex historical and ideological forces that drive this large and powerful nation.

Mackey (The Saudis, 1990; Lebanon, 1989) sees the paradoxical soul of Iran as a two-faced Janus that expresses both Persian culture and Shia Islam. By exploring the long and turbulent history of this strategically located nation, she guides the reader toward telling insights that explain such dramatic 20th-century polarities as the Peacock throne of Reza Shah Pahlavi and the Islamic Republic of Ayatollah Khomeini. More than a researcher, Mackey travels through Iran and experiences the celebration of No Ruz, an ancient Zoroastrian holiday still preserved with an Islamic overlay. It would be difficult to understand the zeal of revolutionary demonstrators at the American Embassy compound without this background into the black and white sensibility provided by the prophet Zoroaster. After all the country's abuse at the hands of Greeks, Seleucids, Byzantines, and Britons, it is little wonder that decadent America is an echo of Ahriman the satanic destroyer. Persia's most venerated traditions demand a just but absolute ruler, making the shah's excessive capitalism and secularism that much more foreign to Iranian eyes. While a black-turbaned imam has the unshakable credentials of a descendent of Muhammad, we learn that rivalry between Persian Aryans and Muslim Arabs replays ancient battles of the Umayyads and Abbasids. Mackey likewise allows us to understand the racial and religious animosity toward Sunni Arabs that would pit the Shia Islamic Republic against fellow Muslim Iraq. By touring the wide panorama of Iranian times and space with Mackey, we can appreciate why "Teheran is Iran's brain, Qom is its soul, and cherished Isfahan its heart." (See also Judith Miller, God Has Ninety-Nine Names, p. 512.)

An essential resource for anyone concerned with this crucial region's geopolitics, culture or religion.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452275638
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 722,143
  • Product dimensions: 6.11 (w) x 8.93 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Mackey is a highly respected expert on Middle Eastern culture and politics who has reported for many periodicals, and has appeared on "Nightline," "ABC News with Peter Jennings," and NPR. She also served as a commentator for CNN on the Gulf War. She is the author of three previous books, including The Saudis and Passion and Politics: The Turbulent World of the Arabs. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note Preface Introduction

Part I
1. The Glory of Persia
2. The Invasion of Islam
3. God and State

Part II
4. The Faces of Authority: Father, King and Cleric
Part III
5. King and Nation: Iran's First Revolution
6. Reza Shah: To the Glory of the Nation
7. The Shah and the Prime Minister: Iran's Second Revolution
8. The Shah and the Ayatollah: Persia and Islam
9. The Persian Empire of Muhammad Reza Shah

Part IV
10. The Double Revolution
11. The Internal and External: Wars for the Iranian Nation
12. Islamic Government: Religion, Culture and Power
13. The Islamic Republic of Iran: The Failed Quest for Justice

Epilogue Afterword to the Plume Edition Endnotes Selected Bibliography Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2001

    Excellent Depiction of Persians

    In her book, Sandra Mackey has captured what it is to be an Iranian, before and after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. She has explained the social and political reasons behind the Iranian Revolution very well. A great help for my thesis.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2013

    I have just completed Mackey's "Saudis, Inside the Desert K

    I have just completed Mackey's "Saudis, Inside the Desert Kingdom" and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in today's world situation regarding the thinking of the Arab psychic. Her book is very well researched and her personal experiences in that part of the world mirror my own experiences in Tripoli, Libya in the mid 1970s. I am very grateful she has the insights and willingness to understand the cultural differences we were exposed to, she helps us understand what's going on and why!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2002

    Good but biased work

    For the reader with at least a passing interest in the Shah of Iran, the tumultuous revolution, and the sometimes confusing years which followed, this book provides a good starting point for understanding modern Iran. One criticism, however: the author's disdain for U.S. policy is often palpable, leaving one to wonder how much this bias affects the overall presentation of her work. We learn more than once, for example, that the 'only' reason American did X or Y was to serve the most base and self-serving purpose imaginable. Maybe so, but the author seems indifferent to the fact that the U.S. faced, and continues to face, difficult choices in the region and generally does the best it can to serve both its own interests and those of the affected people in Iran.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

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    Posted July 22, 2010

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